Wilmington first graders win national math challenge against 400,000 elementary students

·3 min read
Matthew Norris's first grade class at Sunset Park Elementary earned first place in the SpringBoard Math Challenge against 20,000 classes across the country.
Matthew Norris's first grade class at Sunset Park Elementary earned first place in the SpringBoard Math Challenge against 20,000 classes across the country.

Matthew Norris entered his first grade class into a national online math competition to motivate his students and help them learn. He didn’t think they would beat 20,000 classrooms around the country and take first place in the contest.

But that’s exactly what they did.

“As the weeks progressed, I just saw the light in their eyes and the fire that they had,” Norris said. “They really wanted it and so they just kept at it and I’m proud of how far they came.”

Norris’s first grade students at Sunset Park Elementary use SplashLearn to practice math curriculum and prepare for end-of-grade assessments. SplashLearn is a series of online games that allow students to create avatars and earn coins to purchase prizes in the game.

This year, Norris and his students entered SplashLearn’s SpringBoard Math Challenge, a 10-week competition that included 400,000 students from 20,000 classrooms across the country.

Classes competed against each other over 10 weeks as a fun, motivating way to practice math standards ahead of the end of the school year, according to the SplashLearn website.

“The secure, familiar and friendly setting to practice along with the peers encourages kids to do the best while having fun,” said SplashLearn Co-Founder Joy Deep Nath in a news release. “The SpringBoard competition was needed more so this year as classrooms across the nation have been trying their best to recover from the pandemic loss.”

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Norris said he enrolled his class in the competition this year to motivate them to practice math. His class frequently uses SplashLearn because it has different games for each grade level that are based around math standards for that age.

But as each week passed, the students were increasingly excited to see their class move up on the leaderboard. Eventually, the class was ranked first in North Carolina and around 20th in the country.

“They knew what the ending was going to be, what they were aiming for, so they really tried hard,” Norris said.

Matthew Norris's first grade class at Sunset Park Elementary earned first place in the SpringBoard Math Challenge against 20,000 classes across the country.
Matthew Norris's first grade class at Sunset Park Elementary earned first place in the SpringBoard Math Challenge against 20,000 classes across the country.

As the last week of the competition began, it was clear his class would be in the top finishers. When they learned they had won first place across the nation, Norris’s students were ecstatic.

SplashLearn awarded the class with a $1,000 Amazon gift card for their accomplishment.

With that, Norris bought a prize basket with books, school supplies and other small things for each student. He was also able to buy several items for his classroom, like an iPad charging cart, new headphones and other school supplies.

He also said he saw improvements in his students’ math scores as they continued working through the games. He said he had students at all levels of math understanding, and the games met each student where they were at to help them progress in their learning.

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Norris’s class was followed by a classroom at Pacific Union School in California in second place and a classroom at Petersburg Elementary School in Illinois in third.

“SplashLearn would like to congratulate each and every school, teacher, and student who participated in the competition,” SplashLearn CEO Arpit Jain said in the news release. “We are glad to be part of their journey as they collaborate and celebrate learning.”

Norris said he plans to enter his classes in the competition in years to come and hopes other teachers at his school will join him.

“It made me feel really happy,” he said. “I couldn’t believe we actually did it.”

Reporter Sydney Hoover can be reached at 910-343-2339 or shoover@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Wilmington first graders take first place in national math challenge