East Orange 24 Game Tournament Creates Buzz for Math

East Orange 24 Game Tournament Creates Buzz for Math

Last week, Part 1 of this story outlined how the 24® Game and its inventor, Robert Sun, inspired Jaliyla Fraser to organize a wildly-successful 24 Challenge/Math Madness Tournament that would, in her words, “bring the students and community that I serve in East Orange a positive math experience.”

EAST ORANGE, NJ—Jaliyla Fraser is the Supervisor of Mathematics for grades 6-12 in the East Orange School District’s Division of Curriculum Services. She and several dedicated volunteers went from concept to Tournament—complete with a pre-game national anthem, food, cheerleaders, halftime show and a DJ—in four months. “It was a lot to juggle,” laughs Fraser.

Left to right: East Orange School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin West; 8th-Grade Tournament Champion Saniyya Ward from Cicely L. Tyson M/H School; East Orange School District Supervisor of Mathematics for grades 6-12 Jaliyla Fraser, and Terry Tucker-Swanson, President of the East Orange Board of Education.

How did she do it? The ever-energetic Fraser centered the event around buzz for New Jersey STEM Month, Pi Day (March 14), and copied the successful and familiar bracket format of college basketball’s March Madness Tournament.

Presenting math as a sporting event brought a certain level of ‘cool’ to the party, but Fraser realized that it would also be beneficial for students to see adults involved in mathematics, so she set up brackets with 64 players from four distinct groups:

Groups one and two consisted of students in grades 6-8 and 9-12. Each school held their own qualifying matchups to determine who would attend the 24 Challenge/Math Madness tournament.

Group three was made up of non-math teachers. “This was the hardest group to fill out,” smiles Fraser. “They needed some convincing to put aside their own math anxiety and try it.”

Group four included community representatives, as well as parents, who were required to come and practice with the 24® Game cards three times a week. Fraser gave them t-shirts as incentives, and says “the parents really liked the 24® game Single Digits app because they could practice on their phones.”

“Jaliyla was so smart about this, a mix of kids and adult participants made it a huge success, as did involving an entire community, just like our tournaments used to do years ago,” says Sun, referring to the nationwide network of annual  24 Challenge® Math Program Tournament events that were held from 1988 through 2006 with funding from corporate sponsorship.

“Our East Orange Tournament was fun and splashy and exciting—everything I had hoped for—but I see it as a stepping stone because it gained a lot of traction for math, and where math is concerned, in the district” explains Fraser, who points out in somewhat mathematical terms that “success equals interest.”

Community involvement, funding from local companies and a congratulatory Resolution presented by the City of East Orange at a City Council meeting all represent a newfound interest in math and have generated excitement for future tournaments, according to Fraser. “As educators, we all have to articulate the vision we have for math to create success.”

With a template already established for next year’s math competition, Fraser has also begun to examine the First In Math® Online Program. “What I like about First In Math is that students do the heavy lifting, not teachers. I want to explore educational evolution and revitalization, and I’m super excited to see how Mr. Sun and I can achieve our mutual goal of helping students release their fears about math.”

Editor’s note: Jaliyla Fraser is currently Supervisor of Mathematics for grades 6-12 in the East Orange School District. She has also spent the last six years as a part-time lecturer of Mathematics at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ.

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