MSPE Member Larry Decker, PE and his wife Ruth have served for 23 years as Coordinators for the MetroWest Chapter of MATHCOUNTS, the national math enrichment, coaching and competition program for middle school students in grades 6-8, sponsored locally by the Massachusetts Society of Professional Engineers. This is the Deckers’ final year as official coordinators, and they are excited that the 2015 National MATHCOUNTS Competition on May 8 will be held in Boston for the first time in the program’s 32-year history.
A Growing Program
Ruth and Larry started by simply attending a competition, and were inspired to volunteer after experiencing the students’ excitement and energy. “From day one, we could see the value.” explained Larry. “At first, our chapter had 6 to 8 schools. Ruth would register students as they arrived, plus she created checklists and kept things very organized. We’ve also had great help through the years, from fellow MSPE members such as Bryan Iwata, PE, who ran the scoring room, and Kanayo Lala, PE, who just last year entered data from 185 students into the scoring database. So the program has really grown, as well as the need for volunteers to support it.” The Deckers also noted that the Metrowest Chapter is grateful to Meadowbrook School of Weston for making it possible to host 180-200 kids each year for the last 6 years of competition.
Competition Day Excitement
Each year the program reaches about one million students nationwide through the National MATHCOUNTS local school programs, and the top students join the Competition Program. “The idea is to make math fun and engaging for the kids, so they learn to solve interesting and challenging math problems, as opposed to just rote facts and memorization.” Larry explained. “The students’ energy has always been uplifting – on competition day and long after. Both of us have enjoyed being in touch with teachers, coaches, and even parents over the years. It has sparked great friendships and relationships.”
Deeper Reasons for MATHCOUNTS
“On a deeper level, our country needs to encourage more math, science and engineering students, so we can successfully compete with other countries in those areas. This [MATHCOUNTS] program is a real feeder for those programs. In fact, one of our chapter’s coaches gave us feedback that 90 percent of her MATHCOUNTS students go into math, science, or engineering careers.”
Praise from the MSPE Board of Directors
MSPE Board member and MATHCOUNTS State Coordinator John Hayden notes, “On behalf of the MSPE Board and our greater membership, we thank Ruth and Larry Decker for their great contributions to our state’s MATHCOUNTS program and students, and the future of our country’s progress in the fields of Math, Science, Engineering and Technology.”