FIM News

From Strength to Strength: Brothers Achieve Success in More Ways Than One

I receive many wonderful letters from parents and children, and I feel compelled to share this uplifting message that speaks to the true meaning of success and achievement — Robert Sun, inventor of 24® Game and creator of First In Math®

Left to right: Brothers Matan & Doron. ranked 3rd and 2nd, respectively, among all grades in the First In Math Online Program Year-End National Rankings for the 2020-2021 school year.

Our younger twin son, Doron, has already completed ALL games on First in Math this year. I want to make you aware of the significance of this achievement and, in a tangential way, your involvement in it.

Doron has multiple special needs that interfere with executive functioning and memory retention, making his 11th-place finish last year in the First In Math Rankings most impressive.

Particularly difficult for children facing the challenges he faces are the need to re-learn some concepts that may have been forgotten from a month or two before, develop coping mechanisms to retain complex data over short- and medium-term periods, develop sustained focus (particularly in the face of failure), and hold on to the ordered elements of projects that involve longer horizons.

Yes, I did work with him to explain and to aid his development of these skills, but it is a pure testament to his character that, working completely on his own, he was able and willing to achieve something great with the faith that he could succeed despite not being able to see the goals fully ahead of time. My wife and I are overjoyed with how well he has done in terms of his broader human growth experience.

As this year's Rankings competition deadline arrives, it may be unlikely that he will maintain his current second place position when all is said and done. Other children — not to mention his brother, Matan — are catching up.

That being said, it doesn’t matter as much as his personal achievement, and what’s really great is that he knows it. He obviously would like to be in the top 10, but he knows his real achievement is sticking with it and completing everything and that’s why we are so proud of him — and his brother, Matan (who also has special needs). The First In Math program has taught them many things, only a small portion of which has to do with Math.

We want to thank you so much for creating this program and for your willingness to engage with children, in particular. Having that Zoom session last year and including Doron in it definitely inspired him to push harder this year.

As we say in my faith tradition: May you go from strength to strength. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of our children and in our family.

Gerald and Sarah F.

Editor's Note: This letter was written prior to the conclusion of National Top Ten competition on April 30, 2021. Doron maintained his 2nd-place ranking and Matan advanced to 3rd, making the brothers National Top Ten Award winners!

First In Math Achievements Add Up to New Bicycles

The following article is reprinted with permission from the website - a news source for Liberty County, Texas, and the surrounding area. All photos are © Bluebonnet News

First America Homes, the homebuilding division of the Signorelli company, has teamed up with Cleveland ISD teacher, Tracy Spears, to reward her 2nd and 3rd grade students with new bicycles, just in time for summer.

First America Homes, the homebuilding division of the Signorelli company, presented bikes to 64 deserving Cottonwood Elementary students on Wednesday, May 26. The students who received bikes had the highest math scores for Cleveland ISD in the First in Math program. Danny Signorelli (center), owner of The Signorelli Company, said he was pleased to be part of giving back to the community and for rewarding the students' successes.

Spears, RTI Specialist at Cottonwood Elementary, started the campus’s participation in a national program for struggling students called ‘First in Math’. The pilot program rolled out in October 2020 and is focused on helping students practice math in a fun way, while being rewarded with pizza parties, recognition, and the opportunity to be crowned as Math Queen/King every week.

“The students have excelled and their progress was shown on our last district test. These amazing kids had the highest math scores in the district!” said Spears. “With students participating before and after school this year, they have solved well over one million math problems.”

Spears, who has been an educator for 26 years and is finishing her first year with Cleveland ISD, challenged students to continue pushing for the 2 million math problem milestone by the deadline in July. Currently Cottonwood Elementary has the top third-grade math team in the entire state of Texas and four Cottonwood Elementary teams scored in the top 25 teams for the state. Ms. Christiana Chavez’s third-grade class earned the top spot in the rankings.

Spears came up with the idea to reward top achieving Cottonwood Elementary students for their efforts with a bicycle and helmet. Because of the huge success the program has seen, more and more students have become top achievers. Spears decided to reach out to local businesses in an effort to get a single bicycle donated. When the request came through, the local homebuilder chose to do more.

“At First America Homes, we are building homes in many of the Greater Houston area suburbs. The kids in our schools are important to us, and we are excited to not only give back, but also to invest in the future of Texas, the children and teachers like Mrs. Spears,” said Dave Barnhart, Division President for First America Homes.

