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x-post, article: The Math Revolution


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#1 wapiti

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 01:17 PM

Thank you Heigh Ho for posting this on the Afterschooling board!  Really interesting article.

 

The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?

 
 “It is common that they can ask simple questions and then, in the next minute, a very complicated one. But if the teacher doesn’t know enough mathematics, she will answer the simple question and shut down the other, more difficult one. We want children to ask difficult questions, to engage so it is not boring, to be able to do algebra at an early age, sure, but also to see it for what it is: a tool for critical thinking. If their teachers can’t help them do this, well—” Rifkin searched for the word that expressed her level of dismay. “It is a betrayal.”
 
In my experience, a common emotion in the NYU math circles, at the Russian School, in the chat rooms of the Art of Problem Solving and similar Web sites, is authentic excitement—among the students, but also among the teachers—about the subject itself. Even in the very early grades, instructors tend to be deeply knowledgeable and passionately engaged. “Many of them are working in the fields that use math—chemistry, meteorology, and engineering—and teach part-time,” Rifkin says. They are people who themselves find the subject approachable and deeply interesting, and they are encouraged to convey that.
 
Many of these programs—especially the camps, competitions, and math circles—create a unique culture and a strong sense of belonging for students who have a zest for the subject but all the awkwardness and uneven development of the typical adolescent. “When I attended my first math competition,” at age 11, “I understood for the first time that my tribe was out there,” said David Stoner, who joined a math circle a year later, and soon thereafter became a habitué of the Art of Problem Solving. Freewheeling collaboration across age, gender, and geography is a baseline value. Although the accelerated-math community has historically been largely male, girls are getting involved in increasing numbers, and making their presence felt. 

 

And earlier is better than later: The subject is relentlessly sequential and hierarchical. “If you wait until high school to attempt to produce accelerated math learners,” Loh told me, “the latecomers will find themselves missing too much foundational thinking and will struggle, with only four short years before college, to catch up.” These days, it is a rare student who can move from being “good at math” in a regular public high school to finding a place in the advanced-math community. 
 
Sitting in a regular ninth-grade algebra class versus observing a middle-school problem-solving class is like watching kids get lectured on the basics of musical notation versus hearing them sing an aria from Tosca.
 
And check this out!
 
This fall, the Art of Problem Solving’s founder, Richard Rusczyk, a former Math Olympian who left his job in finance 18 years ago, will open two brick-and-mortar centers in the Raleigh, North Carolina, and Rockville, Maryland, areas, with a focus on advanced math. An online program for elementary-school students will follow.

 

 


Edited by wapiti, 10 February 2016 - 11:27 PM.

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#2 kiwik

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 02:07 PM

If I ever win a huge amount of money I am going to import a couple of AOPS tutors for a six month working holiday in NZ.
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#3 SarahW

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 02:21 PM

What's in Rockville, Maryland? I understand Raleigh, there's lots of offspring of tech-nerds running around there (I may be related to some of them...).

 

There's going to be an alcumus type thing for 2-5??? That would be great. 

 

Lately, Crazypants has said "If I have to go to school, I want to go to Beast Academy." I told him it's not a real place, and he's not a real monster anyways. I guess now I'll have to tell him it's too far away. But maybe I can ship him off to the relatives, lol.

 

I did really like how the article went into the socio-economics of providing the math enrichment from an early age. We're LMC here, though DH and I both have graduate degrees. I wouldn't have known about BA if it wasn't for this forum. I wouldn't have thought about the stuff in BA if it wasn't for BA. And Crazypants wouldn't love math so much if it wasn't for BA. But the ~$100/year of BA (more, if he keeps accelerating) is easily more than I spend on all other homeschool subjects combined. I think BA is good value for the money, but still, when I have to hit the order button it makes my anxiety skyrocket. Sure, since I homeschool I have to get a math curriculum anyways, but I wouldn't be spending $100+ on it.

 

And now that Crazypants is getting older, I'm thinking about math camps and classes, and I don't see how it's going to be feasible. Even sending him to the relatives in Durham will cost international airfare, lol (not that I'm really thinking that). But, I recently realized that there are huge advantages to living in our current location - the nearby university (I live in England, take a guess, you'll get it right in a few tries) runs occasional math events, and many are free (though sadly parking is not). It's something we couldn't get if we lived in Nowheresville, Midwestland.

 

So, chance, location, and money(?) seem to roll together to allow talented kids to shine. I suppose that's the breaks for anything, such as music or dancing or whatever. But math is actually a pretty basic skill, and it's a shame when the talented kids are instead beaten down by poor teaching or just plain non-recognition of their gift.


Edited by SarahW, 09 February 2016 - 02:25 PM.

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#4 Monica_in_Switzerland

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 02:46 PM

Whew, that was a long article!  I found it very encouraging in the sense that the pendulum seems to be swinging back to providing opportunities for student acceleration.  


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#5 Tania

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 03:00 PM

What's in Rockville, Maryland? I understand Raleigh, there's lots of offspring of tech-nerds running around there (I may be related to some of them...).

Rockville, MD is 35 min north of Washington D.C.  There are a lot of military, government and industry projects that hire STEM majors. Also a lot of money and as the article points out that is indicative of accelerated studies.


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#6 dmmetler

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 03:52 PM

If they get a Beast Academy Alumcus, DD will want to sign up. Who cares if it's stuff she did years ago? It's the math Beasts!

Thank heaven for the Internet-we're in a hole on the map here. I really need to move East, West, or maybe North...
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#7 Lilaclady

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 03:59 PM

Thanks for posting that was very good albeit long article. I love that they also delved into the socioeconomic realities. Math camps cost a lot of money and if you are not poor enough to qualify for aid and not rich enough to pay $3000.00 and up for camp, you are sunk.

I have spent the last 2 weeks looking for camps that my child can attend and all the ones I saw are the ones that are out of reach. Oh well
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#8 Kathy in Richmond

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Posted 09 February 2016 - 06:24 PM

Thanks for posting, wapiti....interesting article :001_smile:

 

The "authentic excitement" and "sense of belonging" in the community of advanced math kids was very real for us, and did a lot to make our high school homeschooling a happy time (AoPS, summer math camps, competitions from MathCounts to AMCs and more, math teams that practiced and traveled to competitions, and coaching younger kids). Finding a real and accepting peer group was invaluable (no, make that life-saving!) both academically and socially.

 

To those looking at math camps, yes, they are very $$$. Mathcamp is working on funding so that they can be free for all kids who qualify, but they aren't there yet. It's currently free to those making under $60000 per year, with partial need based finaid up to roughly mid 100000s incomes. They look at each applicant's circumstances individually.  There are some merit scholarships, too...I know my dd won one for high scoring girls in the USAMTS contest.

 

But yeah, it's expensive. I helped set up and run the first years of Epsilon camp, and there was no way we could charge much less than $1000 per week and still break even. I was surprised at how much money went to the hosting institution (all kinds of fees, and not cheap) and the expense of bringing in wonderful faculty members and counselors and paying their room & board and travel in addition to a stipend. In fact, those of us running the camps made very, very little ourselves.  For my own kids, it was a huge stretch to come up with the money to send them each for multiple camp summers, but I have to say in retrospect that it was one of the best decisions we made. :) Hugs to those who want to send their kids and are having a difficult time finding a way.

 

As for AoPS and the new online program for elementary school, yes, it's based on Beast Academy according to my daughter. Should be fun!!


