HBA Hosts Math Challenge

HBA junior Dayna Okazaki (in black) measures the height of a middle school team's tower for a building challenge. Photography by Lance Tasaka ('20).

On November 30, HBA hosted its 18th Middle School Math Challenge. This year, nine Oahu schools competed in a series of math challenges and activities.

This year’s winner was Pearl City Highlands Intermediate School. HBA’s second team finished in second place.

Organized and run by HBA National Honor Society (NHS) members, the first Math Challenge was held in 2002 and was created by current HBA Math teacher Cameron Taketa when he was an HBA student. Taketa said that the goal of the competition was to encourage students to learn math together in a competitive and friendly environment.

The team from Pearl City Highlands Intermediate School won this year’s Math Challenge. Photograph by Lance Tasaka (’20)
HBA’s middle school competitors.

In a non-scoring event this year, some students were tasked with designing and building a tower in 20 minutes. This tower had to be as tall as possible (using only the materials provided) and had to suspend a cup above the ground. The strength of the tower was tested by adding pennies to the cup. While this event took place, other students took individual math tests and points were awarded based on the difficulty of each problem.

The event ends with a scavenger hunt where students must find and solve math problems hidden on the middle school campus. Each team was broken up into two groups. One group searches for and solves the problems, and then the second group checks the first group’s answers. The second group was also able to go back out to search for and solve more problems and the first group would then check their answers. Teams were awarded points based on how many problems they found and solved correctly.

The Math Challenge is organized and run entirely by NHS members. These students also coach HBA’s middle school teams that participate in the event. Middle school Math teacher Lynn Silva said, “Nathan Yee (senior) and Reese Yoshikawa (sophomore) are the real coaches. [They] taught seventh and eighth graders how to solve difficult math problems. It’s been a real joy to watch my students learn from my former students.”

Yee said, “I coach to help the students. Many of them might be over-confident in their mathematical abilities so the Math Challenge is a good chance for them to realize they might not be as smart as they think, and that they need to learn to ask others for help.”

Eighth grader Samantha Hart said the event lived up to her expectations. “I enjoyed the camaraderie and the challenge itself. The competition enables me to express my affinity for math, showcase our school, and challenge my skills,” she said. As for her favorite part of the challenge, Hart said, “The highlight of the competition was meeting competitors from other schools and making new friends who also enjoy math as I do.”

HBA senior Kailee Ishikawa checks in with on of the middle school teams.
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