Benesch Engineers Foster Passion for Mathematics at Local MathCounts Competition

People | February 05, 2024


image of Benesch volunteers with winners from the MathCounts Competition day, posing with the local competition trophy

SCHUYLILL HAVEN, PA—Benesch’s Josh Howard, PE and Glenn Barwicki, EIT are on a mission to instill a passion for math and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals in their community. On Saturday, February 3, the pair hosted a math competition at the Penn State Schuylkill campus, which drew more than 60 middle school participants.

Josh and Glenn serve as the Co-Coordinators for the Anthracite Chapter of the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers MathCounts Competition Series. A national math coaching and competition program for middle school students, MathCounts helps students build confidence and enthusiasm for math and problem solving.

Comprised of four timed rounds, the Chapter Competition focuses on speed, accuracy, problem solving, mathematical reasoning and collaboration. In the Sprint Round, students are challenged to answer 30 questions within a 40-minute timeframe, all without the assistance of a calculator. The Target Round consists of eight questions which are distributed to the students in pairs. The students have six minutes to complete each pair of problems with the aid of an approved calculator. During the Team Round, the students work together to complete ten problems. The top 25% of students, up to a maximum of ten, proceed to the Count Down Round, an oral round in which students compete head-to-head.

“The competitiveness at the event helps grow the students’ confidence,” said Glenn. “It’s an extremely high-energy competition, similar to what you would see at a traditional sporting event.”

“Seeing the impact we have on students’ lives by helping them grow their interest and proficiency in math brings us immense fulfillment every year,” said Josh. “Witnessing their enthusiasm for math serves as a constant reminder of the importance of our roles as coordinators.”

Saturday’s event marked Josh’s sixth year running the competition, and Glen’s third. They were supported by 13 coworkers and several other volunteers, many of whom have participated in MathCounts events for years. Following the Chapter Competition, Josh and Glenn will host a pizza party at the winning team’s school where they administer various trivia and math games for the students.

“Of course, math is a critical skill for us as engineers,” said Josh. “That’s why we love being part of MathCounts—it all adds up to more kids interested in exploring careers in STEM.”

The top students from the chapter will advance to the State Competition in March where, in addition to more competitive mathematics, the students will get the chance to explore other engineering activities as a way to continue growing their interest in STEM.