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Teens in Beast Academy mentor young students in math

MADISON – In a welcome twist of the stereotype, mathematics is popular for both teenagers and youngsters in Madison elementary schools.

Held after school, Beast Academy is a math enrichment program for third- through fifth-graders from all elementaries in Madison City Schools. High school students wanting to share their math enthusiasm are teaching younger students.

Beast Academy builds appreciation for mathematics, strengthens problem-solving skills and encourages a collaborative culture among students.

“Beast Academy is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of as an educator,” Kimberly Cox said. Cox sponsors Beast Academy East at Bob Jones High School. Nancy Hartfield and Chase Evans sponsor Beast Academy West at James Clemens High School.

Sponsors invited each elementary school to send five students in grades 3-5 to their future high-school program.

Aditi Limaye, a Bob Jones junior, co-founded Beast Academy. “I hear my peers and younger children say, ‘I hate math,’ or ‘Math is not my subject.’ Ever since we were young, my sister Maanasi and I have been avid competitors in math competitions, learning to love the beautiful math. But as I got older, I realized that having a community of equally passionate peers motivates students to the next level,” Aditi said.

With that mindset, Aditi, Maanasi and Cox co-founded Beast Academy to show math is fun. Cox has organized classes, met with teachers and ‘debugged’ Beast Academy’s program.

For materials, Aditi negotiated discounts with the Art of Problem Solving math organization. Madison administrators endorsed the idea and gave some financial help. Art of Problem Solving offers classes, publishes books and hosts forums for logic puzzles and cool math facts in introductory to Olympiad-level mathematics.

Maanasi creates and gives diagnostic tests and maintains the website (http://mcsbeast.weebly.com/).

Teen instructors help third-graders with homework from Beast Academy practice books.

Fourth-graders ‘play’ Math Bingo. Instructors create problems and arrange those answers randomly in a five-block square for each team. A teenager calls out the problems, and students mark out answers on the bingo sheet. The first team to get five in a row wins and gets candy, Maanasi said.

Fifth-graders learn about ‘nets,’ two-dimensional patterns that students can cut/fold to make three-dimensional models of solid shapes, Aditi said. “In competition, students connect large poster boards to form accurate rectangular prism nets (that can) enclose the smallest group member. The kids really enjoyed it.”

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