Math-A-Thon celebrates 25th birthday

(Memphis, Tennessee - August 18, 2003)

Student with Math-A-Thon funbook

Students at Riverdale Elementary School in Shelby County,
Tennessee, work problems in their Math-A-Thon funbooks.

Can math change a child’s life?

You bet it can. Just consider the patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Math helped save their lives.

But don’t be mistaken. It wasn’t math, but rather it was millions of children around the country all adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing their way through Math-A-Thon®, one of St. Jude’s most successful fund-raising programs. And with the start of this school year, the Math-A-Thon program is celebrating 25 years of fund raising and education.

Begun in 1979, the pilot program saw less than 100 schools participate. Now, a quarter century later, more than 28,000 schools nationwide participate each school year.

Built on the principles of helping teach children math skills while simultaneously showing them how to help those in need, Math-A-Thon has become one of the pillars that supports St. Jude.

In the late 1970s, ALSAC approached schools to see if they would be interested in raising funds for the hospital while helping their students develop math skills. The program, created for kindergarten through ninth grade, is offered free to schools across the United States.

During a typical Math-A-Thon, students ask for pledges from family members and friends to help support St. Jude. Then, using their Math-A-Thon interactive CDs or Fun Books, students solve math problems and help raise money for the hospital. The number of problems worked determines how much the student has raised.

“Anything we can do to get kids to do work outside of the classroom is great,” said Betty Allen, a 25-year veteran coordinator of the Math-A-Thon program from Stuarts Drive, Virginia. “The kids can’t wait to get a hold of the book, and it’s a great way to get them to volunteer to help other kids.”

For some children, Math-A-Thon is their first encounter with St. Jude. It was for supermodel and actress Amber Valletta. Valletta participated in Math-A-Thon programs as a student and continues to support St. Jude.

But Math-A-Thon isn’t just about knowing your arithmetic. It’s also about having fun. Students can win fun prizes for doing Math-A-Thon, including T-shirts, tote bags and a ticket to Six Flags® Theme Parks. Schools also win prizes for doing well during Math-A-Thons including weather stations, TVs, VCRs, scanners and printers. Six Flags has been a corporate partner for the Math-A-Thon program for 9 years, giving thousands of tickets to participants.

There is also a Web site,, where students can find out more about the program, play games, send e-cards and take a virtual tour of St. Jude.

“Math-A-Thon is our most successful volunteer program at St. Jude,” said Marshall Kleiser, director of volunteer support, ALSAC/St. Jude. “We are thrilled to be celebrating our 25th birthday and it could not have been so successful without our wonderful volunteers who give of their time and talents to support the hospital.”