Archive for October, 2009

edutopiaRichard Rusczyk linked to a great article based on some recent research suggesting that students benefit from struggling with Hard Problems.

“We’ve found there is a healthy amount of frustration that’s productive; there is a satisfaction after having struggled with it,” says Roberta Schorr, associate professor in Rutgers University at Newark’s Urban Education Department. Her group has also found that, though conventional wisdom says certain abilities are innate, a lot of kids’ talents and capabilities go unnoticed unless they are effectively challenged; the key is to do it in a nurturing environment.

“Most of the literature describes student engagement and motivation as having to do with their attitudes about math — whether they like it or not,” Schorr says. “That’s different from the engagement we’ve found. When students are working on conceptually complex problems in a supportive environment, they do better. They report feeling frustrated, but also satisfaction, pride and a willingness to work harder next time.”

“Motivation is a key aspect of achievement that we often ignore in math; it’s the missing link,” Schorr says. “We need to provide kids with conceptually challenging math problems in an emotionally safe environment, and the teacher plays a critical role in that. Kids can view frustration as an opportunity for success instead of an indication of failure, but that won’t happen without teachers letting the students experience productive struggles.”


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This Saturday Dr. Dorin Andrica will continue exploring the Triangle Inequality.  For students who may have missed last week’s session he will begin with a brief review.

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A good friend of the Metroplex Math Circle, Dr. Arthur Benjamin, is a popular speaker at the world famous TED conference.  Recently, he offered his own idea for fundamentally changing math education in our country.  Like Richard Rusczyk, he sees the singular focus on Calculus as insufficient and distracting from a full math education.

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290px-Triangle_inequality.svgThis Saturday we are very pleased to have as our returning speaker, Dr. Dorin Andrica.   He will share with us many applications of the Triangle Inequality which students will find useful on upcoming math contests.

Dorin Andrica received his Ph.D. in 1992 from “Babes-Bolyai” University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania; his thesis treated critical points and applications to the geometry of differentiable submanifolds. Professor Andrica has been chairman of the Department of Geometry at “Babes-Bolyai” since 1995. He has written and contributed to numerous mathematics textbooks, problem books, articles and scientific papers at various levels. He is an invited lecturer at university conferences around the world: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Turkey, and the USA. Dorin is a member of the Romanian Committee for the Mathematics Olympiad and is a member on the editorial boards of several international journals. Also, he is well known for his conjecture about consecutive primes called “Andrica’s Conjecture.” He has been a regular faculty member at the Canada–USA Mathcamps between 2001–2005 and at the AwesomeMath Summer Program (AMSP) since 2006. Related articles on this site.

Please note that this meeting will be held in ECSS 2.311.

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The morning of the 24th the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at the University of North Texas is hosting a tournament that includes math and science contests.   Registration is open through tomorrow for various levels of math and science tests.

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180px-Four_Colour_Map_Example.svgDon’t let the title mislead you, coloring isn’t kid’s stuff.  Coloring of graphs is a rich mathematical area of research which young mathematicians will encounter frequently.

Mr. Maier is going to talk about coloring arguments and some of their applications to combinatorial problems, especially problems from the theory of plane tilings, but also from knot theory, probability, and some popular puzzles.  Is it possible to cover an eight-by-eight inch chessboard with two-by-one inch dominos? Is it possible to cover the remainder with dominos? If so, how, and if not, why not?

If you’d like to learn more about coloring the following links may be useful:

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This Saturday we are very pleased to have Dr. Frank Wang speak to us on Beauty and Mathematics.

Beauty and Mathematics — Mathematicians’ Search for Order and Pattern.  Dr. Wang will perform demonstrations to illustrate what he believes to be a higher purpose of mathematicians — to find order and pattern in virtually any situation, no matter how dis-ordered and random it may seem.  This talk is suitable for anyone who has a knowledge of basic algebra.

Dr. Wang has had a fascinating life including significant accomplishments in academia and business:

Dr. Wang received his bachelors degree in math at Princeton frankwang1University (studying under Prof. Bernard Dwork) in 1986 and his PhD in pure math from MIT in 1991 (under the direction of Prof. Harold Stark).  His thesis was in the area of algebraic number theory.  At the age of 23 in 1988, he co-authored and had published a widely used high school calculus textbook.  After receiving his PhD, Dr. Wang went on to run a textbook publishing company (Saxon Publishers), growing it from about 20 employees to major textbook publishing company with nearly 250 employees and $ 100 million in annual sales.  In 2003, he stepped down as Chairman of the company, took a 90 % + paycut and became a public school teacher, teaching at the OK School of Science and Math and the University of Oklahoma.  Recently, he has moved to the Dallas area to be close to DFW airport.  (He has earned more than 1.5 million frequent miles on American Airlines.)  His passion is for making the concepts of math understandable and interesting to students of all ages and abilities.

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amc8e02November 17th is the official date for the upcoming AMC 8.  This test is administered through many middle schools, but if yours does not, it is important to talk to your math teacher or principal now!

The AMC 8 gives invaluable practice for students who will later want to take the AMC 10 and 12.  The results of these high school level exams, administered in the Spring, are often required by the math and science departments of elite universities.

Here is some additional information from the AMC site:

amc8mathclubThe AMC 8 is a 25 question, 40 minute multiple choice examination in middle school mathematics designed to promote the development and enhancement of problem solving skills. This school year it will be held Tuesday , November 17 , 2009 . Click here for a current brochure.

The examination provides an opportunity to apply the concepts taught at the junior high level to problems which not only range from easy to difficult but also cover a wide range of applications. Many problems are designed to challenge students and to offer problem solving experiences beyond those provided in most junior high school mathematics classes. Calculators are not allowed starting in 2008. High scoring students are invited to participate in the AMC 10.

A special purpose of the AMC 8 is to demonstrate the broad range of topics available for the junior high school mathematics curriculum. This is done by competencies. The AMC 8 has the potential to increase the perceptions of the importance of problem solving activities in the mathematics curriculum by stimulating these activities both preceding and following the examination —specifically by studying the solutions manual.

Additional purposes of the AMC 8 are to promote excitement, enthusiasm and positive attitudes towards mathematics and to stimulate interest in continuing the study of mathematics beyond the minimum required for high school graduation. Developmentally, junior high school students are at a point where attitudes toward school and learning, and perceptions of themselves as learners of mathematics are solidified. It is important that they be provided opportunities that foster the development of positive attitudes towards mathematics and positive perceptions of themselves as learners of mathematics. The AMC 8 provides one such opportunity.

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On October 3rd Dr. Andreescu will continue his talk from September 19th with more problems and strategies that will prove very useful to students preparing for upcoming AMC competitions.

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