Three Deasy second graders advance in math tournament


It’s not uncommon to hear students say they don’t like their math classes. Many students find it’s too difficult or boring, and they don’t get excited about numbers and formulas the way they might about history, science, languages, or other subjects to which they may find easier to personally connect. 

But three second graders at the Glen Cove City School District’s Deasy Elementary School have been named the regional winners of the statewide elementary online mathematics tournament, First in Math. Dru Wilson, Tommy Scagliola, and Jacob Palazzo will go on to participate in a tournament on May 20, involving 30 second graders, in teams of three, from different regions in the state. The winners of the final round of the tournament will receive $5,000 for their school. 

“We are extremely proud of Dru, Tommy, and Jacob for their outstanding achievement in the First in Math program,” Dr. Maria Rianna, superintendent of schools, said. “Their success is a testament to their hard work, determination, and the excellent education they are receiving at Deasy School. We wish them the best of luck as they continue to represent our district in the upcoming statewide tournament.”

The First in Math program is an online math resource that allows students to practice and improve their math skills in a fun and engaging way. The initial Statewide Elementary Mathematics Tournament was held online on March 30 for first- through fifth-grade students. The tournament helped finalize who would advance to compete in Albany. The competition challenged students to solve complex math problems and puzzles appropriate for their grade levels. It was divided into nine regions, one of which included Nassau, Putnam, Westchester and Rockland counties.  The Glen Cove district received $1,000 from the state Department of Education to celebrate the second graders’ accomplishments as the finalists for their region.

Students in every region competed individually in the online tournament, which consisted of three timed tournaments. The results were computed the same day, and a triad of students per region with the highest average scores, who attend the same school, were selected to advance in the next round in Albany. There, they play an in-person board game in which students are given a randomized set of numbers that must equal 10 through addition and subtraction. 

Cassandra Shannon, Glen Cove’s coordinator of mathematics, introduced the district to the First in Math competition. She said the three students are excited to practice their math and teamwork skills together. Since the winners were announced, the three boys have been practicing for the competition at the beginning of each school day using randomized sets of 24, 30 and 36 cards to sequence numbers using addition and subtraction to equal 10.  They are timed for 15 minutes per round to match the competition parameters in Albany. While competing, students are expected to explain their mathematical process step-by-step. 

Teachers and administrators told Kiara Meza that her son, Dru Wilson, would do very well in this contest because they see how much he loves math.  She’s frequently been told that her son eagerly answers nearly all math questions he’s asked in class. Meza said she was shocked that son is competing but not surprised by the results, since he’s competitive with his older sister when they both solve problems at home. 

Laura Palazzo, Jacob’s mother, said she was excited too. She initially didn’t realize how widespread the competition was.  

“What’s great is that they’re working as a team,” Palazzo said. “They’re learning additional skills besides math -- cooperation, different strategies to use, teamwork, and thinking differently than they normally would about a problem.” 

Danielle Fugazy Scagliola, Glen Cove councilwoman, said she sees that these students have a “mathematical mind,” and sees how determined her son Tommy and his teammates are. 

Fugazy Scagliola coaches for the Glen Cove baseball and softball association, and sees the boys in the various sports they play. Their competitive spirits and their excitement to take part in the competition do not surprise her. 

“It’s a little overwhelming for them because they’re getting attention, but for all the right reasons,” she said. “But it feels so good to win something academically like this -- it’s great for the district. Everyone is so proud.”