Danny Signorelli, CEO of the Signorelli Company, echoed Barnhart’s sentiments. “The Signorelli Company and First America Homes takes pride in our impacts on the community. When we saw this teacher going above and beyond, we couldn’t help but step up and recognize her for her excellence in the most critical job we have! Education is our future. God Bless Mrs. Spears for caring and going the extra step to make a difference in the children and our future.”

Cottonwood Elementary students raised their hands when asked about their participation in the First in Math program. Cottonwood’s third-grade class taught by Ms. Christiana Chavez ranks first in the state of Texas in the First in Math program

Signorelli added that donating the bikes was the easy part.

“Math and science are critical for these students. The results that Ms. Spears has been able to get are just amazing,” he said.

A total of 64 bikes were distributed with First America and the Signorelli Company purchasing 24 of them. Funds to purchase the rest of the bikes were donated by Fish Tales, Colony Ridge, Texas Farm Bureau-Baret Stephenson, Casas Houston, El Timador, Fat Floyd’s Smokehouse and Martin Chevrolet.

Cottonwood Elementary students hold up signs showing the other donors of 64 bikes that were presented to students for scoring the highest in the First in Math program. In addition to First America Homes and The Signorelli Company, other donors were Martin Chevrolet, Fat Floyd’s Smokehouse, Colony Ridge, Fish Tales, Texas Farm Bureau-Baret Stephenson, Casas Houston and El Timador Mexican Restaurant.

First In Math Editor's Note:

First In Math Texas Representative, Tony Morrow, attended the big presentation and came away "amazed at the generosity of this community, and the impact local businesses can have when they chip in and multiply the excitement among the teachers and students in our program." Morrow also had high praise for Spears. "Tracy set up a lab at school and many come in at 6:30 AM to play First in Math and stay after school, as well, because nearly 80% of them say the only other place they can play is on their parent’s cell phone. In a brilliant move, she opened K2 World for 3rd graders that were behind due to COVID19 or other factors. She and her husband even assembled many of the bikes themselves—I told her I need to figure out a way to clone her!"


"First In Math Has Been An MVP During the Pandemic"

One Billion is an incredibly large number that can be hard to comprehend. Consider this: one million seconds = 12 days, but one billion seconds = 32 YEARS.

Incredibly, First In Math students solved ONE BILLION MATH PROBLEMS online during the pandemic!

Is this amazing feat simply a result of special circumstances? No. Can this level of deep practice be sustained? Absolutely! Since First In Math was launched in 2002, students have solved more than 26.2 BILLION math problems and counting.

In the words of Dr. Jack Silva, Chief Academic Officer of the Bethlehem Area School District:

"First In Math has been an MVP during the pandemic. One instructional challenge has been finding fun, challenging, and relevant web-based programming that students can use from home to strengthen foundational skills. Too often such programming is either boringly simple or painfully difficult. First In Math has been just right – providing engaging, meaningful learning experiences that teachers can use to introduce, refresh, or extend important skills. Bethlehem students enjoy the games and challenges, and we have seen improvement in students' math skills when they meet their individual FIM goals."

We don't move the needle in math achievement alone. To our partners — the students, teachers, administrators and parents who played a part in this year's accomplishment by continuing to reach for the stars under difficult circumstances — THANK YOU!

I look forward to everything we can accomplish together in the coming year and can't wait to welcome even more new partners to the First In Math family. Let's get primed to think mathematically!

Robert Sun
24 Game and First In Math Inventor
Founder and Chairman, Suntex International Inc.

First In Math Named 2020 AACPS Partner of the Year

EASTON, PA—First in Math®, and its parent company, Suntex International Inc., have been named 2020 Anne Arundel County Public Schools Business Partner of the Year. Due to COVID-19 closures, the announcement was made on Twitter on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, after a week-long social media celebration recognizing all 19 of this year’s nominees.

Robert Sun, inventor of the 24® Game and creator of the First In Math Online Program, records a long-distance message about his company's 2020 Business Partner of the Year award.

First In Math creator, Robert Sun, was proud to accept the award. "We were delighted to be nominated by the AACPS Elementary Mathematics Office, and then to be selected as one of the AACPS Business Partners of the Year—it's thrilling."