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#9 SarahW

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 03:47 AM

I didn't mean to discount the efforts of MathCamp and others to provide financial aid and reduce the COA across the board. But most of those with financial aid are for high school students. Opportunities for younger kids are pricey, and rarely come with aid or cost discounts. I know it makes sense, to only throw the limited resources at the older kids who have already proven themselves to be high achievers. But as the article points out, this type of higher level math has to start way before high school, and there the support seems to be pretty thin, unless you get lucky (like attend an under-achieving NYC school, ...or living with parents who cruise internet forums and live near a major university with a major math department). I don't know what the answer is, better math teaching in elementary schools (obviously), the expansion of math clubs, grants to make things like Russian school a free nationwide afterschool program (whoohoo, Gates!). It's not that I want Crazypants to get a free ride to residential camp at 9 just because he wants to go to Beast Academy, it's that I want him to start meeting other kids who think dividing by zero is hilarious, and I want him to maybe get a "spark" which ignites him to see more, want more, do more.

 

 

 

Another issue I see is people's perception of math, and how that might influence how their kids think about math. My DH laments how he was told in school that since he was good in languages, he should just give up on math (he likely has dyscalculia of some sort, which was never recognized). But he loves math, he loves theoretical math, if he got support to overcome his calculation problems, he's be really good in math. But he got pigeon-holed as "not-mathy". Also, a few days ago I posted a math video on FB (about the relationship between the area of a circle and a rectangle) and the response was largely "math wars" and anti-CC (I think, it's amazing how confused people can be when they talk about math pedagogy "They should teach math theory in school! Not just drill formulas! I hate CC! It doesn't teach formulas!" lol). I am so not interested in the math wars. Not at all interested. But when people I know rant about "funny math" I'm like, errr, I know, all I do all day with my kid is "funny" math, sorta funny, not totally funny, but you'd probably think it's funny.  :leaving:   And I wonder if they have a kid who would like to explore math theory and math concepts, and instead suffer under a mom who makes them feel that that's "wrong."


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#10 Heigh Ho

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 08:24 AM

The answer for k-8 is math circles. Just like orchestra or club sports, one has to travel if one cant move to an area with a large concentration of like minds.

The other answer is hiring well qualified people and letting them teach the interested, in school or as an ec. Right now, the populace is not interested in funding math club in public school here. Its not seen as a part of the human heritage that is necessary to pass down to the next gen. One has to move, or one has to counteract the zip code as destiny movement and get politically involved.
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#11 Kathy in Richmond

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 09:37 AM

Sarah, I think Heigh Ho has the right idea in starting math clubs for younger kids. It's difficult, I know...btdt. No existing clubs for homeschoolers, so I worked on getting kids together in my home. We never had more than a handful of kids, but it was still good. There are plenty of free practice materials from MathCounts, AMC 8s posted on AoPS with solutions, books by Marilyn Burns and Martin Gardner & etc. I know dmmetler has done this for her daughter, too, & she's posted about her club. You just have to accept that the limitations in what you have nearby sometimes. Very few families live in areas with built-in opportunities...we sure haven't! 

 

We started with AoPS online in middle school & that brought some of the national community into our house. I can't express how glad I am in retrospect that we didn't just work through AoPS materials on our own at home (and we certainly could have), because we met so many wonderful friends and even mentors through their classes and forums. My daughter lamented one day in a post on the forums that she had no opportunity for an ARML team here in central VA, and she was contacted the next day by a terrific coach who was willing to expand her club to reach our area. I did have to do some serious car time to get her to meetings :-/ but we met so many great people that it was worthwhile.

 

My own kids never attended sleep away camps till they were 14, just before starting high school. At the time, MathPath was life changing for my son. But that was way back before the days of AoPS or even much at all online. I think these days you can find much more community online if that's what you're limited to doing. And with OCW and MOOCs you really can't run out of stuff to learn at home.

 

I know that doesn't help CrazyPants find friends who "get him" right now. Hugs! Nine is a tough age for that I think. My son was still in regular public school at that age, and I do remember the challenges. Even the gifted magnet he attended the next 2 years didn't solve the social issues. They shipped him to the middle school for math. That didn't solve much because no one there really *liked* math except for the enrichment teacher who came in a couple of times a month. Not enough!

 

One of my reasons for helping with Epsilon camp was to bring some of these younger kids together. But the funny thing is that I wouldn't have been able to send my own kids there due to cost. And it was tough to find funding for our applicants who needed support. Many frustrations...

 

 


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#12 bibiche

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 10:05 AM

I can't like Kathy in Richmond's post enough.  

 

If you build it, they will come. :)   And sometimes there are kindred spirits around but you just haven't found each other yet.  Is it possible that there are already groups in your area?  I live in an intellectual hub, but even here one has to dig around to find the wealth of opportunities that the community has to offer.  Even so, we rounded up the resources to start our own math club.

 

And there are lots of young kids on the AoPS forum, have you taken a look there?  I don't think you need to take a class to join the forums. BTW, the classes are great, and your Crazypants will find lots of agemates there as well.

 

eta  is there an origami club near you? Or a Rubik's cube club?  Around here those two recreations are mathy kid magnets.


Edited by bibiche, 10 February 2016 - 10:07 AM.

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#13 SarahW

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 11:24 AM

I think I've confused you guys, sorry. I honestly do have (another!) cold right now.

 

I'm getting things sorted for my own Crazypants, I think. Lack of money makes me often feel frustrated, that's all. I'm just riffing off what the article goes into about identification and opportunities.

 

Math circles are great if you know they are an actual thing. DH and I got through all of grad school and never heard of them (though our fields are far removed from anything "stem"). You have to know they exist, then you have to look for them, then if there's none you can figure out how to start one. But step one is huge.

 

Then there is the issue that the article delves into a bit, that math thinkers aren't necessarily the best student in math class. I am fairly confident that Cp's love for math would not have developed in a "regular" classroom. He's not a math prodigy who divines negative square roots, he sometimes makes basic mistakes in multi-digit subtraction. His ADHD-Inattentive makes him spacey and appear rather dumb. Even if a teacher would notice his skill with patterns and abstract reasoning, his low verbal reasoning/comprehension score (ADHD) would keep him below the "gifted" cut-off. In the current "average" school set-up he would just be a-okay (at best).

 

I really wonder how many "a-okay" students there are whose parents don't realize math circles or competitions even exist, and are happy with the "a-okay." Unless it's ridiculously easy for them to access, as easy as community t-ball sign-ups, they're simply not going think about it.

 

I'm not saying we all need to become math circle evangelists and set up missions in every town. I'm just saying that I think it's great that the article touched on the fact that in America (and other countries) that don't have national streaming or identification, some math-talented people are just never going to realize that they are math-talented.

 


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#14 wapiti

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 11:34 AM

This morning, my kids' elementary school posted this article on FB.  While that may seem unusually encouraging, unfortunately I have to wonder if anyone there actually read it.


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#15 bibiche

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 11:58 AM

Ah, I see what you are saying SarahW.   I understand completely, and it is sad.  It would be nice if communities spent as much time and energy on intellectual pursuits and encouraging children in these as they do on sports.    Kind of like this!: 


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#16 Arcadia

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 12:26 PM

I don't see the same energy in the RSM and the elementary math circle here that was described in the article. The elementary math circle that my DS10 attended two years ago had kids that were there because the parents wanted them there and many kids who didn't do the homework (1 to 3 questions). Many of the parents treat RSM as math tutoring center as well as AMC and SAT prep center so you don't get as high an enthusiasm level among the kids. The RSM center owner actually told me there is no value add for my kids. Many RSM tutors are former engineers.

