It was a showdown of math whizzes in Gulfport Friday as middle school students from across the South Mississippi went head to head in the MATHCOUNTS competition.
The stakes were high. The pressure was intense. And the students brought their A game. With coaches and teammates nervously watching, players tried to work out math problems correctly and more quickly than the person sitting next to them.
Round after round the fractions, geometry and word problems continued. For some competitors, their nerves got the best of them.
"It made you really nervous," said Katherine Rorabaugh of Long Beach Middle School. "I could solve all the problems after I got eliminated, but I couldn't do it when I was up there because you're scared that the other guy is going to beat you, so you mess up.
MATHCOUNTS is a national math competition. The qualifier for our area was put on by the Mississippi Engineering Society's Gulf Coast Chapter to encourage students to pursue careers in science, math, and technology.
"The students, they have a coach from their school and they prepare to come down here," said David Seyfarth, MES president. "Some of the schools actually do competitions to select who comes down here to compete."
All that number crunching has some students considering their futures.
"I was thinking about being some sort of engineer possibly later. Because engineering is all about math and I'm good at math," Rorabaugh said.
Jonathan Moraski of North Gulfport 7th grade school came out on top. He said a lot of training and keeping a cool head led to his victory.
"I just imagined that it was just any ordinary day of doing math," said Moraski. "Just did what I normally do in math."
The top finishers will move on to compete at a statewide MATHCOUNTS competition in Jackson.
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