"2020 has been a year of many ups and downs. This honor is a definite UP," explains Sun, who says he is grateful to AACPS students, parents, teachers, educators, principals, and leadership for giving the First In Math team an opportunity to work closely with such an exceptional district.

In recognition of the Office of Elementary Math Department's close partnership with First In Math, Amanda Salveron, Coordinator of Elementary Mathematics for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, recorded a congratulatory message posted on Twitter and other social media channels. "Because of your partnership, elementary—and now middle schools—are better problem-solvers and mathematicians, solving millions of math problems on the First In Math platform. Teachers and staff have grown because of your ongoing support, and we are all better because of you."

As is the case with any good partnership, both parties continue to grow. Sun says he is proud that during the school closings AACPS students "never skipped a beat and continued working on and improving their math skills. With well-thought-out suggestions from the talented group of professionals in the AACPS Math Department, we have been able to add new features to First In Math that benefit all students who use the program."

According to Sun, one of the people who made the partnership work so well is Elementary Mathematics Resource Teacher, Penny Alberti. "Her professionalism and lively personality made everything run smoothly. We are sad to be saying goodbye, but we’re are very happy for her as she enters retirement."

“We are grateful to Amanda Salveron, and we greatly appreciate the dedication the district shows to their staff, students and families, so as we thank them for the recognition, we also wish them all a well-deserved summer break, and look forward to continuing our partnership in the 2020/2021 school year!"

"Our school system is incredibly grateful for the support First in Math has provided our students, teachers, and school community," says Lauren Grey-Hawkins, Business & Communication Specialist for AACPS.

Per an AACPS press release, the school system depends on community and business partners to ensure that students have opportunities to explore their personal interests, and engage in unique learning experiences. Winners were selected in three categories: Service & Small Non-Profit Organizations; Businesses with under 50 employees; Businesses with 50 or more employees.

@AACountySchools | @AACPS_PK5Math | @RobertSun | @FirstInMath

New Jersey Students Take 24® Game Tournament Online

SEWELL, NJ— The bustle of a crowded classroom may have been missing, but it didn't stop the excitement from flowing at Wedgwood Elementary School’s 7th Annual 24® Game Championship Tournament, held—for the first time ever—completely online!

Wedgwood Elementary School fifth-grader, Luke Ridgeway (center), at home with his Champion's Certificate, is surrounded by other tournament finalists. Ridgeway also received a 24® Game Champion t-shirt and a LEGO® trophy built by his Teacher, Domenick Renzi.

Fifth-grader Luke Ridgeway was crowned Champion in an exciting one-card overtime matchup against fellow fifth-grader Melanie Liguori, who received gold and silver medals respectively. The event, held on June 2, was a culmination of weeks of practice.

Students signed up to attend online practice sessions organized by Wedgwood Math Teacher Domenick Renzi, a 2017 Washington Township Public School District Teacher of the Year, 2018 Gloucester County Teacher of the Year and 2018 NJ State Teacher of the Year finalist.

According to Renzi, everything took place online using WebEX. "These dedicated fourth- and fifth-grade mathematicians spent three weeks practicing with 24® Game Single and Double Digits cards to prepare for the tournament. I am proud to say many had the opportunity to play against former Wedgwood 24 Game Champs who took time out to join our practice sessions."

Mentor-champions included current Washington Township High School ninth-grader, Michael Valentino, Chestnut Ridge Middle School (CRMS) seventh-grader, Nicky Watson, and CRMS sixth- grader, Vincent Valentino.

During the online event, each student played twice and the scores were combined, with the top four scorers—Zach Clark, Melanie Liguori, Andrew Robinson and Ridgeway—advancing to the championship match. All finalists received certificates and MVP Lanyards. 

Creator of the 24 Game, Robert Sun, is impressed. "Kudos to these great 'Mustang Math' teammates for helping to keep the tradition of 24 Game competitions ongoing at their school—even through a pandemic!" Equally impressive, says Sun, is the fact that as of this writing, WES has 59 First In Math® Grand Champions, meaning each of these students has successfully solved more than 30,000 math problems in the program.

In the past, Renzi has organized 24 Game and First In Math competitions for students inside the school environment, and says whether in school or online, it is always a community effort. "Many thanks to our student mentors, Principal Charles Zimmerman, and especially the Washington Township Education Foundation for providing us with a small grant to purchase the 24 Game cards."

