Math War sparks spirited competition at Brooklyn Center

Posted by on November 16, 2011

The 'Terminators' recently won a Math War competition in Michael Leonard's Foundations of Math II class.

Most students who have taken a math class from MSB-Brooklyn Center instructor Michael Leonard have experienced Math War at one time or another, but only a select few have had the honor of hoisting the coveted championship belt for winning the fun competition.

Held twice a quarter, Math War is essentially a fun review session held prior to midterm and final exams. Students are divided into two teams and then asked to create questions from their homework assignments to challenge a member of the opposing team to solve.

The idea is to come up with a difficult and random problem that will stump the other team in order to collect points. However, the student presenting the question must answer it correctly – showing all their work – in order to earn points if the other team answers it incorrectly. The team with the most points at the end of class gets their picture taken with the championship belt, which is a replica of an Ultimate Fighting Championship belt.

Students work to solve a problem during a recent Math War competition.

Leonard, who has taught at MSB-BC for three years, created Math War as way to engage his students in an active and fun way. “I pitched it to the Dean of Students at the time and she loved it,” Leonard said. “I implemented it the first quarter I taught and it worked really well, so I’ve just ran with it ever since.”

Each student on a team is responsible for creating a question, answering a question and assisting with a question, but can only do those things once each. Therefore, everyone has the opportunity to be involved and be put on the proverbial hot seat and test their math skills.

“The students always like it,” said Leonard. “Every once in a while there’s a kid that doesn’t like being put on the spot, but for the most part it’s very well received.”

As for the moment when winning teams get their photo taken with the championship belt, Leonard added students get a kick out of it. “I am just floored with the reaction to a $15 piece of plastic, it fires the students up and they just love it.”

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