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Whiz Kids: Woodhull's Math Stars

Students test their skills against others from around the world.

Twenty-three students who excel in math went global Tuesday, competing against students in dozens of countries taking part in World Math Day.

With 5.3 million students from 218 countries registered to participate, the Woodhull students faced stiff competition. For more than an hour, eager students, eyes fixed on computer screens battled for points against students in their age group, speedily answering questions about addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and orders of operation (executing mathematical procedures in the correct sequence.)

While the 23 students, most of them 10 to 12 years old, worked the problems, two other students tracked the home countries of their competitors, sticking pins into a large world map. Soon, about 40 yellow pushpins covered the map, including Nigeria, Singapore, Croatia, Canada and many other countries.

Teachers Colleen Mahoney and Christine Barresi put the program together, entering Woodhull for the first time in the competition.

"These two teachers worked hard to get this going," said Marybeth Robinette, math director for the Huntington school district.

Students were chosen for the competition based on their performance in solving problems quickly and correctly, after hours of practice sessions at home, the school library and computer lab.

"This event has gotten our students so excited about learning that they have been practicing at every opportunity, even at home. Their improvement has been remarkable! It has been a pleasure to watch our students increase their speed and accuracy of math facts, while also learning about time zones and geography," Mahoney said.

Douglas Villata-Vilorio led the Woodhull group going into the global competition while Zaivar Butts was ranked the most improved.

The students will be given certificates and the top three finishers will get ribbons in a ceremony at the school on Wednesday.

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