Marlborough students honored for doing math the ‘write’ way

MARLBOROUGH -- Educators have long touted the three R’s -- “reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic” -- as the framework of a solid education. But for students at Immaculate Conception School in Marlborough, the elements in the old adage have never been more harmonious.

The school recently won second place in Raytheon’s national MathMovesU Scholarship Contest by using their writing skills to communicate their zeal for mathematics.

Twenty of the school’s 70 middle school students earned educational scholarships of $1,000 each. Because Immaculate Conception tallied the second highest number of winning students, the school earned $20,000 to further develop its math curriculum.

In North Carolina a middle school with 800 students won first place with 23 individual recipients.

Raytheon has run the initiative since 2005 with the goal of addressing the country’s increasing need for better math education programs. Attracting attention in the mainstream media, the contest has been featured in Business Week and advertises in several engineering magazines. Celebrity spokespeople such as soccer champion Mia Hamm and professional football player Willie McGinest add to the contest’s appeal. Overall, its goal is to expose young students to the “cool” opportunities a strong background in math can bring.

The contest called on students to respond in essay form to one of three questions:

t would you do to make the study of math cooler?

What does your teacher or school do to make learning math fun?

What would you do with a $1,000 grant to help students in your school learn math?

Principal Martha McCook credited Denise Shipp, chair of the middle school math program, for inspiring the students’ enthusiasm for math. Shipp, who has taught at Immaculate Conception for three years, has a background in engineering.

“She knows the real world application of math,” remarked McCook. She also praised Immaculate Conception’s pastor, Father Michael W. MacEwen, for his steadfast support for the school’s academic programs.

Beyond the school’s stellar math curriculum, McCook pointed to the excellence of the school’s language arts program as a factor in the school’s recent success.

“‘Writing Across the Curriculum’ has turned our students into terrific writers,” said McCook. This approach requires that the students use diffeent writing genres in every subject, leading students to become just as comfortable reporting in depth on the practical applications of math as they are crafting a story in language arts.

“We recognize that communication is key,” McCook explained. “The more they become proficient in communication the better.”

Since Immaculate Conception placed first in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Raytheon visited the school to personally present the awards. The ceremony cemented the confidence parents have in Immaculate Conception’s academic programs.

“They were thrilled of course,” said McCook. “Overall, it was an affirmation for parents, knowing they have made a good choice in education.”