Originally Published: October 24, 2007 9:31 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Students across Humboldt Unified School District sat at their desks Thursday and Friday this past week, staring intently at the challenge that lay in front of them - a calculator.
These were not normal calculators. Instead of merely helping the kids with their math problems, these calculators were administering math quizzes.
It was all part of HUSD's first "Sharp Minds Math Challenge," and it began with a new kind of calculator that serves as both a tool and a test.
"They're really a neat little calculator," said Gary Hirn, sales manager for Northern Arizona's Sharp Business Systems, a relatively new division of Sharp Electronics.
The new Sharp calculators, which came out three to four months ago, test the user's addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills. People can take quizzes of 25, 50, or 100 questions, Hirn said. The calculator times and grades the individual, and will not move onto the next question until the user gets the previous one correct.
"On top of all that, it's still a calculator," Hirn said.
Dean Slaga, HUSD assistant superintendent, said Sharp donated about $20,000 worth of calculators to all six district elementary schools, enough for every child in the third, fourth, and fifth grade. The teachers are keeping the calculators as class sets. As part of the deal, kids had to take a math challenge using the calculators.
Each elementary school had a winner for the third, fourth, and fifth grade. The results went public Tuesday afternoon, except for Coyote Springs Elementary School, which had not submitted its results to the district or the Daily Courier at press time.
"It's going to be an easy, quick, and fun way for students to learn their basic math skills," said Lake Valley Elementary Principal Danny Brown.
These calculators will not eliminate the old-fashioned paper and pencil quizzes, but they offer one more way to work on math skills, he continued.
As for the math challenge, principals said this was just another fun way to test students.
"You want academics to be fun and enjoyable, and this is a way for students to kind of express themselves ... to challenge themselves," said Mike DeRois, principal at Liberty Traditional School. "They really enjoy (the math challenge). They get to be with other kids."
DeRois said Liberty Traditional teachers have been doing a math challenge with their sixth-graders for the past seven years, but this was new for the other grades.
"We always do this type of thing normally, just to keep the kids on their toes," he said.
For Granville Elementary Principal Bev Harvey, the importance of the math challenge is it validates the kids' retention of what they learned.
"It's just like a spelling bee, because it's not just words they learned now," she said, adding the kids need to incorporate everything they learned to do well.
Overall, teachers liked the calculators because they see them as another tool to teach.
"It really gives teachers a chance to individualize instruction a little more," Brown said.
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