Magnolia Middle student excels in MathCounts competition

An eighth-grader at Magnolia Middle School qualified for the state MathCounts competition after a stellar performance during Saturday's chapter competition.

Math whiz Ana Franzoni is the only student in Harford County who will compete March 17 on the state level.

Four students from the school — Michael Hartloff (grade 7), Elizabeth Daramola (grade 7), Victoria Bankole (Grade 8) and Ana — participated in the MathCounts chapter competition at Perry Hall Middle School over the weekend, when 26 schools from Harford, Baltimore and Howard counties competed.

While the team didn't qualify for the top 10, Ana will go on to the next level and proudly represent her school.

MathCounts, in its 29th year, is a national club and program that promotes achievement in mathematics within middle schools. During competitions, students are asked to solve math problems in teams or individually using critical thinking and knowledge they've learned in school and from team practices.

Peter deBorja, a sixth grade math teacher at Magnolia, started the MathCounts team at the school three years ago when he was hired. Magnolia used to have a team, deBorja explained, but not in many years.

"It's great that we have this much interest and young kids coming, in as well," said deBorja, who was in MathCounts when he was in school. "As long as I'm here in Magnolia, there will be a MathCounts team."

Ana and two other eighth-graders have been on the team for all three years of its existence, the teacher said. Eleven students are on the team.

"I like doing MathCounts because it gives me more to do after school," Ana said. The eighth-grader is also on the school's Destination Imagination team — a club that asks students to create short plays based on a collaboration of recent news stories.

Through the program, Ana said she has been able to hone her math skills, which helps her in school.

During the recent competition, though, Ana was "so nervous" and not sure if she would perform well.

"I was anxious to get it [the competition] done and see how [well] I did," she said. "I feel I did really [well]."

Every student on the team has a certain area they excel in — Ana loves word problems — and they use this to their advantage, dividing up work within the group during the team portion of the competition to find the correct answers.

Magnolia Middle's principal, Melissa Mickey, is very proud of what her students were able to accomplish.

"I'm glad to have a MathCounts teams," Mickey said. "I'm really happy we can have so many [students] involved."

Although the team as a whole didn't qualify for the state competition, deBorja said they will take what they learned this year and apply it to future practice sessions.

Looking to the future, Ana feels that her skills in math can be applied to whatever career she aims for.

She has applied to the nursing assistant program at Harford Technical High School, but dreams about opening a café if she steers away from nursing.

Ana said her father wants to her to keep up her math skills, encouraging her to take accounting classes when she reaches high school, as well.

"It's a good back-up," she said.

For Magnolia Middle School, Ana and the team's success is a long overdue achievement. deBorja joked about the "ancient [MathCounts] trophies from the 1980s" displayed in the school and how proud he is that the work he and his students have done are paying off.

"It's nice to have another shining moment," he said.

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