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Many Americans remember the subject of math as an introduction to a cold, calculating reality in which there are no grey areas, just right and wrong. Still another group of Americans say mathematics was their favorite subject in school, finding comfort in the fact that two plus two always equals four.
Math is either hated or loved. Just like the subject itself, it doesn't really have a grey area between the two emotions ... except at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
More than 26 years ago, St. Jude created a fund-raising program called Math-A-Thon® where students around the country could have the opportunity to raise money to help cancer-stricken children by completing math problems for a set donation amount or for a donation per problem. And looking at its success over the years, you would think that everybody loved math.
More than 25,000 schools – and thousands of students from kindergarten through ninth grade –participate in the St. Jude Math-A-Thon each year. Armed with a Math-A-Thon Funbook or CD-ROM, these students set about honing their math skills as they try to earn prizes for themselves and their schools. But most importantly, they are helping to raise funds so St. Jude can continue its research into childhood catastrophic diseases, and treatment for the children stricken with those deadly diseases. At St. Jude, no family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay.
Joining Math-A-Thon this year is actress and published mathematician Danica McKellar. Best known for her roles on from the hit television shows The Wonder Years and The West Wing , McKellar has added her math skills to help St. Jude in its mission. Although known as an actress, McKellar was a member of the UCLA Mathematics Scholars Honors program, where she co-authored a research paper that helped solve a new problem in the area of Statistical Mechanics, now known as the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem.
"When St. Jude asked me to participate in their Math-A-Thon program, I knew it was a perfect fit," McKellar said. "The program allows me to bring together two causes that are of great importance to me – promoting education and giving back. Not only does the program promote good math skills, it also helps teach kids about the importance of helping others. St. Jude is an amazing institution, and I am honored to support the hospital which helps children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases."
Over the years, the program has evolved and this year is no different. The Funbook is once again available in paper form or as an Interactive CD-ROM (PC only), which has been completely updated with more of today's gaming features such as interactive video game-like graphics, patient videos, new teacher materials and samples. It's also easy to install on the PC. The new CD-ROM also features new problems and exciting game techniques to challenge participants. The Web site, www.mathathon.org, has been revamped with new games and activities. But the most exciting addition to the site is the Math-A-Thon WIRED section. Through Math-A-Thon WIRED, both teachers and students will be able to add a new dimension to their participation in Math-A-Thon by creating their own secure Web pages, sending e-mails to sponsors and allowing supporters to see their progress. The site also gives sponsors the option of giving via credit card, if they so wish.
"For more than 26 years we have been doubly privileged to receive the support of so many students and also to help them in their education," said David L. McKee, chief operating officer for ALSAC, the hospital's fund-raising arm. "We hope the students are as excited about this year's new additions and will keep St. Jude on its mission of finding cures and saving children."
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