Top FIM Kindergarten Team in the Nation Meets Inventor

In-person visits are out of the question right now, but that didn't stop First In Math inventor, Robert Sun, from meeting with the students on Team 'Alive58pa' — the Top-Ranked Kindergarten Team in the Nation!  Students, Sun, Principal Mickey Komins, Assistant Principals Khloe Williams and Michael Tauber, and Teacher/Team Leader Jason Nash connected via Zoom meeting on May 27.

First In Math inventor, Robert Sun, joins a Zoom meeting with several members of the Number 1 Kindergarten First In Math team in the Nation! Top row: Robert Sun and Teacher/Team Leader Jason Nash. Second row: Principal Mickey Komins and Assistant Principal Michael Tauber. Third row: Assistant Principal Khloe William.  Photo credit: Nancy Kane

Teacher Jason Nash had high praise for his Team. "These are five- and six-year-old students from all over the world. They didn’t compete with each other—they helped and encouraged each other. They never gave up."

Nash says that some of their favorite games are RPS Chess and any Bonus game, but recalls how much they enjoyed it when a new game was released, "the word would spread like wildfire in the room."

Komins laughed in agreement, "We all like when new games are released—it reinvigorates you!" Komins then thanked the students for their spirit and determination. "Ms. Williams, Mr. Tauber and I are all very proud of you—most importantly we want you to remember, you did this, you earned it, be proud of yourselves!"

Sun fielded a few student questions, including the ever-popular "How did you make First In Math?" and told the students he was proud of them, adding "You are lucky to be in such a special place—at Anne Frank—with teachers who care about you."

Anne Frank Elementary School is part of the School District of Philadelphia, and a long-time First In Math partner. Team Alive58pa's 30 students earned an amazing 190,484 stickers, and are part of a large group of successful students and educators. Anne Frank is ranked #1 nationally among All Schools/All Grades in the Large School category, and Principal Mickey Komins is the #9 Educator Player in the nation.

"It was a little intimidating at first for these young children, to meet Mr. Sun, but they caught on quickly and did a great job," says First In Math Implementation Specialist, Nancy Kane, also participated in the call. "Principal Komins is such a good leader—it speaks volumes that he and his staff took time out of their busy schedules to be on the call and find a way to recognize these amazing children."

First In Math A Family Affair for 2020 Top Ten Champion

Justin O'Shea came from behind in the final days of the competition to claim the title of #1 Player, All Grades, in the First In Math® Online Program for the 2019-2020 school year—ten years to the day after his brother took the title in 2010!

2020 First In Math® Online Program Champion, All Grades, Justin O'Shea.

O'Shea, who attends St. Pius X School in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, will receive a Grand Prize in addition to his National All Star award. He also earned a Gold Star award last year, finishing ninth in the Rankings.

"For the First In Math strategy, I tried to be consistent," explains O'Shea. "I didn't play every day, but I tried to play most days." While his brother, James, used a different strategy—building a considerable cushion and leading the field for months—Justin's surge to the top came late, passing Rishi Patel from McNeill Elementary School in Texas with only hours left in the competition.

In addition to First In Math, O’Shea is busy with other activities. "I was captain of our Reading Olympics team at school this year," says the energetic fifth-grader. "My favorite books are the Harry Potter series. American History also interests me because I like learning about those who shaped our country." When not playing basketball and soccer, O'Shea enjoys going to the Jersey Shore with his family and playing on the beach with his brothers.

"Justin is continuing an incredible legacy for many Archdiocese of Philadelphia students started by his own brother James in 2010. During the past decade, AOPS students have captured the #1 national title in eight of ten years," says First In Math Creator, Robert Sun. "I am so proud of the focus and dedication he maintained all year long, even through school closures."

For more information on the First in Math competition, visit View the 2019-2020 Winners.

2019-2020 Top Ten Rankings Competition Special Announcement

This year more than ever, students, educators and parents are doing amazing things under unusual circumstances. We could not be prouder to have you as part of the First In Math family.

The National Top Ten contest is still ongoing, but as the COVID-19 crisis continues all 2019-2020 Awards will be presented online—physical awards, plaques, trophies, letters or certificates will not be shipped to schools. This decision was made with everyone's safety in mind.

