RIPLEY - Picture if you will: players, judges and referees scurrying across a polished gymnasium floor; the roar of spectators as their team scores; painted faces, team colors; the bleachers trembling from stomping feet.
Is it the NCAA final four games? Not on your life. It is something far more important and meaningful to those who participated - the pinnacle of the fifth annual Math Week at Ripley Central School, the Math Battle.
Some may scoff, but any high school sports rally or spirit day organizer would have to envy the level of enthusiasm and participation that reverberated through the gymnasium Friday afternoon as grades six through 12 engaged in various games of math-related combat that challenged the mind, body and artistic soul of the players.
Photo by David Prenatt
Sixth grader Bryce Rowe, left, gives last moment instructions to classmate Devin Pope as they compete in Team Tenpins during Ripley Central School’s Math Battle on Friday, March 16.
The Mathematical Battle of the Classes, held on Friday, March 16 this year, is a day in which school spirit overflows. Members of each class dress in their "class color," paint their faces, create a class banner and prepare for the competitions. A striking example of this preparation was the recitation of the decimals in Pi, which never repeat and never end. Students confidently recited over 50 decimal places for the number Pi in an attempt to win the memorization competition for their grade level.
Witness if you can the fever of the moment as players engaged in such events as "Team Tenpin," which involved bowling blindfolded; "Parabolic Motion," a sticky frenzy of catching mini marshmallows; and the dreaded "Vortex," in which players enter the fearsome Vortex machine and attempt to catch as many swirling paper shapes as they can before their time is up.
While these and several other activities are fun for everyone, they are not the real reason for the enthusiasm that shakes the very floorboards. For this is only the final day of Math Week, a kindergarten-through-12, student-designed and led series of events, dress, food and friendship, all based on - you guessed it math.
Math Week was the brainchild of Ripley teacher Lisa Stonefoot, who five years ago wanted to expand her class celebration of Pi-day celebrated on March14 or 3.14, the first three digits in Pi, to the whole school. She joined forces with social studies teacher Rhonda Thompson to create a cross-curriculum series of events involving math and historical mathematicians. Together they pitched the idea to the administration and received the go-ahead for the first Math Week.
"Then it just sort of grew," Stonefoot said. "What started out as very small and simple has just taken off into a large event that kids look forward to all year."
Indeed, Math Week crosses all of the boundaries. Starting in November, a committee of students determines the mathematical theme of each day, as well as different types of dress, decorations and cafeteria menus to reflect that theme. A new event this year was the Ripley 24 Tournament in which students in grades four through six used the 24 Game, a popular arithmetical card game as the basis of their competition.
"It's completely student created, except the Math Battle, because they can't know the events ahead of time," Stonefoot said. "It's been exciting watching how they've evolved and how much they can do."
Math Week presents a special opportunity for students in the upper grades to act as high school helpers to the elementary school students. The high school students created activities related to Pi, then visited the classrooms of the younger students where they assisted with the activities.
"The older students really step up and bring math down to the little ones. The best thing is that they do it because they want to, not for a grade or recognition," Stonefoot said. "Student's come up to me all year and ask 'Can I be a classroom helper?'
"The younger grades benefit as well," Stonefoot said.
They look forward to working with their older buddies and seeing how new decorations and menus relate to math. For instance, on "Inverse Day," breakfast was lunch and lunch was breakfast.
"The little ones picked up on that," Stonefoot said. "All of the teachers and staff from the cafeteria to the administration are somehow involved in Math Week."
Even teachers who are not directly involved play a part in trying to maintain a balance in the school.
"It gets a little nutty as the week goes on," Stonefoot said. "I am amazed at how much our little school comes together for this."
Anyone who does not believe Stonefoot just have to ask the students.
"I like everyone's spirit and how they dress," junior Samantha Judd said.
Her classmate Sierra Tessmer agreed and emphatically stated, "I love helping the little kids."
In 12 grade, Samantha Gardner said Math Week brings spirit to the school.
"We don't really have a lot of sports," Gardner said. "Ms. Stonefoot really cares about the school and everyone in it. She doesn't get enough credit."
"It's a fun way to learn about math," senior Emily Krause said.
Senior Rachel Boll, however, enjoys the mental challenge of the week.
"We have to think of creative ways to dress," Boll said. "All of us have to think of different ideas. It really gets the mind going."
Junior Cody Rater had another reason to enjoy this year's event. Along with classmates Ian Petroff, Trevor Enterline and his father, Steve, he designed and built the Vortex wind machine.
"Ms. Stonefoot said it would be good if we could build this machine and I just said we probably could," Rater said. "We messed up twice, but kept on trying till we got it."
If their testimony still is not convincing, ask principal Karen Krause.
"It's a fun way to celebrate academics," Krause said. "In our time of state tests and pressure on students, we need more ways of motivating students to learn and enjoy school. I personally carry away how valuable it is to be a K-12 building and how much the elementary values the upper classes coming into the classroom."
One thing no one can deny - Math Week ended with a thundering roar of approval from the students of Ripley school. The enthusiasm never waned throughout the two-hour Math Battle. Students shook the bleachers when the mystery Ripley Eagles mascot revealed itself to be Donna Lauzon, who had taught at the school for many years.
And when the final event had ended, the freshmen had won the day with 92 points. The juniors, who were hoping for a "three-peat," went home disappointed, but with a respectable 88 points. The sophomores took third with 77 and the seniors trailed the pack with 70. The students left the gymnasium in high spirits, the dust settle back to the rafters, the mess was cleaned up and Pythagoras went back to rest in his grave.
And if you don't know who Pythagoras is, you had better show up for next year's Math Week.