Chantelle Normand

MATHCOUNTS Monthly, April 2023

Chantelle Normand, a longtime coach at North Bay Haven Charter Academy Middle School in Panama City, FL, is currently serving as the 2022-2023 DoD STEM Ambassador for MATHCOUNTS with a focus on the Competition Series. In this role, Chantelle is working on engaging more schools and teachers in MATHCOUNTS programming and creating some additional MATHCOUNTS Practice Plans to help Mathletes prepare for the Competition Series. 

Chantelle has done incredible work in her school to engage students in advanced math by embedding it into her classes and weaving it into interdisciplinary projects. So, we interviewed Chantelle about how she supports and encourages students in advanced math both in and outside of the classroom, including in MATHCOUNTS programs. Read the full interview below (edited for clarity).

Chantelle Normand photo

On bringing more students into MATHCOUNTS programs...

What advice or strategies would you suggest for teachers trying to bring in more students to their MATHCOUNTS programs, including students who may be leery about joining because of how they feel about math?

One of the easiest ways to bring students into MATHCOUNTS is to hang the provided MATHCOUNTS posters in the hallways. I have seen so many students stand in front of them and tell me, “Hey, I can do that! Is this the answer?” Then you can encourage them to explain how they came about the answer in their own way and show them that these are the kinds of problems we do in MATHCOUNTS so they are not scary at all.  

Another way I show my students not to fear is by using the Problem of the Week problems for my Algebra and Geometry classes. I offer up homework passes for every 3 correct. I hear the students collaborating on the answers and they all want to show me the different ways they came up with the answer. I again explain that these are MATHCOUNTS problems and should not be feared. This has worked so many times to get students to join.

I think the key is showing them that they are more math savvy than they realize. Their biggest hang up about joining is that they think they won’t be able to do the problems or they get nervous. We make it a norm in class that it is ok to not get it right and that it is ok to do it a different way.

On getting kids to persevere when the math gets tough...

On advice for new coaches...

You’ve been a MATHCOUNTS coach for almost a decade. What do you know now about coaching that you wish you had known in your first few years?

When I first started coaching, like my students, I saw the problems as almost impossible for middle school students. However, when I began to use the resources and watch the MATHCOUNTS Minis or just simply hand the problems out to students, I realized they were definitely not impossible. I think emphasizing using the resources and tools that MATHCOUNTS provides to new coaches is a must. I learned so many tricks and shortcuts that I did not know before that I could pass on to my students not just in MATHCOUNTS, but in my classes as well. There is a wealth of resources provided for teachers and coaches that I wish someone had really made sure I knew about.

On differentiating for Mathletes...

Many Competition Series teams have a mix of Mathletes in grades 6, 7 and 8, and students often come to MATHCOUNTS at vastly different levels of preparedness for competitions. How do you differentiate for your Mathletes?

I like to group my students into varied grade level groups. The older ones like to show the younger ones how to do something they are proud of knowing how to do. I change the groups often and require that they let everyone’s perspectives be heard. Students with different life experiences tend to approach problems in different ways. They basically help each other out with my guidance.  

On resources that work well in the classroom...

How have you incorporated MATHCOUNTS resources into your classroom instruction? How has this supported your MATHCOUNTS recruitment efforts and Competition Series coaching?

I use the Problem of the Week every week. I also watch some of the MATHCOUNTS Minis videos when they can help with a concept I will be teaching that day. I love the worksheets that can be generated with the OPLET database. I hang all of the posters around school and in my classroom that I have gotten through the years. I use the trainer as a competition warm up sometimes. Of course, the handbook comes in handy to get problems from. I tell all the students where these things come from and let them know how much more elaborate they will get if they join MATHCOUNTS!

On teaching math in real-world contexts...

One of the things DoD STEM Ambassadors do is create resources for teachers. What are some examples of lessons or activities you’ve done that applied math in real-world contexts and blended various skills and disciplines in a meaningful way?

One of my favorite things to do is create cross-curricular projects and to work with teachers from all disciplines so that students can see that Math and STEM are everywhere.  

My favorite project is about a virus that escapes and turns people into zombies. I do it with my Algebra students after teaching exponential functions. The students immediately saw the connection between the project and the pandemic. The best part is that ELA uses it to write a story about, History uses it to teach about the plague and other diseases that affected the world through history, Science uses it to teach about bacteria and infectious diseases and any other implications.  

My second favorite project is one I do with my Geometry classes. It starts off understanding scale factors and ends with them building a model of a house that they design from scratch. Science then takes the built models and they insulate them with various materials to test the best insulation and other things. ELA uses the project for the students to either write a story about a dream house or an explanatory paper on building a model.

I am currently collaborating with the Criminal Justice teacher to create another geometry and algebra combined project on forensics.

I have several other interdisciplinary projects as well, anyone is welcome to contact me and we can collaborate on more for your classes if you would like.