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Educational Desert, Part II


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There was a great post last-year about living in an educational desert. I read though all of it, commiserated with the poster(s), and now am here for part 2 of my saga.


We went through setting up a robotics team in the last 2 years, and it was painful - people sign up, and back out for a multitude of reasons. Needless to say, it took a while but we have a small but dedicated handful of kids who are in love with the robotics competitions. The amount of work that went into this was mind boggling.


Now, DS (middle school) is asking for math competitions. I will be honest, I never did these growing up so had to do some researching. What I have come up with so far are the following:


a) math kangaroo 

b) math counts

c) AMC

d) Math circle


Is there another one you would suggest? I was thinking of approaching the local university math department since I noticed a state over the university is sponsoring a math kangaroo and math circle. The public schools never responded to my AMC requests. Help me out fellow experienced wise parents! :confused1:




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Wow- this could have been an exact post from me 6 months ago! My DS was born an engineer and is constantly pushing himself to learn new things (and dragging us there :huh: ). Most of his 'opportunities' have been made by us... he's always too young for programs that are at his level.


I ended up coaching TWO FLL robotics teams this year and the amount of work was crushing. Two FLL seasons ago, (DS was gr.4), lack of commitment on the part of the students & their parents wasn't so evident. However, the kids didn't have the building, programming, core values OR researching skills to even know where to start. It felt as if I was coaching them to learn any of these skills, and my son was doing all the FLL work. He wants to keep going though... I kept checking in with him that he was still having fun.


This year, I had already built up a team, so was hoping for less prep time. So many people were interested, and I found a tech parent to help this year so we did the 2 teams (senior and junior). It was a lot of work mentoring the other coach. It wasn't as helpful as I thought having an IT person helping me coach. I really learned how FLL is about problem solving, logistics and core values more than about building/coding. Had problems with 5 or 6 kids not showing up for meets, not doing their share of the work, but claiming they LOVED being in the league. Then 2 kids don't show up for the qualifier. My son's team still made it to the state (provincial) finals.


It was a tough ride getting there. I still can't believe how little this (self selective) group of kids knew about building technic/coding and yet they all had unlimited amounts of technic/computer time/private extracurricular options in their households. Worse still, with the exception of one other kid, none of them ever went home and looked up how to do something, or practised the skills at home. Despite receiving weekly links/resources.


Apparently I'm signed up to do the same thing all over again this fall....


I've also started to coach DS and a couple other kids in recreational math topics. We just did Kangaroo Math this year. We've spent many months doing math circle topics and recently we went through a couple of old contests and made sure they could hit the time limit. It was a good experience; they loved doing the math topics I chose and they thought it would be a hoot to do the contest.


Going online and finding sample contests/solutions was my first step. It made me think about the kinds of questions they might find, and what topics I wanted them to cover first, before trying to write a contest. Knowing we were doing it gave me a deadline too, so I had to jam this stuff in despite FLL.


I guess I should be finding more contests for them to do...



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CML is another math competition and is an easy first step for a group, especially if you have a range of ages/grades that don't fit into one level. I've used it for my Math club the last three years.


If you have enough middle schoolers, you can get the Math Club in a box from the MathCounts folks. It's a good resource.

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I don't have any helpful advice, but I just wanted to say that you are doing awesome work!  It is so hard to have to be the motor for everything, all the time, but it sounds like you've created some great opportunities for your kids and others.


Here in my little desert, my efforts to put together a science fair died in infancy, but we did have Math Kangaroo and we are currently doing a Shakespeare play (Twelfth Night).  I am struggling with some similar apathy in about half of the kids involved--I don't know what else I can do to motivate them to work on learning their lines at home.  I've had lots of people from the community starting to get interested, people wanting to support educational extracurricular opportunities for kids, asking if we are going to be continuing in future years.  Unfortunately, dh is losing his job, so we'll be moving away in a couple of months, and I don't expect that anyone will continue with these things after I'm gone.

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