There were after school math clubs where I grew up (not US) which is totally funded at the national level. The enthusiasm level is very high because only the interested kids stay back after school and either walk or take the public bus home. We have interclass math competitions which has a speed round and a puzzle round. No prizes, just good fun and good natured boasting for a few minutes.

From 1st to 12 grade, of the teachers who have at least a masters in math, I had a few math teachers who could do a knowledge transfer and many who could not. Here I see similar issues, even among those with a phd in math which is not that uncommon, some can't teach.

The math problem is similar to the reading problem. Enthusiasm isn't there. How to solve it is not by throwing more money. The idea of learning for learning sake seems to be lost. More likely it need to be a volunteer movement.
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#17 SeaConquest

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 12:44 PM

We started with AoPS online in middle school & that brought some of the national community into our house. I can't express how glad I am in retrospect that we didn't just work through AoPS materials on our own at home (and we certainly could have), because we met so many wonderful friends and even mentors through their classes and forums. My daughter lamented one day in a post on the forums that she had no opportunity for an ARML team here in central VA, and she was contacted the next day by a terrific coach who was willing to expand her club to reach our area. I did have to do some serious car time to get her to meetings :-/ but we met so many great people that it was worthwhile.

 

 

This is an interesting point. Sacha is still a few years away from AoPS classes, but I have read so many negative things here about the speed ("blistering") and format of the class (text-only), it has made me seriously reconsider sending him to the online classes. I hadn't really thought about the possibility for missed social and mentoring opportunities. Thank you, Kathy, for mentioning this.

 

And, dang it, if any city should be getting an AoPS center, it is San Diego! I keep repressing the urge to stalk RR by moving to lovely Alpine. ;) 


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#18 Arcadia

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 01:13 PM

This is an interesting point. Sacha is still a few years away from AoPS classes, but I have read so many negative things here about the speed ("blistering") and format of the class (text-only), it has made me seriously reconsider sending him to the online classes. I hadn't really thought about the possibility for missed social and mentoring opportunities.


You don't need a login to read the forums. Sacha can get an AoPS account to post to the forums to enjoy the social and mentoring aspect. You just need to sign, take a photo or scan and email back the parent consent form for minors.

As to the online class, for my intense oldest who does not like to talk the speed and text format works well. For my less intense younger who reads at a slower speed (compare to oldest) and would be distracted by audio, he does the book halfway before the class to compensate for the speed. Both my boys take the class for the social aspect.

The AoPS forums is like the WTM forums. How you and your child benefit from the forums is what you make of it.

Have you been to the Julia Robinson Math Festival? Link is to the problem sets page which is fun to try
http://jrmf.org/problems.php
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#19 Kathy in Richmond

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 01:57 PM

Then there is the issue that the article delves into a bit, that math thinkers aren't necessarily the best student in math class. I am fairly confident that Cp's love for math would not have developed in a "regular" classroom. He's not a math prodigy who divines negative square roots, he sometimes makes basic mistakes in multi-digit subtraction. His ADHD-Inattentive makes him spacey and appear rather dumb. Even if a teacher would notice his skill with patterns and abstract reasoning, his low verbal reasoning/comprehension score (ADHD) would keep him below the "gifted" cut-off. In the current "average" school set-up he would just be a-okay (at best).

I just wanted to comment on this part. It's extremely common that brilliant math thinkers are overlooked in their early schooling for all kinds of reasons: messy handwriting, not caring to please the teacher, lack of attention to boring detail, ADHD, etc.

 

It seems particularly common among visual spatial thinkers who aren't as language gifted. My kids, dh and I all fit into these categories to different degrees, and I saw this big time when I taught middle school CTY school year math classes in Richmond. And one of my son's classmates was kicked out of the gifted math track in public school because her verbal testing wasn't up to par one year...Awful. If it's any consolation, it does seem to get better in the upper grades (algebra and up) and especially college, where the prof is a mathematician and can recognize talent. I really wish that our culture cared more about math in the early years & that opportunities to get excited about learning were as prevalent as those for sports. Maybe someday...
 

This is an interesting point. Sacha is still a few years away from AoPS classes, but I have read so many negative things here about the speed ("blistering") and format of the class (text-only), it has made me seriously reconsider sending him to the online classes. I hadn't really thought about the possibility for missed social and mentoring opportunities. Thank you, Kathy, for mentioning this.
 
And, dang it, if any city should be getting an AoPS center, it is San Diego! I keep repressing the urge to stalk RR by moving to lovely Alpine. ;)

Ha, yes! San Diego does have a good math circle, though. Maybe Sasha would like that in the future (I think it's for grade 5 and up?)...Oh, & AoPS has moved out of Alpine up to the northern suburbs in Rancho Bernardo now. :001_smile:
 

The AoPS forums is like the WTM forums. How you and your child benefit from the forums is what you make of it.

Exactly!


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#20 daijobu

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 02:34 PM

   Kind of like this!: 

O

 

M

 

G

 

!!!

 

That is so funny, I don't even have words.  Love the BMW ads: The New Teacher's Pet.

 

:laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:


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#21 dmmetler

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 03:26 PM

I'm considering having DD try a MathCounts or AMC AOPS class. I think jumping in at Geometry might be a bit much. At 7-8, I don't think she was ready for the class, but she'd enjoy the social now. My biggest concern for her is that she has so many other things that take time, some of which are good social and mentoring opportunities as well, and I don't want math to take time away from science when science is where she "lives". Really,for us the ideal class would start in November and end at the end of February :).

On starting a local group, I've found that I get three types of kids

1) kids who are "good at math (really, usually good at memorizing facts) and have parents who don't know what to do to encourage it.

2) parents who are terrified of math and want someone to hold their hands, with kids who are lukewarm about it.

3) kids who love math and are excited about neat problems and activities. These kids, by and large, are those who are bored with arithmetic and are dying for something more. They often make silly mistakes, refuse to write work down, and basically turn in stuff that looks like chicken scratch-but also make some amazing leaps.

There is a real thrill when a good in math kid starts making those conceptual leaps, and even more of it when a lukewarm in math kid lights up (or when a scared parent stops being scared).

What I've learned is that math games are your friends, at all levels. The National Math club kits and the MathCounts website have a lot of good game ideas. We also do a lot of mathematical food, celebrate pi day, build stuff out of cardboard boxes, and other things that are more "math fun" than math. We encourage the kids to bring in a problem, a game, an interesting topic to share. For my DD, that means that she has someone that she can explain her AOPS proof to besides me, or show off the neat stuff she finds on Wolfram Alpha.

I usually have a small subset at all interested in competition, and since my DD is more focused on science and doesn't really want to spend the time to prepare for competitive math, I'm moving away from that goal. Originally, my goal was to build a team for DD to do math competition with, and that's just not likely to happen here. But I can at least build her a group of kids who think imaginary numbers are pretty cool and love the idea of carotid curves (which is DD's topic of choice this month).
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#22 SeaConquest

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 03:41 PM

Ha, yes! San Diego does have a good math circle, though. Maybe Sasha would like that in the future (I think it's for grade 5 and up?)...Oh, & AoPS has moved out of Alpine up to the northern suburbs in Rancho Bernardo now. :001_smile:

 

Exactly!

 

Yes, but I thought RR still lives in Alpine, no? I really meant stalking him. ;)


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#23 daijobu

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 04:45 PM

I stalked him at an event at Proof School.  He was very gracious and allowed us to take selfies.   :thumbup1:


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#24 dmmetler

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 08:29 PM

Watching the kids who signed up for RR's workshop last summer was funny-you saw the same sort of squealing, fan girl, autograph seeking that is usually associated with boy bands, movie stars and athletes. DD got her geometry book signed, and managed to earn one of the coveted AOPS t-shirts by answering a challenge question, and was thrilled. She put his workshop in the #1 slot again this year :).
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#25 Kerileanne99

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 10:02 PM

I have a math-loving dd6 who has suddenly decided that she isn't good at math because she couldn't do the math that the high school kids one day at the library (pre-cal) were doing. It turns out that pushing the problem solving side (when all she sees is number-crunching normally) has a down side. Good for her, but she REALLY needs kids/friends who are willing to play math with her:(
I have tried to drum up interest locally for a math circle or even math games group and get a whole lot of nothing. Or rather, a group of homeschooled teenage boys that want nothing to do with a 6 yo girl:)
We are considering driving her to the Russian School that just opened 100 miles from us...

#26 Mabelen

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 11:30 PM

Rockville, Md is in the general area of the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as a very lively pharma and biotech sector.

What's in Rockville, Maryland? I understand Raleigh, there's lots of offspring of tech-nerds running around there (I may be related to some of them...).

There's going to be an alcumus type thing for 2-5??? That would be great.

Lately, Crazypants has said "If I have to go to school, I want to go to Beast Academy." I told him it's not a real place, and he's not a real monster anyways. I guess now I'll have to tell him it's too far away. But maybe I can ship him off to the relatives, lol.

I did really like how the article went into the socio-economics of providing the math enrichment from an early age. We're LMC here, though DH and I both have graduate degrees. I wouldn't have known about BA if it wasn't for this forum. I wouldn't have thought about the stuff in BA if it wasn't for BA. And Crazypants wouldn't love math so much if it wasn't for BA. But the ~$100/year of BA (more, if he keeps accelerating) is easily more than I spend on all other homeschool subjects combined. I think BA is good value for the money, but still, when I have to hit the order button it makes my anxiety skyrocket. Sure, since I homeschool I have to get a math curriculum anyways, but I wouldn't be spending $100+ on it.

And now that Crazypants is getting older, I'm thinking about math camps and classes, and I don't see how it's going to be feasible. Even sending him to the relatives in Durham will cost international airfare, lol (not that I'm really thinking that). But, I recently realized that there are huge advantages to living in our current location - the nearby university (I live in England, take a guess, you'll get it right in a few tries) runs occasional math events, and many are free (though sadly parking is not). It's something we couldn't get if we lived in Nowheresville, Midwestland.

So, chance, location, and money(?) seem to roll together to allow talented kids to shine. I suppose that's the breaks for anything, such as music or dancing or whatever. But math is actually a pretty basic skill, and it's a shame when the talented kids are instead beaten down by poor teaching or just plain non-recognition of their gift.



#27 kubiac

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Posted 10 February 2016 - 11:51 PM

2) parents who are terrified of math and want someone to hold their hands, with kids who are lukewarm about it.

 

Of your three choices we would probably be closest to this, so thank you with your patience for this category. We are trying!

 

(This makes me want to send my dad--2 master's degrees [physics, EE]--with my kids if we ever try a math circle!)



#28 SarahW

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 12:18 PM

I just wanted to comment on this part. It's extremely common that brilliant math thinkers are overlooked in their early schooling for all kinds of reasons: messy handwriting, not caring to please the teacher, lack of attention to boring detail, ADHD, etc.

 

It seems particularly common among visual spatial thinkers who aren't as language gifted. My kids, dh and I all fit into these categories to different degrees, and I saw this big time when I taught middle school CTY school year math classes in Richmond. And one of my son's classmates was kicked out of the gifted math track in public school because her verbal testing wasn't up to par one year...Awful. If it's any consolation, it does seem to get better in the upper grades (algebra and up) and especially college, where the prof is a mathematician and can recognize talent. I really wish that our culture cared more about math in the early years & that opportunities to get excited about learning were as prevalent as those for sports. Maybe someday...
 

 

 

Thank you - that is a huge consolation. So there will come a day in which I won't say "You need to make sure you write your numbers neat enough to read them yourself"? When I ask "So there's 8, and now 5 more, so that's how many?" and he won't give me confused look and say "uhhhhmmmm...."? A day when I won't be afraid of saying "he really likes math" for fear they'll ask him what 7x6 is and I'll look like a fool? Sigh...  :svengo:  :svengo:

 

I can't wait until we get through all this pre-prealgebra stuff, I can shove him off to do higher math, with someone else!

 

Hmmm, so a question for ya'll, while we're at it - Crazypants has been obsessively reading the BA3 and 4 guides. Though we're still trucking through the 3D practice (he can only do a few pages a day - ADHD). He wanted to skip the 3D practice, but I said no. He wants me to buy him level 5, I told him only one was out. He's disappointed. Would it be in any way reasonable to buy aops Pre-A for him to just read and browse (in bed, in the car, in the backyard, at McDonald's)? It's not GN, it's not the beasts, but maybe it would work anyways? I've tried other things, Penrose, Math for Smarty Pants, Fred, those little topical library books, he's pretty meh on them (and don't even mention that ridiculous math knight!  :001_rolleyes: ). But maybe he would find Pre-A interesting if he, you know, finds it laying around the house?



#29 bibiche

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 12:43 PM

 

 

Hmmm, so a question for ya'll, while we're at it - Crazypants has been obsessively reading the BA3 and 4 guides. Though we're still trucking through the 3D practice (he can only do a few pages a day - ADHD). He wanted to skip the 3D practice, but I said no. He wants me to buy him level 5, I told him only one was out. He's disappointed. Would it be in any way reasonable to buy aops Pre-A for him to just read and browse (in bed, in the car, in the backyard, at McDonald's)? It's not GN, it's not the beasts, but maybe it would work anyways? I've tried other things, Penrose, Math for Smarty Pants, Fred, those little topical library books, he's pretty meh on them (and don't even mention that ridiculous math knight!  :001_rolleyes: ). But maybe he would find Pre-A interesting if he, you know, finds it laying around the house?

 

DS went straight from BA 3D, I think, to AoPS Pre-algebra and he was absolutely fine with it.  He didn't read it for fun, however, like he did the BA books, but he did enjoy doing the problems and the accompanying alcumus.   If truth be told, he did not do a whole lot of BA practice at all, I noticed later when looking over all of his practically virgin books.   :blushing:   But he still did fine with AoPS.  Go for it.  



#30 Kathy in Richmond

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 05:27 PM

Hmmm, so a question for ya'll, while we're at it - Crazypants has been obsessively reading the BA3 and 4 guides. Though we're still trucking through the 3D practice (he can only do a few pages a day - ADHD). He wanted to skip the 3D practice, but I said no. He wants me to buy him level 5, I told him only one was out. He's disappointed. Would it be in any way reasonable to buy aops Pre-A for him to just read and browse (in bed, in the car, in the backyard, at McDonald's)? It's not GN, it's not the beasts, but maybe it would work anyways? I've tried other things, Penrose, Math for Smarty Pants, Fred, those little topical library books, he's pretty meh on them (and don't even mention that ridiculous math knight!  :001_rolleyes: ). But maybe he would find Pre-A interesting if he, you know, finds it laying around the house?

