Math Outreach hosts first in-person Math Superstars competition since COVID-19 outbreak

Math Superstars was held in person for the first time since 2019.

Ray Taylor, Staff Writer

Oct. 25 might have been a normal Tuesday for most, but for the MSMS Math Department, Mu Alpha Theta Math Outreach and approximately 170 elementary students from across the state, it was an exciting, math-filled day. 

The day’s featured event, Math Superstars, was the first major in-person event hosted this year by the Math Outreach class. 

Math Outreach is an independent study run by MSMS math instructor and Outreach Coordinator Lauren Zarandona. The class focuses on exposing the community to many different types of math. Math Superstars specifically targets elementary students so they can find an interest in math using math tests and logic puzzles designed by Math Outreach students.

Madison Echols, a senior and Math Outreach’s president, said the preparation for Math Superstars was intense. 

“The Math Outreach students worked together, both in and outside of the class since the start of school, to create exciting and engaging math problems and activities for students to participate in,” Echols said. “Our goal was to create fun and engaging activities to get students excited about math and learning in general.”

The event was kickstarted by students being assigned to groups randomly. Each group had an MSMS helper assigned to lead them throughout the event. Parents and teachers were also able to watch from the balconies above. 

“Students were put into groups without knowing anybody, which can be scary. Surprisingly, though, the students got along incredibly well, and I think the Outreach students and volunteers encouraging them played a large role in that,” senior Outreach student CJ Mason said. 

After groups were made, the event began with a marshmallow tower engineering competition, followed by math tests and math-related puzzle stations. Senior Outreach student CJ Jordan said the math-filled day made a great impact on the students involved. 

“It was really fun. There were kids from many different schools. They completed a short math test and then played games that introduced them to different math concepts. Many of them have probably never seen this before,” Jordan said. “It was a way to have them engage in math through different outlets. Watching the kids have this opportunity was really special because I never had that opportunity at my old school.” 

At the end of the event, the highest-scoring schools and individuals on the math tests were awarded for their achievements. 

“A lot of students and teachers showed their appreciation to the Outreach students,” Mason said, ”and seeing their faces light up when they received their awards made everyone’s day.”

Overall, Math Outreach members said they enjoyed the event. Still, group leaders said they recognize the faults in Mississippi’s educational system and the importance of working to help rectify these faults going forward. 

“Some of the stations proved to be a little challenging. If a student didn’t have solid number skills, it was very challenging to write expressions or solve different equations. This allowed the helpers to really see what kids are facing when it comes to math curriculums in Mississippi,” Zarandona said. “We need to know things like this so we can try and help our state move forward in math education.” 

“I think it is powerful for both MSMS students and Mississippi students to be a part of something like Math Superstars and Math Outreach as a whole,” Echols added. “Everyone at MSMS came here because we knew it would give us a better education than at our home schools. Each school differs in demographics, socioeconomic opportunity and overall quality of education, specifically STEM education. Because MSMS is a melting pot of sorts and the Outreach students have personal experience with the educational disparities in Mississippi, the student-made decisions are more intentional when continuing to create opportunities like Math Superstars and building students’ confidence in math and academia in general.”

With this event completed, Math Outreach members have many more plans ahead. 

“We plan to have at least three library programs next semester at the Columbus-Lowndes County Public Library. In February, we have an event called Girls Empowered in Math and Science. This is for eighth grade girls. We are really excited moving forward,” Zarandona said.