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Vidalia students race through math challenge

VIDALIA — For four Vidalia Upper Elementary students, the journey through their school’s Fast Math program was competed in a flash.

Kevin Smith, 10, Terry Brown, 10, Destiny Banks, 11, and Jalyn Smith, 10, have surpassed all their fifth grade classmates to pass the program’s finish line.

The program begins by testing students in the area of multiplication and progresses them through the mathematic areas of division, addition and subtraction before they cross the track’s finish line.

A long racetrack on one of the school’s fifth grade hall walls shows students’ cars at different places in the program, from a mass majority resting at multiplication to those racing down the track toward the finish line.

“When you finish multiplication, you get to pick your car,” Kevin Smith said.

Brown said his favorite part of the program comes with completing an area of study.

“I like the Fast Math Fast Fact Challenges,” Brown said.

Once a challenge is met and passed, a student’s car is moved further down the track and studying and practice drills are given to the students to work with.

Fifth grade math teachers Paula Yarbrough and Tonya Anderson said they have seen an improvement in math skills since the parish decided to start the program.

“This is the second year we’ve done this, and we’ve seen a big improvement,” Yarbrough said.

“You really have to know your facts to move to the next category.”

Yarbrough, who teaches Brown, Banks and Jalyn Smith, said she was impressed with the students moving through the program as fast as they have.

“They are definitely mastering their math skills,” she said.

Anderson, Kevin Smith’s math teacher, said she’s seen her students’ math skills improve with the use of the program.

“From the fourth grade to the fifth grade, there was a major change,” Anderson said. “It builds on what they already know.”

The program teaches math to third, fourth and fifth graders and fosters a sense of competition between classmates.

“I finished the division part in a day,” Banks said.

With limited computer space in the classrooms, Banks said she’s glad the program is loaded on more computers than just the ones in Yarbrough and Anderson’s rooms.

“You can get on a computer in the classroom or the computer lab,” Jalyn Smith said.

Smith and her fellow classmates agreed that multiplication was the easiest of the four areas of math to master.

“All four (of these students) know all four operations fluently,” Yarbrough said.

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