Though they could have been playing video games, riding bikes or just lounging in front of the TV over their Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks from school, a group of four Milpitas sixth graders thought they would do something a bit more ambitious—make a movie.
So that’s just what they did, and now their short film is part of an online contest that they hope will win them four $1,000 college scholarships and a trip to Orlando, Florida.
Anvay Bhanap, Samik Shrotriya, Ishan Pathirana and Ramon Plascencia have been best buddies for quite a while. Anvay and Samik attend together, Ishan attends Challenger School over in the Berryessa neighborhood, and Ramon attends . However, they all love to get together and hang out in their hometown of Milpitas, as well as play for the Milpitas Youth Soccer Association together.
The idea to enter the Reel Math Challenge came from Samik’s mother, Neeta Shrotriya. She said she was searching for fun projects her son could do over the long holiday break that would be fun for him, but also be stimulating as well.
“I found it online and thought it would be a really cool project to keep my son busy during the winter break, learning something new and having fun at the same time—not just solving boring old math problems,” she explained. “The competition is meant to excite students about math while allowing them to hone their creativity and communication skills.”
The idea behind the contest is for teams of four children in grades six through eight to pick a math problem from a book of 300 problems that Math Counts provides for free, and to make a short film that teaches others how to do one of the problems in a fun, creative way, while also showing the problem’s real-world applications.
So, Shrotriya got a copy of the Math Counts book and showed it to her son and his three friends. Over Thanksgiving break, Samik, Anvay, Ishan and Ramon attempted to solve all the problems from the book that they could, and together, they chose the problem they wanted to make a movie about.
The problem they chose is this:
The city whose full name is El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles del Rio de Porciuncula, which contains 61 letters, is typically abbreviated to Los Angeles. In terms of numbers of letters, what percent of the full name is the abbreviated name? Express your answer to the nearest hundredth.
Samik laughs and says he thought it would be a good problem to choose because the title they gave their film, “The L.A. Conundrum,” gave it a bit of Hollywood flash and might help attract votes.
“We also thought, with this problem, we could make a creative and funny video,” Ishan explained. “So that’s how we narrowed it down.”
Once they had selected their math problem, Shrotriya said all four boys dreamed up their own ideas for the film and made storyboards, and then they all looked at them together and chose their favorite to film.
They decided to do a puppet show of sorts with stuffed animals, and use video editing and titles to show their work on the screen as the puppet friends explained the process.
All in all, the selection of their math problem, the planning of the video and the filming took about two weeks, Shrotriya said.
Though none of the four boys said they would call math their favorite subject, each one said the making of their film definitely made the math fun for them, and also brought in other subjects they love, such as writing.
“I like writing, so I liked coming up with the story for the video,” said Samik.
Ramon said, what made it most fun for him was getting to do the problems with his friends.
“I liked that we all got to work together,” he said, particularly since he goes to a different school than his three friends, “and I liked using the puppets to show how the problem is done.”
Samik said making the video was a lot of fun, even though, “It took a lot of takes. We messed up a lot,” he said, laughing.
Now that their film is finished and up on the Reel Math Challenge website for the world to see, the boys and their parents are busy trying to spread the word so people will vote for them.
Based on the number of votes a video receives, the top 20 videos will advance to the contest’s semifinals. From there, a group of Math Counts judges will select four finalists. Each of the four finalist groups will win an all-expenses-paid trip to Orlando for the Math Counts 2012 National Championships.
From there, the grand prize winner will be chosen by all the students nationwide who participated in the contest. The grand prize winners will win a $1,000 college scholarship for each of the four members on their team.
Voting is now open online until Feb. 1, and voters can vote once per day. On Feb. 1, the 20 semifinalists will be announced, and the top four will be announced in March.
Shrotriya and the four boys estimate they will need at least 2,000-3,000 votes to make it into the finals. As of Monday, they had just under 700.
To see the Math Counts handbook and view all the math problems they had to choose from, click here.