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Archive for April, 2012


Do you grab an umbrella when the weatherman calls for an 80% chance of rain?  50%?  20%?  How do you make decisions about something as uncertain as the weather?

Life in general, and business specifically, can be just as uncertain as the weather.  Unfortunately, most companies and highly paid executives rely on a combination of deterministic tools, heuristic thinking and averages to make their decisions.  This “flaw of averages” leads many business leaders to oversimplify problems and to be far more confident in their decisions than they have any right to be.

For our last session of the 2011-2012 season, David Cordeiro will give an introduction to Monte Carlo simulation and its application to a wide variety of important business decisions.  Mr. Cordeiro will share his first hand experience witnessing how deterministic decision making led to falling stock prices, work force reductions and ruined careers.  It is never too late or too early to learn the art of stochastic forecasting and how to use these powerful techniques to make better decisions and avoid the Flaw of Averages.

Once requiring the power of a mainframe computer, Monte Carlo simulation software now runs on a standard laptop and can take advantage of the logic of standard Excel spreadsheets.  This software should be in the toolkit of anyone trying to make decisions about future outcomes (i.e. everyone).  

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Does our approach to teaching math fail even the smartest kids?” is the title of a great article published on the Great Schools website which liberally quotes our good friend Richard Rusczyk.  Following are a few key points made, but please go and read the whole article for yourself (and pass it along to other families who don’t yet enjoy the benefits of a math circle).

Rusczyk recalls, formerly accomplished students were faced with a new idea: that math required more than rote learning — it required creativity, grit, and strenuous mental gymnastics. “They had been taught that math was a set of destinations and they were taught to follow a set of rules to get to those places,” he recalls. “They were never taught how to read a map, or even that there is a map.”

When Rusczyk looked around him, he noticed a pattern. His classmates who had experienced this kind of difficult problem solving — usually in after-school math clubs — could survive the transition to college math. The ones who had only been exposed to traditional math curriculum, the ones who, as Rusczyk puts it, have experienced the “tyranny of 100%” — gave up too easily because they thought if they weren’t getting top scores, they weren’t meant to do math. “Suddenly, a solid B was a 40%, the top grade [was] an 82%, the next 68%, and no one is getting a 100%,” he recalls. “But they didn’t know this.” Rusczyk realized that these kids had been dealt a bad hand: “They were taught [math] is a set of facts, not a process.”

Rusczyk cautions that kids who love math and science often end up filling up their time with AP classes that aren’t central to their aspirations but more focused on GPA calculations (like AP Art History), and shortchange themselves when it comes to exploring math and science learning outside the classroom.

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Congratulations to all of the Texas students who qualified to sit for the 2012 USAMO or the USAJMO.

USAMO Qualifiers:

  • S. Chen, Westwood HS, Austin
  • D. Fan, Dulles HS, Sugar Land
  • B. Ferguson, Ferguson Homeschool, Dallas
  • G. Ge, Texas Academy of Math & Science, Denton
  • P. Guo, Westwood HS, Austin
  • N. Gupta, Texas Academy of Math & Science, Denton
  • K. Li, A&M Consolidated HS, College Station
  • M. Ma, Rice MS, Plano
  • A. Sadun, Liberal Arts & Science Academy HS, Austin
  • B. Shen, Dulles HS, Sugar Land, TX
  • K. Tian, Westwood HS, Austin
  • A. Whatley, North Houston Academy of Science & Mathematics, Spring
  • L. Wu, Stephen F. Austin HS, Sugar Land
  • S. Xu, Dawson HS, Pearland
  • A. Zhao, Texas Academy of Math & Science, Denton
  • D. Zhou, Harmony School of Advancement, Houston

USAJMO Qualifiers

  • N. Balachandar, Shepton HS, Plano
  • R. Guo, St Mark’s School of Texas, Dallas
  • M. Hwang, Dulles HS, Sugar Land
  • L. Ilic, Westlake HS, Austin
  • A. Jain, William P Clements HS, Sugar Land
  • S. Jiang, William P Clements HS, Sugar Land
  • P. Konduri, Harmony School of Advancement, Houston
  • W. Li, William P. Clements HS, Sugar Land
  • X. Lin, St. Stephens Episcopal School, Austin
  • E. Nguyen, Robert L. Paschal HS, Fort Worth
  • V. Vale, Gnanam Academy, Richardson
  • G. Venkat, Fort Settlement MS, Sugar Land
  • D. Whatley, North Houston Academy of Science & Mathematics
  • A. Yang, William P. Clements HS, Sugar Land
  • V. Zhou, St. Mark’s School of Texas, Dallas

Please use the comments below to congratulate these students many of whom attend the Metroplex Math Circle.

 

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This Saturday we welcome our good friend Dr. Dimitar Grantcharov, director of the Mid-Cities Math Circle at UT Arlington.  Dr. Grantcharov will share a number of problems involving inequalities.   You will not want to miss it!

(MC)² Director

Dimitar Grantcharov, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Area of research: Algebra and Geometry

  • Session Leader, San Jose Math Circle, 2004-2008.
  • Guest Lecturer, COSMOS Program at UC Irvine, 1998-2003.
  • Bronze Medal, XXX International Mathematical Olympiad, 1989.
  • First place, VI Balkan Mathematical Olympiad, 1989.
  • First place, Bulgarian National Mathematical Olympiad, 1989.

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