Winning equation

South Carolina Kiwanians inspire third graders to get excited about math.

By Wendy Rose Gould

Math can be a notoriously difficult subject in the classroom. That’s precisely why the Kiwanis Club of Spartanburg, South Carolina, decided to tackle it head-on. In 2006, the club launched the Math Medallion program, which encourages third graders to set their sights on a shiny medal by zeroing in on their multiplication tables. 

“I saw a need for the program when I started working with kids in the fourth and fifth grade who were having to go back and (learn) division and multiplication,” says Ed Y. Hall, founder of Math Medallion. “The multiplication tables are the very foundation of future math success. Students with a strong, early, solid foundation with the tables are likely to be better and more successful math students.”

“We know we’re investing in a bright future for Spartanburg County students. Children need to be recognized. A math medallion might be a small token, but it is such a point of pride for each student who earns one.”

To earn a Math Medallion, students must score 100% on an 11-minute timed test. When that ribbon is placed around their neck, not only do they feel proud of their hard work, but they also understand they’ve mastered a skill that will be of great value to them in the future. Since the program’s infancy, more than 34,000 third graders have attempted to win a medallion, and a brainy 22,000 have walked away with the award.

Putting the program into place was a team effort that required support from the community. Teachers, administrators, business professionals and the Kiwanis club members came together to make it possible. 

“I think (Hall) is a great example of someone who has a passion and drive that’s really been almost contagious when it comes to working with students in this area,” says Darryl Owings, superintendent of District 6 schools in Spartanburg County. “Mr. Hall was so determined to make this happen, and we were just willing participants and the beneficiaries of his hard work.”

Each year, the club sets aside US$3,000 to $5,000 to purchase the medals. The members know it’s a small expense compared to the benefit it brings. 

“We know we’re investing in a bright future for Spartanburg County students,” says Susan Dunlap, club president. “Children need to be recognized. A math medallion might be a small token, but it is such a point of pride for each student who earns one.”


This story originally appeared in the June/July 2020 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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