MUSCATINE, Iowa–In December of 2020, Mulberry Elementary teacher Laura McDonald’s fifth grade pre-advanced placement math class made quite a splash when they earned fourth place in a national Sumdog online math contest. This month, the students outdid themselves, placing first in the nation. Individually, one student, Sam, tied for first nationally with a score of 999 answers correct out of 1,000 questions.
When the students learned that they won the most recent competition, they felt both amazed and pleased with their achievement. ” I was super excited when I saw we won,” said Gabe, a student in McDonald’s class. “There were so many questions on it and so many people playing–it was a surprise.”
In order to keep the questions at the appropriate level for each student, math student Tate explained, “at the beginning, you have a diagnostic of 200 questions to see how smart you are already.” Following the placement portion of the competition, Tate said it transitions to, “game mode,” where students answer questions in the form of math games and use their right answers to gain coins to improve their in-game character costumes and houses.
To add an additional layer of difficulty, each student in the class had to do their part in order for them to get to the top ranks of the competition. As student Lexi L. put it, “every student had to answer 1,000 questions.”
McDonald has had students compete in Sumdog competitions for many years and has had classes make it into the top 10 in the past. However, she has never had an entire class answer all 1,000 of their questions, giving them a shot at winning it all. “I’m so proud of them, she glowed. “The thing I’m most impressed with is that each student finished all 1,000 questions.”
Throughout the school year, McDonald has noted that this class has had not only outstanding stamina and perseverance, but also their exceptional team work and willingness to encourage each other to make sure everyone finished. “This has been an exciting math class to have,” she reflected.
Before the end of the year, McDonald’s fifth graders will compete in two additional Sumdog competitions, one between other regional schools that belong to the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency and one national one. Given their success in previous competitions, McDonald has high hopes that they will place highly in their last two contests.