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Neither Kenneth Radford, left, nor Anthony Grizzard, eighth-graders at Edgren High School, want to sample the Jell-O-shellfish mix Thursday during the school’s inaugural Algebra Olympics.

Neither Kenneth Radford, left, nor Anthony Grizzard, eighth-graders at Edgren High School, want to sample the Jell-O-shellfish mix Thursday during the school’s inaugural Algebra Olympics. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Neither Kenneth Radford, left, nor Anthony Grizzard, eighth-graders at Edgren High School, want to sample the Jell-O-shellfish mix Thursday during the school’s inaugural Algebra Olympics.

Neither Kenneth Radford, left, nor Anthony Grizzard, eighth-graders at Edgren High School, want to sample the Jell-O-shellfish mix Thursday during the school’s inaugural Algebra Olympics. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Eighth-grader Megan Bobroski downs a cupful of Jell-O mixed with crunchy shellfish.

Eighth-grader Megan Bobroski downs a cupful of Jell-O mixed with crunchy shellfish. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Freshman Bow Lamlert tries to swallow a dog biscuit.

Freshman Bow Lamlert tries to swallow a dog biscuit. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

A three-legged race was one of the challenges during the Algebra Olympics. Awaiting Kenneth Radford, left, and Anthony Grizzard at the other end of the gym was a “Fear Factor” concoction.

A three-legged race was one of the challenges during the Algebra Olympics. Awaiting Kenneth Radford, left, and Anthony Grizzard at the other end of the gym was a “Fear Factor” concoction. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Not all tasks in Edgren High School’s Algebra Olympics Thursday involved gross food. From left, Tom Lynne, David Dixon and Kevin Radford put their heads together to solve word problems and Algebraic equations.

Not all tasks in Edgren High School’s Algebra Olympics Thursday involved gross food. From left, Tom Lynne, David Dixon and Kevin Radford put their heads together to solve word problems and Algebraic equations. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — What’s harder than computing unwieldy algebraic equations?

Eating green Jell-O sprinkled with tiny shellfish (crunch!) or a dog biscuit smelling like bacon and tasting like soggy steak.

“The problems weren’t that hard,” said Edgren High School eighth-grader Tylynne Faruzzi.

And the food?

“Terrible,” she said. “The dog biscuit for me was disgusting because I’m a vegetarian, and no one touched the Jell-O.”

Welcome to the Algebra Olympics, where math for 100 of Edgren’s Algebra I students Thursday was never so fun — or sickening.

The games, spread over two days, had four categories: jeopardy, human graph, math mania and fear factor.

Misawa was the fifth school among Department of Defense Dependent Schools in the Pacific to host the event this spring, said DODDS Pacific algebra coach Scott Milanovich, one of the organizers.

“The whole idea is to prepare [the kids] for the end-of-year course assessment in algebra,” he said.

That test debuts in another year, so Algebra Olympics likely will be back, Milanovich said.

This year’s games were a practice run, he said, a fun way for both teachers and students to review materials from DODDS’ new algebra textbook and curriculum guide, part of the school system’s revised math standards.

Most activities involved pencil and paper. Food entered the equation after linear regression: Teams matched up a table of figures, hopped across the gym in a three-legged race and tried to stomach the crunchy slime and doggy dinner.

Points were earned for a successful task — students even flashed their clean, albeit green, tongues. Plenty of garbage cans, even a nurse, were on hand. Prizes such as movie passes and gift certificates went to teams with the highest scores.

“It’s motivating,” said Edgren math department curriculum leader Susan Bryan. “They want to win, so they have to pay attention, they have to work.”

Most pupils weren’t fazed by the math: Graphing, word problems, quadratic equations, no sweat, they said.

The food was the stickler. “We’re probably not going to win,” said Tylynne of herself and partner Cassie Crites, also an eighth-grader. “I had to eat both dog biscuits because she couldn’t take it.”

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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