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Waverly Students Compete in State Event

Three Waverly first graders—Joe Mimatsu, Sameer Kanwar and Nathan McCarthy—shined in a statewide Mathematics tournament held in Albany last weekend.


Sponsored by the New York State Education Department and, the event featured 10 teams at the first grade level.


Mimatsu, who is in Christine Rogliano’s class, and Kanwar and McCarthy, who are in Lisa Michalak’s class, finished fourth—missing out on a third-place medal by just five points—proving that the students’ dedication to their academics, coupled with their utilization of the First in Math program, has been a true victory for the district.


First In Math is a voluntary supplemental program that offers elementary schoolers the opportunity to participate in math-based games using a fun—and educational—platform that tracks student progress and rewards youngsters for solving math problems. 


Eastchester schools launched the program in March to much success, with Kanwar, McCarthy and Mimatsu qualifying for the statewide event after a tremendous showing at a virtual March 30 regional qualifier.


Although the May 20 event marked a departure from the format of the qualifiers, inviting students, Grades 1-5, from across the state to compete in person, Lisa Michalak, who accompanied the students on their trip to Albany, said the trio was well-prepared, both mentally and emotionally, for the challenge. 


“In the weeks leading up to the event, we met with them to discuss what they should expect, with first graders from all over the state,” said Michalak. “So they knew that even though we had all this time to prepare, every other team had those same opportunities, and I think they handled it so well.”  


Michalak added that watching the three youngsters prepare for the tournament was revelatory, as they worked together through exercises that mirrored the “Ten Wheels” puzzle format of the competition. Collaborative, hands-on learning is important for early-elementary school students, she said, and the trio settled in quickly to problem solve in a group setting. 


“Working with a partner on schoolwork and learning how to figure out a problem has so many benefits at this age,” said Michalak. “With this, just figuring out how to make ten, it helps them in terms of thinking about math and using mathematical language.”


Michalak added that the format of the First in Math competition served as an effective companion to the Reveal Math curriculum being employed within the district. 


“We use Reveal and a lot of things that have come up this year are about the advanced vocabulary of the curriculum,” she said. “Being exposed to that math vocabulary, I think, has really helped the students to articulate mathematical thinking this year.”


With the excitement generated by the three Waverly students' trip to the state tournament, Michalak feels that enthusiasm for the First in Math program will continue to grow among Eastchester’s elementary school students, and that the youngsters are already eager to test their skills against the rest of New York State next year. 


“As an enrichment piece, it’s been so valuable for my group because they are motivated to do these activities,” she said. “Math can be daunting, but I’m finding these kids aren’t scared, they’re excited about it; it doesn’t matter if we came home from Albany with a medal, this was definitely a win-win for us.”