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Pacific Rim Elementary School
Pacific Rim Elementary School fourth graders (from left) Amal Ali, Caden Faciane, Olivier Weeda, Aaron Cooper and James Gentile won the fourth-grade state championship at the Perennial Math competition earlier this year. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Pacific Rim math students earn national, international awards

CARLSBAD — Nearly two dozen fourth-grade students took math to a whole other level over the past four months.

Students at Pacific Rim Elementary School took part in the school’s first-ever math club, which was spearheaded by parent Ilene Cooper. As a result, the kids formed five teams and competed, won and placed at several state, national and international competitions.

On May 28, Cooper organized a celebration at the school for her team and their parents, while handing out medals, ribbons and trophies showcasing the students’ accomplishments.

“I started looking into competitions and a lot of them were team events, so I thought I’d start a team,” Cooper said. “The kids were amazing. Math should be fun.”

Cooper started the club in January as a way to get her son, Aaron, more active with math. Cooper said her son really wasn’t enjoying math or taking an interest, but he is competitive, so she leveraged those characteristics as a way to build his math skills.

Initially, she expected a handful of students to join. Ultimately, 38 students signed up. However, due to other responsibilities, being on Zoom and other issues, she ended up with 22 students.

The fourth-grade math club at Pacific Rim Elementary School held an awards ceremony on May 28 to celebrate a number of state and national awards. Two teams took first and second at the Perennial Math state competition, with one team going on to win the national competition. Photo by Steve Puterski

The math centered on addition, subtraction, division and multiplication, although one event was so competitive, the students ventured into high school math to determine the top finishers, Ilene Cooper said.

From there, she broke the club into two sections with a group practicing on Mondays and the others on Fridays. Then, she registered the club for a number of competitions.

And the kids came to win.

Aaron Cooper, Amal Ali, Caden Faciane, James Gentile and Olivier Weeda won both state and national titles at the virtual Perennial Math competition, while Emi Furukawa, Erick Lim, Maddox Lawrance, Sophia Kim and Annie Kim were the state runners up.

“We would always check it over as a group to make sure we got it right and then Aaron would type it in because he’s our team leader,” Faciane said. “It was a fun experience because I’ve never done math like that before.”

At World Maths Day, an online international mathematics competition featuring 10,000 fourth graders from around the globe, Lim placed eighth in the nation and 81st in the world. The team, meanwhile, took third nationally and sixth in the world, while nine students placed in the top 100 nationally and top 10% internationally.

Additionally, a number of the students took home national honorable mention awards in several other competitions.

As for next year, Ilene Cooper said she plans to follow the kids into fifth grade and continue the club and competitions.

“Some problems we struggle on … but when we worked together, we could solve them,” Ali said.

Other members of the team include Michael Kamenev, Mikey Lietzow, Lasya Desu, Juliet Metzler, Artyom Sinitsyn, Jaxon Starkey, Brayden Sales, Lauren Zinn, Lily Zinn, Isabella Berke, Avery Chasin, Navdhi Jain.