Riddle me this

Math teacher’s family wins online academic competition


Algebra II teacher Nicole Ayers stands with her husband, Brandon, and children, Christopher, 11, Katherine, 9, and Daniel, 8. During the summer, the family competed in Brain Chase, an academic treasure hunt. The family won the competition, which included a $10,000 prize. submitted photo

Story by Emma Anderson, staff writer

As the minutes droned on, listening to procedures and curriculum standards, a noise pierced the room and captured algebra II teacher Nicole Ayers’ attention. She exited the meeting room and answered a phone call that would change everything.

Ayers and her family participated in a unique and unconventional academic competition, Brain Chase, a global race for hidden treasure.

“I was actually in a math department meeting when I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize, so I stepped outside the meeting and found out that my daughter won,” Ayers said.

Throughout the course of the competition, participants were asked to complete weekly tasks, such as achieving a certain amount of points on different academic platforms, like Rosetta Stone and Khan Academy. Participants took part in digital adventures and virtual tours, which would unlock Brain Chase episodes. After accomplishing missions and completing these episodes, clues would be unlocked, which ultimately lead to the treasure.

Last summer they ended up in third place in the world out of thousands of people competing, so we did it again this summer and they ended up winning”

— Nicole Ayers

“I found out about [Brain Chase] from a friend and then signed up all three of my kids to give them something to do and keep their brain active and learning  during the summertime,”Ayers said. “Last summer they ended up in third place in the world out of thousands of people competing, so we did it again this summer and they ended up winning.”

Brain Chase doesn’t let age become an obstacle. The program offers multiple different electives for differnt people’s interest like cooking, yoga and engineering.

“It goes up through age 16. They also have an adult version, so  if people who are over 16 want to compete, they can,” Ayers said.

She herself participated last January and plans to continue competing.

Along with its variety of choices and activities, the program offers a reward of a hidden treasure found by the winning participant.

“You win a trip to the location of the treasure, and you win the physical treasure itself. In this case it was a globe that was made out of real gold, and a 10,000 dollar scholarship.”

Teamwork played a key part in the Ayers’ success. Ayers was not the only STEM teacher to be involved. Jessica Sharp, chemistry and biology teacher, contributed to the their success.

“Mrs.Sharp, the chemistry teacher, helped us figure it out. She thought maybe there was an old tree,” Ayers said. “We started searching trees in the panhandle of  Texas and found out it was one of the oldest trees in the state of  Texas. The treasure was buried right next to this huge, ancient tree. It was called the Cottonwood.”