I don't see any reason not to try this. Strewing books worked well with ds when he was CP's age...(but topical books and puzzle books were a hit with ds, so my specific suggestions probably wouldn't be of any help)

 

You could also just jump into AoPS prealg and work through at his pace. It doesn't have the same Beast fun factor, but it's AoPS style still & he might surprise you with liking it.

 

I'm LOLing at the memories your stories brings back of my own ds, horrible handwriting and vacant answers to simple questions while daydreaming of something more interesting...ha!  In 3rd grade he had the *worst* time passing his multiplication facts timed tests....the teachers could simply not read his numerals & marked them wrong. But give him a really *hard* problem and the focus magically appeared!


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#31 daijobu

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Posted 11 February 2016 - 06:04 PM

 Would it be in any way reasonable to buy aops Pre-A for him to just read and browse (in bed, in the car, in the backyard, at McDonald's)? It's not GN, it's not the beasts, but maybe it would work anyways? I've tried other things, Penrose, Math for Smarty Pants, Fred, those little topical library books, he's pretty meh on them (and don't even mention that ridiculous math knight!  :001_rolleyes: ). 

 

I agree with PPs and would like to add that if you need additional math filler, you can throw in some old MOEMS exams for fun and practice.  Then he can add old MathCounts (school level, then chapter and so on) and old AMC8s.  That way he can start putting into practice the skills he's learning now.  


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#32 dmmetler

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 08:39 AM

I would also really suggest seeing if you can get the old Narional Math Club guides. I keep finding mine in DD's room because she's "borrowed" them!

The other thing DD liked when she started her math spurt (and still does for computer stuff) are the review books for adults, like the Dummies books and the Painless books. It gave her a lot of advanced concepts, but in an easily digestible form. She doesn't use those as much for math, but now uses them for computer topics. They are light and humorous, but not "kiddy" in the way the living math books sometimes can be.

Has he tried the higher LoF books, or just the elementary ones? There is a definite difference in feel, and DD felt "talked down to" by the LA ones, but not, say, the Statistics one.

#33 madteaparty

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 10:05 AM

So the article made me sad. First, that math Olympiad team was all boys. Second, as with everything else, you have to have resources to find, and then drive to a math circle or pay for an AOPS class. I find the latter not expensive at all, and of all the items in the article I think AOPS has the best chance to close that inequality gap ( evening classes, not expensive, can be indipendent of parent). If it is happening out of school, it is just increasing inequality of access. I guess I'm still glad it is happening, but I keep thinking of my friend with a child in a "gifted" program who goes to take a specialized high school test and is completely stumped on the math--it is simply not being taught in school.
What also makes me sad is these things focus entirely on "mathy" kids. As in, there is a set contingent of mathy kids and thank god there is resources for them out there now. This is an undisputable net good, for sure. But I don't think mathy kids are born that way, they are made. And I think we risk alienating a large portion of kids, like mine, who is not in love with math and would not do math for fun, has zero math support from his parents, and is chugging along AOPS on his own volition. By all account AOPS is not for him.

Edited by madteaparty, 12 February 2016 - 10:09 AM.

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#34 oscilatorium

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 11:35 AM

So the article made me sad. First, that math Olympiad team was all boys. Second, as with everything else, you have to have resources to find, and then drive to a math circle or pay for an AOPS class. I find the latter not expensive at all, and of all the items in the article I think AOPS has the best chance to close that inequality gap ( evening classes, not expensive, can be indipendent of parent). If it is happening out of school, it is just increasing inequality of access. I guess I'm still glad it is happening, but I keep thinking of my friend with a child in a "gifted" program who goes to take a specialized high school test and is completely stumped on the math--it is simply not being taught in school.
What also makes me sad is these things focus entirely on "mathy" kids. As in, there is a set contingent of mathy kids and thank god there is resources for them out there now. This is an undisputable net good, for sure. But I don't think mathy kids are born that way, they are made. And I think we risk alienating a large portion of kids, like mine, who is not in love with math and would not do math for fun, has zero math support from his parents, and is chugging along AOPS on his own volition. By all account AOPS is not for him.

 

Agree, would love to see to see more girls on the US IMO team, as we had a couple in the past. Unfortunately it's so hyper competitive to make that 6 person team that it takes more than just talent. One needs sheer will and and huge competitive desire; I would even guess that some people who were on the IMO teams had to sacrifice many other activities/grades in school to focus almost exclusively on math, and high school boys for whatever reason tend to thrive more in that type of pressured environment.

 

I agree that math circles are amazing but hard to find, and in a good area are even very hard to get into. We desperately need more passionate folks across the whole country to step up and volunteer to host them; the demand is definitely there and many bright kids really need this type of environment as school does not even come close. But other than circles, I think we have a tremendous amount of opportunities online. The AOPS website of course is amazing, but even beyond it, you can find almost every past competition exam and its solutions by just googling (i was able to find almost all of the Mathcounts and AMC materials for free, and even managed to find a pdf of one AoPS book). Not to mention the # of high quality MOOC's that are popping up everywhere (not all of them are great, but some are absolutely fantastic, on par with the best classes given at top colleges). And almost all of it for free, or with minimal cost. 

 

So I think the material is there, the real problem is one of awareness, but that is also slowly going up. Sites such as these really give fantastic perspectives to parents as to what is really out there, and there are many interesting blogs focused on high quality education that guide readers where to find valuable material and opportunities. I personally know many parents concerned about their kids education, but found after talking to them that they didn't really know about many of these opportunities; so we all just need to spread the word how it is very possible to get a really high quality education and enrichment material if school doesn't provide it.

 

Agree that most kids don't start out mathy, but become so through their exposure. My personal belief is that most kids can be really good at math (after all it is just logic), but they've just never been taught to think mathematically in school. By the time they get exposure to problem solving, or reasoning about any multi-step problem, they find the barrier of entry really high and are conditioned to give up if they can't get anywhere after 5 minutes of trying. Then they're subconsciously taught to tell themselves that they're just not good enough; that someone else who can do it in < 5 mins is better than them. These days this starts in early middle school (even in elementary school), and it is often too late, if they haven't been exposed to reasoning,and doing games/puzzles from an early age.

 

Most of the kids that participate in math competitions are no more gifted than the kids in normal math classes; they've just had the opportunities and training for that type of thinking from an earlier age and have had years to practice (some have been involved in some sort of math events/competitions even since early elementary school), so of course they appear "geniuses" to other kids. We need to teach kids that math is no different than a sport, it takes deliberate practice over a long period of time to get good at it. What's fantastic is that almost anyone can do it as there is no genetic barrier unlike in some sports.

 

I know there are efforts out there that focus not necessarily on identifying mathy kids, but kids who have generally good thinking/reasoning skills and/or display a lot of effort/curiosity to learn, and thus would be well suited to take advantage of high quality resources. BEAM (http://www.beammath.org/), originally started by AOPS, comes to mind.