As always, Top Ten category winners will be recognized on our National Top Ten page, as well as the FIM Hall of Fame, the Dr. Lola J. May Award, and the FIM NEWS pages. Contest ends April 30, 3pm Eastern time.

Thank you, and stay safe!

First In Math Distance Learning Initiative in India

Reported by Monica Patel, CEO, First In Math India Pvt. Ltd.

Monica Patel, CEO, First In Math India Pvt. Ltd., with several students.

On March 10, it was clear that school closures in India, US, and the UK were going into effect sooner rather than later due to the worldwide COVID-19 crisis. First In Math® founder & inventor, Robert Sun, launched a global online initiative to ensure schools could continue to engage students with mathematics. Lack of math practice = loss of skill retention & increasing fluency gap. That happens when a subject has spiraling curriculum.

It has been deeply satisfying to see schools come on board quickly to prevent 'math-skills slide'. Since March, more than 60,000 new classrooms have registered.

The important question is, "are they doing the math"?

YES, and then some! The number of problems solved since closure is 153,648,203 & rising. We are blessed to serve children from rural Jharkhand to elite academies in Pennsylvania, to schools of New York City. Here is what I have learned:

1. First In Math's Personalized Learning works for any child, at any skill level, from any socio-economic background, in any country.

2. The power of math does not differentiate a race, culture, country, color, or income.

3. A successful program needs to be rooted in scientific design and positive psychology, and to be supported by school leaders, principals and educators.

East Orange 24 Game Tournament Creates Buzz for Math

Last week, Part 1 of this story outlined how the 24® Game and its inventor, Robert Sun, inspired Jaliyla Fraser to organize a wildly-successful 24 Challenge/Math Madness Tournament that would, in her words, “bring the students and community that I serve in East Orange a positive math experience.”

EAST ORANGE, NJ—Jaliyla Fraser is the Supervisor of Mathematics for grades 6-12 in the East Orange School District’s Division of Curriculum Services. She and several dedicated volunteers went from concept to Tournament—complete with a pre-game national anthem, food, cheerleaders, halftime show and a DJ—in four months. “It was a lot to juggle,” laughs Fraser.

Left to right: East Orange School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin West; 8th-Grade Tournament Champion Saniyya Ward from Cicely L. Tyson M/H School; East Orange School District Supervisor of Mathematics for grades 6-12 Jaliyla Fraser, and Terry Tucker-Swanson, President of the East Orange Board of Education.

How did she do it? The ever-energetic Fraser centered the event around buzz for New Jersey STEM Month, Pi Day (March 14), and copied the successful and familiar bracket format of college basketball’s March Madness Tournament.

Presenting math as a sporting event brought a certain level of ‘cool’ to the party, but Fraser realized that it would also be beneficial for students to see adults involved in mathematics, so she set up brackets with 64 players from four distinct groups:

Groups one and two consisted of students in grades 6-8 and 9-12. Each school held their own qualifying matchups to determine who would attend the 24 Challenge/Math Madness tournament.

Group three was made up of non-math teachers. “This was the hardest group to fill out,” smiles Fraser. “They needed some convincing to put aside their own math anxiety and try it.”

Group four included community representatives, as well as parents, who were required to come and practice with the 24® Game cards three times a week. Fraser gave them t-shirts as incentives, and says “the parents really liked the 24® game Single Digits app because they could practice on their phones.”

“Jaliyla was so smart about this, a mix of kids and adult participants made it a huge success, as did involving an entire community, just like our tournaments used to do years ago,” says Sun, referring to the nationwide network of annual  24 Challenge® Math Program Tournament events that were held from 1988 through 2006 with funding from corporate sponsorship.

“Our East Orange Tournament was fun and splashy and exciting—everything I had hoped for—but I see it as a stepping stone because it gained a lot of traction for math, and where math is concerned, in the district” explains Fraser, who points out in somewhat mathematical terms that “success equals interest.”

Community involvement, funding from local companies and a congratulatory Resolution presented by the City of East Orange at a City Council meeting all represent a newfound interest in math and have generated excitement for future tournaments, according to Fraser. “As educators, we all have to articulate the vision we have for math to create success.”

With a template already established for next year’s math competition, Fraser has also begun to examine the First In Math® Online Program. “What I like about First In Math is that students do the heavy lifting, not teachers. I want to explore educational evolution and revitalization, and I’m super excited to see how Mr. Sun and I can achieve our mutual goal of helping students release their fears about math.”

Editor’s note: Jaliyla Fraser is currently Supervisor of Mathematics for grades 6-12 in the East Orange School District. She has also spent the last six years as a part-time lecturer of Mathematics at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ.

New Jersey Educator Aims to Help Students Conquer Their Fear of Math

EAST ORANGE, NJ—A meeting at the 2019 NCSM/NCTM conference in San Diego between 24® Game inventor Robert Sun and Jaliyla Fraser could have been a typical one, but it turned into so much more. Fraser, Supervisor of Mathematics for grades 6-12 in the East Orange School District’s Division of Curriculum Services, had just pulled off a massively-successful 24 Challenge/Math Madness tournament, and she couldn’t wait to share the excitement with Sun.

24® Game inventor Robert Sun and Jaliyla Fraser meet at First In Math headquarters to discuss creative approaches for urban math education.

“I told Bob how important he has been in my life—and in the lives of my students. The 24 game is a staple in American culture, it literally has impacted the world,” explains Fraser. “I grew up on the game of 24®, it helped me gain automaticity manipulating numbers in many different ways, and I thought it was important for the students and community that I serve in East Orange to have a similar, positive math experience.” Fraser believes that the 24® Game helps students of all ages combat their fear of math because it allows them to engage the subject in a non-threatening way.

“As Jaliyla gave me an overview of what she and her staff did to magnify the competition we soon realized we have a mutual goal of helping students—and adults—become less fearful of math,” says Sun.

After the conference, Fraser emailed Sun several videos of the event, including the preparation and promotion for what came to be known as the 1st Annual Pi Day 24® Game Competition. “I loved how the whole East Orange SD community rallied around the competition,” exclaims Sun. “The videos perfectly captured the high energy unleashed in students, administrators, parents and community leaders.” (Click here for video recap of the event)

Fraser built her tournament around tie-ins with New Jersey STEM Month, Pi Day, and modeled the success of college basketball’s March Madness. “I wanted to give kids something familiar to relate to,” says Fraser. “Using a tournament-bracket approach and treating it just like a sporting event seemed natural, complete with a pre-game national anthem, cheerleaders, halftime show and a DJ!”

She also realized it was crucial for students to see adults conquering their math anxiety. One-half of the Tournament Bracket was made up of students, but the other half were Non-Math Teachers, Parents, community leaders, and some members of the local Police department. “Some of the most resistant participants were the teachers, I had to fight back against the ‘I’m bad at math’ stereotype at every turn.”


“In Mathematics, it’s not about how many answers you know, it’s about what you do, and how you behave, when you don’t know how.” —Jaliyla Fraser


Fraser looks back on the weeks of preparation as time well spent. “Affecting a change in attitude, that’s big,” says Fraser. She says that most kids decide that math is ‘okay’ after an engaging event like this. “It exposes them to mathematics in a whole new, fun atmosphere.”

Considering all of the excellent feedback from staff and community participants after the competition, the district is in support of making this an annual event, and Fraser intends to continue to use 24® Game as the anchor. Sun has extended his full support for next year’s event, and the two plan to work together in the future toward their common goals.

“Bringing 24® within reach of many different urban communities and school districts across the country is a goal of mine, and one I am happy to say that Robert Sun and I share completely.”

Next week in part two, learn how the event was structured, and why building successful math partnerships within your community is important.


New Jersey School Creates Math Fun with First in Math “Just the Facts” Tournaments

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, NJ—On December 18, 2018, nearly 50 third-grade students gathered in the Wedgwood Elementary School all-purpose room to participate in a First In Math Online Program JUST THE FACTS Tournament.

Students fired up their laptops and logged into First in Math—an online math-practice program that uses digital gaming to create math excitement and improve student performance—then tackled a series of five-minute sessions in the JUST THE FACTS Addition Module to see who could answer the most addition facts correctly in the shortest amount of time. Winners advanced to the next round, ready to again demonstrate their fact fluency.

Wedgwood third-graders (left to right) Noah Raberi, Alycia Dymond, Peyton Vena and Ava Powers were the final four competitors in the FIM Just the Facts Tournament of Champions.

