Popular Online Contest Keeping Up Kids’ Interest in Math

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- As national experts continue to decry the need for more science and math education, a fun math contest Web site at Columbus State University is doing its part to keep interest alive.

Hundreds of thousands of people from more than 213 different countries around the globe are finding their way to the contest every month at www.colstate.edu/mathcontest.

More than 564,000 visits were logged last year, and the counter is on track this year to double that mark. The site should have 100,000 hits for September 2008 and reach the million visitor mark this year.

The site also has reached the coveted No. 1 spot on Google when someone searches online for “math contest.”

All this interest is inspiration for David Rock, dean of Columbus State University’s College of Education and the man behind the math contest.

He has spent most of his career trying to change perceptions of math. Research has shown that combining math with technology helps the learning process. So when the Internet first hit the mainstream in the mid 1990s, Rock found a way to combine technology with learning. And he made it fun.

“Too many of our kids lose interest in math as they become older,” Rock said. “Perhaps it’s because it’s not cool or because they don’t think it’s relevant. But whatever the reason, we’ve got to do what we can to change that perception.”

He and Doug Brumbaugh, a colleague at the University of Central Florida, where Rock completed his graduate degrees and once taught, created some online math contests – not just equations, but brain teasers and real-life scenarios for different age levels.

The pair didn’t advertise or tell many about it, but people online found the site. Rock promised that everyone who answered correctly would have their name posted on the Web site.

“We never post the answers because we want it to be a teaching tool as well as a place where people have to think,” Rock said. “Teachers know that if their student’s name is on the site, they submitted the correct answer.”

The idea took off and followed Rock as he became a professor and moved to new positions at other universities. He even talked the White House into including a math challenge on its Web site at http://www.whitehouse.gov/kids/.

CSU’s math contest site features the: