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Jeffrey Allred
Midvalley Elementary School student Sadie Wardell reacts as her school receives a Stem+Families Math Night grant in Midvale on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. Midvalley Elementary is the only school in Utah to receive the $1,000 grant, which will be used to host a math night later this year where parents and students can come together and play math games.

MIDVALE — Talk about pressure.

Two fifth-graders were asked to stand in front of the entire student body at Midvalley Elementary School Tuesday afternoon to solve a subtraction problem on the fly.

Facing one another, each held a single playing card to their foreheads — face side up — and were asked to figure out what card they were holding after being told the total of the two cards.

"What card do you have?" asked Mila Gleason, owner of a Mathnasium franchise in Cottonwood Heights, which assists students grades K-12.

"Eight," said fifth-grader Dakota Barkau.

"How did you know you had eight?" Gleason said.

"Because seven minus 15 is eight," Barkau responded.

With that, the pair got a thundering cheer from their classmates.

That wasn't the only reason to celebrate Tuesday. Students and staff gathered in the multipurpose room for an announcement that Midvalley Elementary had been awarded a STEM+Families Math Night grant under a partnership between the National PTA and Mathnasium, a private math learning center with hundreds of franchises worldwide.

Midvalley is the only Utah school to be awarded the STEM+Families Grant this year.

Later this school year, the school will host a math night during which parents and students will come together to play math games, eat and bond as families and a school community.

It's fortuitous timing because the school is placing an additional emphasis on mathematics this year. For three years running, the school's math scores have been on an upward trajectory on state-required assessments, and Principal Tamra Baker wants to build on the success.

The $1,000 grant makes it possible for Midvalley to host a family night that "we would not be able to afford otherwise," Baker said.

No date has been set for the math night, but Kirsti Raleigh, president of the Midvalley Elementary PTA, said the event will likely be early next year "just to give us the time to do something really amazing."

The math night should focus on two objectives: the school's emphasis on math and the PTA's goal "to really improve family involvement," Raleigh said.

There are 19 languages spoken at Midvalley Elementary School, she said.

"My feeling was, that maybe this is the way for families to get involved without feeling like the language barrier was an issue," said Raleigh, who applied for the grant.

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Baker, who is in her second year as principal at Midvalley, said the math night will also be an opportunity for parents to learn how to help their children with mathematics.

She said she has been impressed by how much Midvalley parents love their kids and their desire to be involved with their education, which can be challenging because many of the parents work more than one job.

"We needed to find ways to make it accessible for them, make it fun and engaging and give them lots of face time with their kids," she said.