Students have been asked to solve a series of approximately 100 math problems and with every correct answer, sponsors donate money to the hospital that has helped sick children for more than 40 years.
However, it's safe to say that neither the organizers of the event at Webster School, nor the officials at St. Jude's, could have ever predicted the amount of money raised by the first and second graders of Weehawken.
Sixty-one students participated in the Math-A-Thon this year, and in a little more than a month's time, they were able to collectively raise $3,500 for the children of St. Jude's. That is an astronomical figure for a small school, a group of kids helping fellow kids.
"It really is amazing that 61 little kids, with the help of their parents, were able to raise so much money," said Rosemary Baldassari, a basic skills reading teacher at Webster and the organizer of the event. "It's really quite a feat. You never think you can raise that much."
The Math-A-Thon program begins at Webster a little before Easter, when permission slips are sent home, informing parents of the program and whether they would want their children to participate.
Of course, there is the educational hook, where the children receive a math booklet of 100 problems, geared toward their respective grade levels. So it's more than simply raising money. The kids are learning while they are collecting money for a good cause.
And there's another hook - namely the prizes that the students can earn if they reach a certain amount of money raised. All students who participate receive a certificate of thanks from St. Jude's, but they can also receive T-shirts, coupon vouchers for free admission to Six Flags Great Adventure and sports bags.
The person who raises the most amount of money receives a personal CD player. That award went to first grader Nicholas Steen, who raised more than $200 to help the cause.
"I think the reason the program works so well is the idea that the children can receive prizes for what they raise," Baldassari said. "They receive something tangible for their hard work, other than improving their math skills. It motivates them more when they realize that they can get T-shirts and sports bags."
Added Baldassari, "I also think the children are very well aware of cancer and what it does. They all have probably had some family member stricken with cancer and they know that what they raise is going to help kids their own age who are sick and in need of help. The whole thing works so well and we're glad to help."
The teachers worked with their students to insure that the students were completing the necessary math work, and then to insure that they were collecting the funds. Baldassari then totaled everything and sent it off to St. Jude's, who in turn sent off the prizes with warm letters of appreciation.
"They always go out of their way to express their gratitude," Baldassari said. "Not just for taking part in the program, but for the amount that we send. It's really an amazing figure, when you consider that it's little kids raising the money. Sure, they get help from adults, but a lot of it is done on their own. I'm very impressed and very proud of what they were able to do."
And so are the people at St. Jude's, who hope that the children of Webster School will be as mathematically proficient again next year.