The semifinal round saw Noah Raberi and Alycia Dymond knock out Ava Powers and Peyton Vena. In the end, Raberi narrowly edged Dymond in the championship round to claim the JTF Tournament title. Other players reaching the quarterfinals were Simone McGlinchey, Luke Heim, Sophia Watson and Aiden Blood.

Other third-graders who participated in the tournament included: Domier Abdussalaan, Catherine Aversa, Jake Bauer, Andrew Begley, Adam Borgia, Quinn Broadbelt, Jackson Chudzinski, Mackenzie Danso, Alivia Dingler, McKinley Edwards, Kara Epstein, Kaylie Garton, Ella Goehringer, Natalie Grimaldi, Fhalyn Harris, Alexa Howley, Andrew Huynh, Alexis Ingling, Max Jimenez, Kori Leacott, Matthew Male, Olivia Marchetti, Lucas McCabe, Benjamin McCloskey, Alayna McComb-Carstarphen, Kali Messick, Judah Nalbandian, Colin Proffitt, Connor Rainey, Devon Stott, Ejon Viray, Augustin Wezet, Luke Wheat, Aidan Wood, and KaiQi Yuan.

The tournament idea was created and organized by Wedgwood Math Specialist Domenick Renzi. “It was so simple, the event itself was actually pretty easy for Math Teacher Autumn Mattera and I to manage,” says Renzi, who recommends that others try their approach. “The student with the highest score in the quickest amount of time advances to the next round. A large bracket board was updated at the end of each round. Students simply found their next opponent, logged into the First In Math JUST THE FACTS 10x10 Addition module, and began to solve. Single elimination rounds continued until a champion was crowned.” Preliminary rounds included three students, as there were more than 45 participants. 

In the weeks before an event, Renzi promoted it on morning announcement broadcasts. "I remember saying things like: Get ready 3rd graders! The First in Math Just the Facts Tournament of Champions is coming," laughs Renzi. In addition, each teacher received a sign-up sheet to place in their classroom. “We gave students a week to decide if they wanted to sign up, then collected names of those interested and created a Tournament bracket.”

The event was a success because the students had fun, and also became more fluent in their addition facts, according to Renzi, who adds that the only downside is that his approach is not really audience-friendly—yet. “Because it is a computer-based game, the audience cannot watch live results as each student plays. But we did send out a press release, and we use Twitter regularly to keep parents and the community abreast of the many math happenings in our school.”

The initial test-run was a smaller, 4th grade JTF Multiplication Tournament held in November that saw 28 students put their love of math—and their knowledge of multiplication—to the test. It ended in a tie, as Andy Nelson watched his opponent, Evan Eschenbach, finish up with a score of 99 out of 100. Nelson was declared the overall winner, because he finished his round in less time. He earned a JUST THE FACTS Championship Certificate and special Anniversary Edition of the 24® Game for his efforts.

Wedgwood fourth-graders (left to right), Andy Nelson and Evan Eschenbach shake hands.

Students reaching the ‘Elite Eight’ were Nelson, Eschenbach, Michael Ilagan, Nolan Rollins, Eleanor Lawyer, Colin Boyle, Andrew Robinson, and Justin Taylor. Other competitors included: Mason Hatton, Brianna Rainey, Zachary Clark, Jacob McFarland, Jadeson Truong, Mia Taxis, Jowell Crawford, Olivia Sutton, Emerson Perez, Lyric Porter, Luke Ridgeway, Nyla Conrad, Melanie Liguori, Ryan Crean, Ava Deccio, Andrew Deich, Mykaela Fogg, Lillyanna Jones, Kendall Spera, and Heidi Stemetzki.

In January 2019, Renzi is conducting a tournament for 2nd grade students, and plans to continue to hold one JTF Tournament each month for the various grade levels at Wedgwood ES.

See More Articles in the News Archive


CLEVER Blog: First In Math is Practice Made Perfect
by Natasha Husein | February 2019

Have a story to share? Email your news to If submitting a photo, identify all persons in the photo in the body of your email. We will reply if we would like to use your picture, and you will need to provide a signed Release Form from each person. Select form(s) you need below. Email attention FIM NEWS & NOTES.
Student Release Form
Student Release Form (Spanish)
Adult Release Form