Twelve Valley-area middle school mental giants will prove their mathematical mettle Saturday at the state Mathcounts finals at UC Irvine.
Handling square roots, integers and the much-dreaded word problems, four-member teams from Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, John Muir Middle School in Burbank and an all-star team of students from the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks and Placerita Junior High School in Newhall will compete with 47 other teams for the state Mathcounts title.
At the end of the day, four students with the highest individual scores from the state finals will be named as the team that will represent California in Washington, D.C., in May.
The Valley's Mathcounts tradition is a strong one, said engineer Norm Baron, who coordinates the program for the Valley.
"Two years ago, a student from the Valley was on the state team and he came in second overall in the nation," Baron said. "That student was from Walter Reed."
And it is only mathematically logical that California teams routinely place in the top 10 in the nation, Baron said, because "we're pulling from a very large base."
The competing Walter Reed students are Brandon Ashe, Melvin Chu, Jeffrey Zira and Natalie Stein. From John Muir are Brendan Jennings, Andrew Chon, Joan Lee and Eugene Shin.
Buckley school all-stars are Matthew Waymost and Michael Lalezarian. Their Placerita counterparts are Dan Monteleone and Tracy Hsu. All are in the seventh or eighth grade.
The program is sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers, NASA, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, among others.