 

Once there is enough awareness in the general population that elementary school years are critical in building general problem solving skills, (and that almost all schools do not do nearly enough in that area), and if kids get the right exposure early on, they will then have a pretty easy transition to many of the activities that the "genius" or mathy kids do in middle school.


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#35 Arcadia

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 12:11 PM

Once there is enough awareness in the general population that elementary school years are critical in building general problem solving skills, (and that almost all schools do not do nearly enough in that area), and if kids get the right exposure early on, they will then have a pretty easy transition to many of the activities that the "genius" or mathy kids do in middle school.


For elementary school here, they have Destination Imagination and Odyssey of the mind. Some schools have both, some have one. Some homeschool groups participate too.

http://destinationimagination.org
http://www.odysseyofthemind.com

#36 daijobu

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 07:03 PM

What also makes me sad is these things focus entirely on "mathy" kids. As in, there is a set contingent of mathy kids and thank god there is resources for them out there now. This is an undisputable net good, for sure. But I don't think mathy kids are born that way, they are made

Agreed.  I wonder if I had been in charge of math instruction for some of my friends' kids, from the very start, could I have turned them into reasonably competent math competitors.  I think many, many kids are written off like this.  

 

Compare math competitions to AYSO.  It's almost a pillar of parenthood that one most put their 5 yo kid into AYSO.  Many kids participate for at least a few years, or else they switch to another sport.  What if math competitions were the same way?  What if all kids did MOEMS as a matter of course, to at least get them accustomed to solving math problems from every direction, not just learning and practicing one algorithm at a time.  


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#37 daijobu

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 07:15 PM

Agree, would love to see to see more girls on the US IMO team, as we had a couple in the past. Unfortunately it's so hyper competitive to make that 6 person team that it takes more than just talent. One needs sheer will and and huge competitive desire; I would even guess that some people who were on the IMO teams had to sacrifice many other activities/grades in school to focus almost exclusively on math, and high school boys for whatever reason tend to thrive more in that type of pressured environment.

 

 

 

Most of the kids that participate in math competitions are no more gifted than the kids in normal math classes; they've just had the opportunities and training for that type of thinking from an earlier age and have had years to practice (some have been involved in some sort of math events/competitions even since early elementary school), so of course they appear "geniuses" to other kids

 

 

I agree with so much of this post.  I've been thinking and wondering (as so many of us do) why many girls seem to fall short of many boys in so many areas.  One idea that has resonated with me is that boys seems to be attracted to a kind of competitive geekiness, whether it's for math, Star Wars, Shakespeare, whatever.  And it accelerates when there are others who have the same interests.  It's like they are trying to outdo each other in their chosen fields and they thrive in it.  If Jim knows more details about Star Wars trivia than I do, then I'm going to study up and try to beat him at his game.  He will do the same to me.  But it isn't personal and they don't view it negatively, that is, they feel a camaraderie that's mixed in with competition.  And the result is that each develops greater expertise than they would have in isolation.  I feel like many girls lack this embrace of friendly competition, but this is only a working theory, and I'm eager to hear other opinions.

 

(Having written this, I do understand there are exceptions, and I've seen many examples just on the WTM boards alone.

 

The other issue is that when we look at MathCounts finalists and the USAMO team, we are seeing the extremes, where perhaps, very small differences in math aptitude become magnified at the extremes.  I don't want to believe this, but I'm going to throw it out anyway as a possibility.  

 

And of course, I agree that we in the US are quick to ascribe great accomplishment (whether sports, extracurriculars, or academics) to inborn talent, not diligent practice.  

 

Finally, I want suggest that math circles aren't necessarily all that.  We've participated, and it really wasn't that inspiring, plus there were the kids who were made to attend, kinda ruining it for everyone.  We've made much greater progress working independently with the AoPS books, that that required a well-trained teacher (me).  Liping Ma wrote about the situation of poorly trained math teachers in the US already.   



#38 dmmetler

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 07:39 PM

That's one reason why I like Continental Math League-it's problem solving, unusual problems, but is cheap enough that it is very reasonable for a school to have everyone participate. The kids who do it in my math club, even the math reluctant ones, get better at that kind of math even over a single year-they might be unable even to start a problem in November, but get 2 right in February and at least have a place to start on other ones (I'm thinking of one particular little girl who already had "I am NO good at math" in her head-as a 3rd grader. Her mom started having her do math club because mom needed the hand holding).

I do think another piece of the puzzle is cultural and socialization focused. I know when I was in school, it just was less accepted to compete with the boys in their domains. And I know when DD found out she'd have to take the AMC 8/10/12 at a boys' school, she declined pretty darn fast! Realistically, though, she's also unwilling to spend the time needed to be competitive at math, in favor of her other interests, and it's not like she's not spending a significant amount of time on academic pursuits outside of formal school, so I can't really fault her there.
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#39 Arcadia

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 07:54 PM

The site where my kids took the AMC10 on Feb 2, the participants were as diverse as the USAMO team to put it bluntly. There were young ladies taking the AMC10a and AMC12a.
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#40 oscilatorium

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 07:59 PM

... I feel like many girls lack this embrace of friendly competition, but this is only a working theory, and I'm eager to hear other opinions.

 

(Having written this, I do understand there are exceptions, and I've seen many examples just on the WTM boards alone.

 

The other issue is that when we look at MathCounts finalists and the USAMO team, we are seeing the extremes, where perhaps, very small differences in math aptitude become magnified at the extremes.  I don't want to believe this, but I'm going to throw it out anyway as a possibility.  

...

Finally, I want suggest that math circles aren't necessarily all that.  We've participated, and it really wasn't that inspiring, plus there were the kids who were made to attend, kinda ruining it for everyone.  We've made much greater progress working independently with the AoPS books, that that required a well-trained teacher (me).  Liping Ma wrote about the situation of poorly trained math teachers in the US already.   

 

I think many boys get to play video games from an early age. They find it fun and the idea of beating the game (i.e. winning) is really appealing. That attitude of completion or finishing something can translate in positive ways to school and sports, etc. It was definitely true for me when I was in elementary/middle school, whereas my sisters did not really find video games as entrancing to anywhere near the same level as I. I think you'll notice that girls that tend to play video games tend to have more competitive personalities, but there are not many girls that do that because it's generally not socially acceptable for girls to play video games during the K-12 years. So girls don't get that environment early on, unless they're the tomboy type and/or if it's promoted as a family activity and everyone does it. My guess is this translates sort of negatively in that they don't respond as well to competitive pressure in later years (middle and high school), so wouldn't get the same level of excitement from competitions. Hopefully that seems to be slowly changing in terms of marketing and toys, (tech geekiness is in, and Barbie slowly fading out).

 

Yeah from what I understand, in Mathcounts, there are very small differences between many kids that just don't make it past Chapter round in competitive states, vs kids that make the national team for their state. Probably not in all cases, but there is no doubt that Mathcounts is at the high levels is primarily a speed competition and there are just way too many kids that could solve all the problems if they had more time, but not within the allotted time. Mathcounts is fantastic of course for initial exposure as they have many neat problems and the team aspect is fun, but at later stages it's way too high pressure (countdown round is ridiculous in my opinion, besides providing some entertainment for the audience at the expense of the 12 kids who have to be up at the podium). For Olympiad level, I think the differences in ability are much more marked, that is the top scorers/winners/honorable mentions have a much stronger sense of problem solving, intutiton, imagination, and experience, than the lower scorers on the USAMO. Time is no longer an issue (9 hrs for 6 problems), so it's all about finding a way to crack very difficult problems; the complete opposite of Mathcounts.

