The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

IC schools hold new monthly math challenge to increase student engagement

The challenge, funded through the district’s foundation, invites students and the community to participate in a monthly math challenge.
Grace Kreber
The Iowa City Community School District sign in Iowa City is seen on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.

A new monthly math challenge, created by Iowa City Community School District math teacher Kate Degner, looks to help spread the enjoyment of math for students and the community.

The math challenge is accessible online and consists of math problems with varying ranges of difficulty for K-12 students and adults. Students in Iowa City schools are eligible to win a prize for completing the challenge each month, and everyone in 10 submissions is also eligible to receive a prize.

Degner, who is married to Superintendent Matt Degner, said they expect there to be four to six winners in the month of September. Prizes for the winners of the challenge include products from local Iowa City businesses. For the month of September, the prize is a La Tea gift certificate, a boba shop located in downtown Iowa City.

The program is funded through the ICCSD Foundation’s Little Idea Hunt grant program, which is one of two grant cycles. This is only the second year the grant has existed, and it seeks to fund projects from teachers up to $1,000.

The Iowa City schools’ foundation gets its funding through donations from community partners intending to help further provide educational resources for the community, Executive Director at Foundation for Iowa City schools Laura Ebinger said.

Ebinger said 145 teachers applied, with the Iowa City schools’ foundation was able to approve 100 of those grants. According to the foundation’s website, 112 ideas were submitted the previous year.

“Our community is so generous and the dollars that allowed the LITTLE Idea Hunt to happen come from individual, family, private donations as well as our wonderful community partners,” Ebinger said.

Degner’s monthly math challenge was a part of this fund, and she received $500 to make it possible.

She said math can sometimes be taken too seriously, and she wanted to do something that reminds people of the fun of math.

“After the pandemic, there was sort of this, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s all this lost learning and we have to do all these serious things in math class now,’” Degner said. “I just try to remind people that this is fun and creative, and it doesn’t have to be a race, or it doesn’t have to be so serious.”

Degner said she has had parents reach out to participate in the puzzles and hopes that momentum will continue as the year goes on and new problems are posted each month.

Jennifer Clendineng, an online math teacher for secondary education in the district, said she thinks the math challenge has a lot of potential. Clendineng also said that getting kids to work on math skills in a critical way is something positive.

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“Anything that’s going to get the kids to do critical thinking is not going to be bad,” Clendineng said.

Clendineng said she noticed a difference in students coming back from the pandemic. Many students are having trouble remembering concepts that they learned years ago and catching them up is taking time.

Activities, such as the monthly math challenge, help remind kids how to have fun while learning which can only help students recover after having learning disrupted by the pandemic.

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About the Contributor
Jack Moore, News Reporter
Jack Moore is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication. Jack is from Cedar Rapids Iowa, and he reports on crime and courts for the news section and creates media content for the digital section at the The Daily Iowan. Along with working at The Daily Iowan, Jack works for the University of Iowa's UI-REACH program as a Resident Assistant. UI-REACH is a program for students with learning, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities intended to provide support to these students throughout their college experience. Additionally, Jack is involved in Iowa City's live music scene as he plays bass for local Iowa City band "Two Canes".