FAIRMONT - The space was standing-room only, occupied mostly by students, but quiet enough to hear the droning fan from a projector, humming as it displayed a timer ticking off minutes.
Only the occasional ruffling of a paper or quiet smack of a student face-palming himself broke the concentration of those huddled over their tables working furiously.
The sixth- through eighth-graders were hard at work taking math tests - tests they volunteered to take and eagerly prepared for.
STAYING?FOCUSED?— Students from Martin County West work on math problems Friday at a MathCounts competition at 3M in Fairmont.
Sixteen students from Martin County West joined 18 from Fairmont Area to participate in the MathCounts competition Friday at 3M in Fairmont.
As the timer ran out, youthful exuberance returned, spurred by the promise of donuts and juice to sustain them through the next hour of the three-hour competition.
The top 10 students from this competition will advance to the next level of rounds, to be held Feb. 1 in Mankato.
Tristan Rabbe, a seventh-grader from Martin County West, said he joined the MathCounts team for a second year because he enjoys it.
"It is just fun," he said.
And that is the goal of MathCounts, a national program.
"Essentially, we want to make math fun for kids," said Crystal Hanson, human resources manager at 3M. "And if the MathCounts program and events inspire students to explore future careers in the fields of math, engineering, science or technology, that's a bonus."
Martin County West students practice once per week after school, working on what Rabbe called "high school math problems" in order to prepare.
By mid-morning, he was beginning to notice the questions were becoming more and more difficult.
"They started out easy," he said. "But then it gets hard."
Fairmont's students hit the books twice per week during their lunch hours.
Friday's competition was comprised of four rounds: Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown.
Results were not available at press time.