 

I can imagine a math circle is only as good as the teacher leading it and how they plan/organize the problems/lesson around the particular audience. They should have a good ability to judge the level of skillset of the kids in attendance and adapt as necessary. I have not participated in one, but would love to start one at some point in time. What particularly struck me was the wonderful problems in some of the math circle books that I have seen, as well as the many tips for how to elegantly present them and explain them in such a way as to promote thinking through exploration, rather than just focus on calculation (as many of the mathcounts and other lower level competitions problems too much focus on).

 

I'm currently reading a math circle book for middle-schoolers (linked below) and the quality of the problems absolutely blew me away, I would probably put it above even AoPS in terms of stimulating creative thinking. There is not too much math introduced, but lots of reasoning, logic, and argument and a good level of informal proofs (focused on explanations and good reasoning, rather than mathematical symbolism). The problems are of very high quality, and many have very creative, imaginative solutions that are explained thoroughly. The topics choice is simply wonderful and each topic has its own lesson along with a problem set to go with it so it's perfect for an adventurous parent to work through with their own kids, or with a small group of kids.

 

http://www.amazon.co...s/dp/B00DJY9MOE


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#41 Arcadia

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 09:27 PM

The next time I pass by Chuck E Cheese or shortcut through Dave & Busters, I'll have fun counting the number of girls and the number of guys playing on the arcade machines.

There are as many girls as guys playing Minecraft using the library computers after school :)

I grew up in the arcade malls and billard halls but I was a free range city kid. My guy friends gave me tokens because they buy in bags of $50 so they told me not to spend my money.

Where I am now, it is socially acceptable for girls to excel in all domains. The "tiger moms" pave the way for their daughters to compete in all arenas for better or for worse and I am saying that as an asian.

What I do think is an issue for math in K-5 in B&M schools is the ability to read. If a child in school is "behind" in reading, it impacts math because word problems start in Kindergarten. A neighbor has to read the math workbook to her K child so that the child can complete the two pages of weekly homework.

For example my oldest had something like below in K without picture.

"There was five birds on the tree. Three birds flew away. How many are left?"

Homeschoolers have the luxury of being able to read to their kids. Kids in schools aren't that lucky because they are not behind unless they still can't read at the end of 2nd grade.

ETA:
The girls play Tank Online and Grand Theft Auto too.

Edited by Arcadia, 13 February 2016 - 12:02 AM.


#42 dmmetler

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 10:23 PM

What I see here is that girls play Minecraft in creative mode, not competitive. You see a lot more girls playing Candy Crush than Halo, too.
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#43 Kathy in Richmond

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 12:24 AM

Well, I for one would sure like to see more girls on the IMO team, but it isn't happening soon. I have a paper around here somewhere that studied the kids in the US who made MOP (the US Olympiad training camp made up of the highest scorers on the USAMO). While boys would often come out of nowhere, most of the girls at that level came from the best math/sci high schools like TJHSST or Philips Exeter. The paper's conclusion was that girls tend to stick with competition math longer with the supportive peer groups that are built into those schools.

 

Boys have more cultural support naturally in our society. I think that's the key thing that separates boys from girls at that level more than a competitive spirit. My son went to MOP, and while he does very well under pressure, he has very little competitive desire to win, but rather just enjoys thinking deeply about hard problems. Lots of his friends there were similar types.

 

 


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#44 deanna1ynne

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 07:14 AM

I'm considering having DD try a MathCounts or AMC AOPS class. I think jumping in at Geometry might be a bit much. At 7-8, I don't think she was ready for the class, but she'd enjoy the social now. My biggest concern for her is that she has so many other things that take time, some of which are good social and mentoring opportunities as well, and I don't want math to take time away from science when science is where she "lives". Really,for us the ideal class would start in November and end at the end of February :).

On starting a local group, I've found that I get three types of kids

1) kids who are "good at math (really, usually good at memorizing facts) and have parents who don't know what to do to encourage it.

2) parents who are terrified of math and want someone to hold their hands, with kids who are lukewarm about it.

3) kids who love math and are excited about neat problems and activities. These kids, by and large, are those who are bored with arithmetic and are dying for something more. They often make silly mistakes, refuse to write work down, and basically turn in stuff that looks like chicken scratch-but also make some amazing leaps.

There is a real thrill when a good in math kid starts making those conceptual leaps, and even more of it when a lukewarm in math kid lights up (or when a scared parent stops being scared).

 

 

So I'm currently teaching a math class at my co-op and I'd say this is spot on. I'd say it's a cross between a math circle and an actual class (I only have half an hour each week! will definitely be getting a full hour next time around) and we're mainly just introducing them to graph theory. It's set for K-5th grade, but I have almost exclusively Kers (who couldn't find another class at that time, mostly, I suspect...). It's been fun because none of the parents know any graph theory of course, and we started very simply just by talking about map colorings and how many colors you need and they got to create their own maps. I'd say that, other than my own kid, every single other child in the class falls into the first category. They're "good at math" and the parents don't really know what to do with that. Since I've started teaching the class, I've actually had a whole slew of parents hunt me down just to talk about their "good at math" kiddo and how they're so bored with their math, and they're surprised when I ask if they've ever considered something other than Saxon... :p

 

So the article made me sad. First, that math Olympiad team was all boys. Second, as with everything else, you have to have resources to find, and then drive to a math circle or pay for an AOPS class. I find the latter not expensive at all, and of all the items in the article I think AOPS has the best chance to close that inequality gap ( evening classes, not expensive, can be indipendent of parent). If it is happening out of school, it is just increasing inequality of access. I guess I'm still glad it is happening, but I keep thinking of my friend with a child in a "gifted" program who goes to take a specialized high school test and is completely stumped on the math--it is simply not being taught in school.
What also makes me sad is these things focus entirely on "mathy" kids. As in, there is a set contingent of mathy kids and thank god there is resources for them out there now. This is an undisputable net good, for sure. But I don't think mathy kids are born that way, they are made. And I think we risk alienating a large portion of kids, like mine, who is not in love with math and would not do math for fun, has zero math support from his parents, and is chugging along AOPS on his own volition. By all account AOPS is not for him.

 

When I was in grad school, I taught this math class that was an exit math class for non-stem majors. The only real purpose was to get kids to look back somewhat fondly toward math and to help them see that maybe math was more than they'd previously accepted. So we covered basic graph theory, coding and cryptography, artsy stuff like tilings, and some basic probability/gambling/statistics. Maybe a few other things, but I can't remember now. I vividly remember one girl approaching me after class the first day one term and very kindly and calmly telling me she was going to fail my class and she just wanted me to know ahead of time so I didn't take it personally. She's just not good at math. Has a math learning block and disorder. She just can't do things with numbers and can't pass math classes. I was a little taken aback, but managed to fumble my way through the conversation. Halfway through the term, she had an A (except that she was taking it Pass/Fail instead of graded) and I talked with her about it again. We'd been doing stuff like finding most efficient routes to travel between places, talking about how you know if there are Eulerian circuits (including one direction of the formal proof) and time-processing / bin packing algorithms. She was GREAT at it - especially the graph theory parts of it. And yet, all she could say when I really encouraged her was that this wasn't "real math." I tried so hard to help her see that this was MORE REAL math than all that other stuff that she'd previously failed, but I don't think I ever convinced her. It was such a strange situation to be in -- so encouraging to see her succeed and so sad to see that it didn't matter any more.

