Beyond Hockey and Hoops MNs Math letes Compete in State Tourney / Public News Service

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Minnesota’s famed high school state hockey tournament is underway, and there is another statewide competition which does not involve a puck.

Younger students are competing in math in an event organizers said has short and long-term benefits. Through Saturday this weekend, 125 middle school students are gathering for the Minnesota MATHCOUNTS state competition. Finalists move on for a chance at national trophies.

Katie Jamieson, executive director of Minnesota MATHCOUNTS, said the program is an opportunity to engage with students in how they feel about the subject, noting middle school is a critical juncture for math. She added it is an opportunity to connect on a social level.

“There is a team component of this competition which allows them to get to those levels that you would the same as a sports team,” Jamieson explained.

Nationally, the program started back in the early 1980s, with club-level groups competing for state championships. It was founded by members of the National Society of Professional Engineers as a way to encourage students to pursue STEM coursework throughout the rest of their academic careers.

Jamieson argued the mission is especially important right now, with a big regional demand for future workers who possess STEM skills.

“We do have a lot of tech industry, we have a very strong engineering industry here,” Jamieson pointed out. “We are seeing a greater need for people who are studying those science, technology, engineering and math subjects.”

Over the past decade, Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development has noted STEM jobs are leading many other industries in terms of growth.

Meanwhile, with more teachers retiring over the course of the pandemic, program officials say they could use more parents and community members to serve as club leaders. She emphasized it is not very time restrictive and the person leading activities does not have to be a math expert.

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