Our Stories

MILTON Makes Clean Sweep in Math League Competition

September 22, 2023 by Elizabeth Zitelli (Faculty and Staff)

While math departments across the DMV have been focused on early acceleration through rigorous testing, MILTON has quietly built a powerhouse math program through applied mathematics and creative problem solving. The proof is in the daily hands-on work of every student in math class, as well as the results of the latest Math League competition. 

As the team standings of the 2023 competition were revealed in June, the combined accomplishments of our team of student mathematicians were stunning. 

Grade 6 – first place…MILTON!

Grade 7 – first place…MILTON!

Grade 8 – first place…MILTON!

Each student was tested individually and then top scores were combined and compared with scores from students in all other participating DC and Maryland schools. In each grade, MILTON came out on top – with individual students placing first and second in each grade level, but more importantly, as a team, besting hundreds of other mathematicians in the DMV. As the results were read aloud, the group of assembled students exploded in a roar of cheers. “It was as much an expression of collective pride as any sports win I’ve ever seen,” Head of School Deborah Skolnick-Einhorn shared. She was so personally moved by the “clean sweep” that she bought a festive broom to commemorate the accomplishment. 

Grade eight individual winners with Wendy Herndon

The clean sweep is the result of a mathematics curriculum focused on creative problem solving and applied mathematics. Students in grades 2-8 make regular use of manipulatives and participate in hands-on learning. 

Senior Mathematics Specialist Wendy Herndon has made it her mission to seek out the “sleeper” mathematicians in the school community. “These are kids who are not the fastest at math facts. They don’t always excel early on, in fourth or fifth grade, but they are creative problem solvers and visionary thinkers,” Herndon says. Some of these go on to become key members of the team. Many students whose math potential may have remained untapped have become serious contenders and have developed a passion for math and problem solving.

Grade five students solving problems together with manipulatives

Math teacher Carrie Sanidad uses the Beast Academy curriculum to introduce elementary students to the “Art of Problem Solving” approach in a light-filled classroom with flexible seating and colorful objects for exploration. As they progress through Honors Pre-Algebra, Honors and Algebra (and sometimes even Geometry!), math students venture into the art room and the design lab. MILTON math students spend time creating colorful tessellations, dot mandalas, and using power tools to build glockenspiels to demonstrate a root curve. 

“We care less about the quick generation of right answers and more about the circuitous path to solutions,” Herndon explains. At MILTON, although math classes are leveled, there are opportunities for students who are identified with particularly insightful problem solving ability to transfer into an Honors course in sixth or seventh grade, even without necessarily having taken Honors the year before. 

Inspired math students can’t get enough of this work. Due to popular demand, this year, for the first time, creative problem solving is also being taught as an afterschool club within our Moadon program. The elementary and middle school clubs are open to students in all math levels. 

“Computation is only one part of successful problem solving,” Herndon says, “We want to know what kind of thinker you are. Do you have grit?” 

Each Tuesday, 21 kids in grades 2-8 show up to solve problems together, led by Wendy Herndon and Carrie Sanidad. They relish the challenge. 

Grade five student shows his polyhedron

Grade five students work together to solve a puzzle
Photos by Jeff Mauritzen and Elizabeth Zitelli