Pioneer’s whiz kids make a splash in math

Pioneer Elementary kindergarteners prove themselves fast studies at math, place fourth and nine in nation on online test

At 6 years old, Eric Onishchenko already digs math.

Says so himself.

And what does he like about it?

“Learning about money,” says Eric.

Onishchenko is one of the students in Mary Luschei’s kindergarten class at Pioneer Elementary School and others in George Solomon’s class who recently distinguished themselves big time in a nationwide, Internet math contest sponsored by the online mathematics program, Splash Math.

Between March 28 and May 13, Luschei’s and Solomon’s charges pitted their skills against those in 13,000 other K-3 classrooms, placing fourth and ninth respectively in the nation, and first and second respectively in Washington state.

Beyond the excitement of a contest, the serious purpose was to reinforce and introduce Common Core-aligned math skills as kindergartners through fifth-grade students prepared for their end-of-the-year assessments and the next grade.

“These students are learning early that hard work and perseverance can most definitely pay off,” said Principal Debra Gary.

Using iPads, Luschei explained, all the kids breezed through the kindergarten part of the competition before moving onward and upward to the first grade section. In the end, 12 of Luschei’s students finished at the second-grade level.

“Honestly, they blew my mind on how dedicated they were,” Luschei said. “They were driven. They were ready. They got through kindergarten so fast because they work really hard. They do their homework every night. They’re probably one of the hardest-working classes I’ve ever had in 20 years.

“We worked on it, and we were in second place in the nation out of 13,000 schools for about five weeks, and then there was a glitch in the planks. Long story short, we ended up fourth in the nation, but we were first place in Washington,” Luschei said.

What in Splash Math did Luschei’s kids learn beyond what they had learned in the classroom?

Money – dimes, nickels, dollars, said Megan Ho.

“We learned how to tell time,” piped up Knight Garza.

And on an analog clock, Luschei noted, a skill many schools aren’t even teaching anymore, she said.

“I find it so important. They learn how to count by fives that way, they learn that there are 60 seconds, 60 minutes, 24 hours,” Luschei said.

“I am so proud of these kids,” said Gary.