Baraboo Sauk County campus hosts CalcFest tournament for local math students


More than 70 area high school students from nine different high schools descended on the UW-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County campus on April 19 to compete in the campus’ CalcFest, a gameshow-style competition that challenged students' skills and discernment on a range of calculus problems.

“We’re so excited to have been able to provide this engaging opportunity for local high school students,” said Dr. Holly Attenborough, associate professor in the UW-Platteville Mathematics Department and assistant provost for UW-Platteville. "The students were able to continue their preparation for the AP calculus exam, visit our beautiful Baraboo Sauk County campus and meet other math-enthused peers from around the area.”

Attenborough and a contingent of mathematics faculty from the university’s main campus in Platteville traveled to Baraboo to serve as judges, hosts and generally assist with the fast-paced afternoon. The Jeopardy-like game board, with categories and increasing point values, did not require students to solve the math problems in the form of a question, however.

Dr. Kirthi Premadasa first organized CalcFest in 2014, and he hopes it can once again be a regular event.

“It’s very fun, and very good for showing students the campus and encouraging them to study more mathematics,” said Premadasa, who has taught mathematics at the Baraboo Sauk County campus for over a decade.

Premadasa said the campus has long focused on giving students the close personal attention they need to excel, while using innovative teaching practices to make mathematics instruction and understanding accessible to students with different levels of experience and skill. With the campus’ new associate degree in pre-engineering, that commitment is only growing.

Students from Adams-Friendship, Baraboo, Fennimore, North Crawford, Portage, Prairie du Chien, Reedsburg, Sauk Prairie and Wisconsin Dells all made the trek, and were excited to take part.

“We’re going to work together, using our separate strengths, to win,” said Henry Larson, a student at Reedsburg High School. The Reedsburg team’s teacher, John Brandt, said the contest was a good chance for students to get some good review and practice, after a winter of more snow days and more schedule challenges than many.

“We worked on limits back in September – I’ll be curious to see how well those questions go,” said Brandt.

The four top teams faced off in Final Jeopardy, with the team from Prairie du Chien coming out victorious. They had been excited to come, according to their teacher Hannah Rabbitt, who said “how can you say no to competitive calculus?”

They were even more thrilled to win the contest. “It makes the trip doubly worth it,” said Rabbitt.

Other finalists included the teams from Portage and Fennimore, and a team of students from both Sauk Prairie and North Crawford.