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Posts Tagged ‘math and finance’


I’ve enjoyed reading the Math 152 Weblog associated with the Discrete Mathematics course of the same name at Harvard.  Many of the posts should be of interest to Metroplex Math Circle attendees, but two recent posts struck me as being very similar to topics from our Fall 2008 lectures.

Math 152 helps you get jobs…

In this post a student talks about an interview he had with a quantitative trading firm which asked him to do a discrete path problem which was very similar to those Richard Rusczyk shared with us in his Math and Finance lecture.

Reading Project:  Groups, Factoring and Cryptography

This post built upon ideas that were introduced to Math Circle participants by both Dr. Bennette Harris and Alicia Prieto Lagarica in their lectures on cryptography.  It was particularly interesting that this Harvard student was able to apply his understanding of discrete math to the practical applications of RSA encryption just as Dr. Harris taught.

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The first Math Circle of the 2008-2009 season succeeded on multiple levels. In its third year, Metroplex Math Circle finally exceeded the capacity of its current (large) lecture hall with over 100 students, teachers and parents in attendance. We were pleased to see many friends return, but even more new faces who were discovering Math Circles for the first time.

Comparative Advantage

Richard Rusczyk’s talks also exceeded all expectations. His first lecture was on the concept of comparative advantage and the benefits of free trade which many adults fail to grasp. Like many lessons in Math Circle, Mr. Rusczyk allowed the students to discover the meaning of the concept by playing out a game between two imagined countries. “Games” and the importance of “play” would be stressed throughout the day.

Option Pricing

The second segment introduced the audience to the principles of market prices and call options. With the current turmoil on Wall Street, parents were just as interested in this topic as the students. Mr. Rusczyk presented the students with a problem that he would use when he was recruiting for D.E. Shaw. Only the best students from elite schools ever made it to this stage in the interview process and apparently all but a handful (accomplished problem solvers) ever answered the problem correctly.

Life After MATHCOUNTS

In his final lecture, Richard Rusczyk sent students, parents and teachers home with a great deal to consider. He spoke very frankly and persuasively about the short comings of the standard school curriculum. But rather than just criticize, he also laid out concrete ways that students, parents and teachers can all improve the situation.

We won’t attempt to summarize this excellent talk particularly since an early version of the slides can be accessed below. However, a couple of themes should be highlight. First was his emphasis on play and the importance of giving students the time and freedom to work on challenging problems. A second theme was the importance of building a math community for young problem solvers, and the central role that a Math Circle can play. Finally, Mr. Rusczyk endorsed what many of us have already discovered, that Dr. Titu Andreescu’s books and leadership have been critical to the Renaissance in global problem solving.

Richard Rusczyk has committed himself to fulfilling the principles in his presentation by founding the Art of Problem Solving. Please take the time to see his presentation and the other excellent resources he has collected and developed.

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