 

One of the main reasons I'm teaching this elem class at co-op is not even to nurture the truly gifted kids so much as to show kids (before they've been inundated with drill and kill mentality...) that math is SO MUCH MORE than arithmetic. My husband has told me a few times (like yesterday when we deviated from graph theory to talk about mobius bands because I wanted to do this super cute craft http://www.whatdowed...ip-hearts.html)that I'm doing stuff that's over their heads. That I'm just going to confuse them. But I really feel like I'll have accomplished my goal if they come away from my class just saying "That was so cool!" I'm not sure I even care if they can repeat the main point (like I said, lots of K'ers with high energy!), but if they think it's awesome that this little band only has one side (even though it looks like it has two!) and one edge, and if they think it's cool that the inside is the same as the outside on the klein bottle, and if they understand that this is actually still MATH, then I'm gonna call the class a success. :)


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#45 dmmetler

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 08:24 AM

I think that this is the key-introducing kids to the idea that math isn't just numbers, and that even if they're not good at memorization, they can enjoy and be good at math. The parents are a harder sell than the kids.

FWIW, after 2 years of doing the math club, what I've noticed is that instead of Saxon, Abeka, and occasionally Math Mammoth, we have a lot more parents using Right Start, Beast Academy, and Life of Fred :).

#46 deanna1ynne

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 09:05 AM

Yeah, I'm trying to get 'em young. :D

 

As an aside, I have noticed there's a real misconception about what it is I actually do in class, because it looks like I'm just sitting and talking with the kids... The co-op is trying to set up a "sub plan" so that sick teachers don't just mean class is cancelled, and so I'm working on my part of that. My "sub plan" is going to be a few bedtime math stories with solutions. But trying to explain why that's my sub plan, instead of a lesson that actually relates to our main content (graph theory) has been tricky. I don't want to make it seem like the other parents are somehow not able to teach it, but so much of what happens in class is me being able to roll with the kids and make math connections on the fly based on whatever random ideas they have, and there's just no way I could make a "sub plan" for these kind of conversations. I've been asked by very well-intentioned folks why I don't just write down what I plan to say... It'd be a good practice for me to get into, they say... And maybe it would? Maybe it's just arrogant to think that I'm the only one there who can do it? But I feel like it just wouldn't work at this point - or at least that it'd kill a lot of good learning that takes place.


Edited by deanna1ynne, 13 February 2016 - 09:21 AM.


#47 dmmetler

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 11:27 AM

The way I played it as a music teacher was that my substitute plan needed to be accessible to anyone, regardless of their level of knowledge, and since most parents have not studied graph theory, they may or may not be comfortable doing a lesson on if-but can read a story and go from there. Substitute plans in PS are always less about continuing the prior days lesson and more about providing something of educational value that gets the kids and the substitute through the day, and that's even going to be more so in a co-op setting, where, if your co-op is like mine, a sub may be a parent who just happens to be there who gets pulled in 10 minutes before class starts!

Heck, our sub plan for the entire semester of DD's co-op is a set of Star Wars episode 4-6 DVD's (the co-op is the science and art of Star Wars-so it's not a big stretch..)

#48 Arcadia

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 12:34 PM

The problem that I see in the article and in real life is outreach though. Parents who are willing to get opportunities for their kids will try ways and means.

For example graph theory for kids. How many school kids have parent volunteers coming in and giving a talk/class on topics outside the syllabus. My local schools have for those dominated by parents in tech but no outreach for the rest of the schools in the same district.

Link is to a nice article of graph theory for kids
http://jdh.hamkins.o...ight-year-olds/

The music and art center my kids go to for theory has a wonderful outreach program for the local schools near them. The center is surrounded by three school districts, two well to do and one average districts. However there are poorer kids in all three districts and the outreach helps gives kids extra music and art exposure as well as awareness of and help applying for merit scholarships to the parents who think they can't afford lessons for their talented kids.

There are quite a few tech/math/science outreach for girls only. I don't know how successful they are.

I think we need more outreach for the k-5 though and my guess is kids who are VSL but not strong in computation are left out until geometry. For example the local K-2 classrooms has lots of manipulatives like abacus, rods, tangrams but they aren't used. It is computation heavy at the early grades.

The speed rounds for math contests doesn't help either. So many k-8 math contests require speed. How is a "slower" school kid going to make the school team if the child is already eliminated by the "screening test" at school.
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#49 madteaparty

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 09:29 PM

The problem that I see in the article and in real life is outreach though. Parents who are willing to get opportunities for their kids will try ways and means.

For example graph theory for kids. How many school kids have parent volunteers coming in and giving a talk/class on topics outside the syllabus. My local schools have for those dominated by parents in tech but no outreach for the rest of the schools in the same district.

Link is to a nice article of graph theory for kids
http://jdh.hamkins.o...ight-year-olds/

The music and art center my kids go to for theory has a wonderful outreach program for the local schools near them. The center is surrounded by three school districts, two well to do and one average districts. However there are poorer kids in all three districts and the outreach helps gives kids extra music and art exposure as well as awareness of and help applying for merit scholarships to the parents who think they can't afford lessons for their talented kids.

There are quite a few tech/math/science outreach for girls only. I don't know how successful they are.

I think we need more outreach for the k-5 though and my guess is kids who are VSL but not strong in computation are left out until geometry. For example the local K-2 classrooms has lots of manipulatives like abacus, rods, tangrams but they aren't used. It is computation heavy at the early grades.

The speed rounds for math contests doesn't help either. So many k-8 math contests require speed. How is a "slower" school kid going to make the school team if the child is already eliminated by the "screening test" at school.

Yep. And now I'm super depressed that my kid never learned graph theory since I just learned about this 3 minutes ago in this thread. I'm going to have to blame DH for this one...please no one else mention all the cool math happening everywhere but here :)
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#50 deanna1ynne

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Posted 14 February 2016 - 04:33 PM

Yep. And now I'm super depressed that my kid never learned graph theory since I just learned about this 3 minutes ago in this thread. I'm going to have to blame DH for this one...please no one else mention all the cool math happening everywhere but here :)

 

The thing is -- it's not about graph theory. It's about ALL of the cool math that is not generally taught to anyone before their 3rd or 4th year of undergrad. It's about the fact that discovering and proving new things in math requires creativity, and yet we run off all the creative minds in the early years by teaching them that math is nothing more than following rote procedures and memorizing mindlessly. It's about graph theory, number theory, modern algebra, set theory, coding theory, cryptology, topology, and every other cool kind of math that is understandable to youth but being denied them in the name of the standard curriculum where they learn nothing but solving equations and factoring polynomials via memorizing complicated procedures that don't mean anything to them and eventually finding rates of change in calculus (if they're actually "good at math") while never *understanding* all the different ways you can interpret a derivative. It's about kids being taught another set of rules to solve problems without understanding that math itself is about problem solving.

 

I'm biased. My degree is in math. I teach math camps. I've taught math teachers at the middle and high school levels. I see teachers who love their kids but are teaching them to robots because they just don't know any better.

 

And I am convinced that folks who go into math at this point do it DESPITE the way we teach mathematics to our youth, rather than BECAUSE of it.
 


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