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Students practice stocks
Competition and recognition add to appreciation for math
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Lewis Frasier Middle School sixth-grader Rafael Feliciano and seventh-grader Travon Walker have memorized the irrational number pi, or 3.14, to hundreds of figures. - photo by Danielle Hipps

Like many stock market investors, four Liberty Countians gather frequently to check their portfolios, discuss financial decisions and keep a keen eye on world events as they seek to grow their $100,000 investment into a sizable nest egg.

But unlike most stockholders, this team uses theoretical money — and it’s based in a Lewis Frasier Middle School gifted math classroom.

The four seventh-grade members of Team SOAP (Super Omega Awesome Pandas), as they’ve dubbed themselves, know the value of diversification, and they believe the most profitable stocks today include Apple, McDonald’s, Google, IBM and Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

“That’s what everyone loves,” team member Alex O’Neal said. “Food and technology.”

The team was the fall regional champion of the Stock Market Game, sponsored by the Georgia Council of Economic Education. The teammates said they’re vying for first place again in this year’s 10-week spring competition, which launched Jan. 30.

Gifted teacher Carol Corwin, who has 13 teams of three to five students in her classes, said the competition gives students a sense of the market and a realization that playing stocks comes with a risk.

The competition is a catalyst for lessons on the market, ownership, trading symbols and how to read stock charts, Corwin said.

When the game begins, the groups have $100,000 to purchase 100 shares of stock in at least three companies. They have to keep their companies for at least three weeks to qualify for the game.

After that period, they’re allowed to make theoretical sales and purchases. There is a 2 percent fee for each transaction.
At the end of the 10 weeks, the team with the greatest value of assets wins.

In addition to teaching about the market, Corwin said the game also shows students how world events are related to the economy.

Last spring, students watched as the tsunami in Japan affected students’ Apple stocks.

In the fall, one team invested in Netflix and was soaring — until the stock took a nosedive when the company announced it was going to bill users separately for delivery and streaming services.

“They notice that when companies make decisions, it does affect the price of the stock,” Corwin added. “And they know that no matter what, investing in the stock market does involve risk.”

SOAP team members Alex, Dante’ Turner, Kelvin Conyers and Gregory Anthony gathered in Corwin’s room Monday afternoon to discuss their portfolio and the game.

Gathered around a computer, the boys saw that all but their Google holdings were down, and they discussed possible moves in the future.

One boy suggested purchasing more shares of Google, while another insisted they had to beef up their McDonald’s stocks because of a new product rollout.

“We looked at popular stocks, how they were doing before, and how they were rising now,” Dante’ said, explaining his team’s strategy.

The boys were not familiar with the market prior to playing the game as sixth-graders. They said they now have a much firmer grasp on the idea of the market.

“They have to create graphs at the end of the game to plot their weekly change. … They do a price of a stock at the beginning of the 10 weeks and then a price at the end, so a lot of analyzing data,” Corwin said. “They work in groups, so they have to come to terms of agreement about what they buy.”

Gregory, one of the team members, also is the top student in Georgia and third in the nation with more than 40,000 points in an online math competition, “First in Math.”

Corwin encourages the students to earn at least 1,000 points per month in the online competition, where students solve problems in nine categories from mathematical reasoning to trigonometry.

“(The initiatives) improve their math skills,” Corwin said. “The more they do math, the more relationships they see.”

Another initiative, Top Pi, aims to enhance students’ understanding of the irrational number 3.14.

While the students still use 3.14 as the value for pi in equations, Corwin’s monthly Top Pi contests challenge her classes to recite the number to hundreds of figures.

Seventh-grader Travon Walker rapidly can recite the number to 200 figures, while sixth-grader Rafael Feliciano uses a slow and steady pace to list 311 of the figures in the number.

Inspired by the chance to earn pie, Rafael said he started small, memorizing a couple digits in the number, and it grew from there. Rafael’s success moved Travon to step up his game, Travon said.

“I heard that a sixth-grader was beating me,” Travon said. “That was unacceptable.”

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