Posts Tagged ‘math circles’

220px-Straight_Square_Inscribed_in_a_Circle_240pxLearn all about the classic theory of geometric objects with only straight edge and compass. What can you construct, and what is impossible? Which regular polygons can you construct? What if you have help by being given a fixed parabola? Come with your pencils and be ready to draw (compasses provided, or bring your own)!

To perform well on geometry problems on math competitions it is necessary to have a deep understanding.  This understanding can be achieved by retracing the footprints of the very first mathematicians whose only tools were a straight edge and compass.

Dr. Kane is one of our most popular lecturers and is recently retired from his position as a professor at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater.  Along with Dr. Andreescu he is the co-founder and coordinator of the Purple Comet! Math Meet.  Dr. Kane is also the co-chair of the AIME committee and a faculty member at the AwesomeMath summer camp.

Along with his wife, Jane E. Mertz, Jonathan Kane is the author of several important research papers on the role of culture and gender in mathematical achievement including “Debunking Myths about Gender and Mathematics Performance.”

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probability1.s600x600MIT student and four time International Mathematical Olympiad participant, Ivan Borsenco, will return to the Metroplex Math Circle this week!

Ivan will introduce the classical probability theory. There will be many interesting examples and several unexpected results. Students will solve a few mathematical paradoxes, find out how to build simple probabilistic models, and have lots of fun.

A deep understanding of probability is not only useful for contest preparation, but is critical for anyone planning a career in science or business.

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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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With the AMC 10 and 12 contests behind us, some students will be preparing for the AIME while many will be working hard to improve their scores next year.  Both groups will not want to miss Dr. Titu Andreescu this weekend as he presents more of his favorite problems and solutions.

Titu Andreescu received his Ph.D. from the West University of Timisoara, Romania. The topic of his dissertation was “Research on Diophantine Analysis and Applications.” Professor Andreescu currently teaches at The University of Texas at Dallas. He is past chairman of the USA Mathematical Olympiad, served as director of the MAA American Mathematics Competitions (1998–2003), coach of the USA International Mathematical Olympiad Team (IMO) for 10 years (1993–2002), director of the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (1995–2002), and leader of the USA IMO Team (1995–2002). In 2002 Titu was elected member of the IMO Advisory Board, the governing body of the world’s most prestigious mathematics competition. Titu co-founded in 2006 and continues as director of the AwesomeMath Summer Program (AMSP). He received the Edyth May Sliffe Award for Distinguished High School Mathematics Teaching from the MAA in 1994 and a “Certificate of Appreciation” from the president of the MAA in 1995 for his outstanding service as coach of the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program in preparing the US team for its perfect performance in Hong Kong at the 1994 IMO. Titu’s contributions to numerous textbooks and problem books are recognized worldwide.

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This coming Saturday we will have two lectures in one.  Students who are not yet proficient in LaTeX will learn this critical skill while parents and other students are encouraged to come hear about the resources that will help build on their love of problem solving while opening up new academic and professional opportunities.

LaTeX is the typesetting markup language used by mathematicians and scientists to format mathematical and scientific expressions. Learning LaTeX is easy and fun for even elementary school students and it allows older students to write up science fair presentations and mathematical proofs like the pros.

While the students work on problems to develop their LaTeX skills, parents and students who have already mastered LaTeX are encouraged to attend to learn about resources that build upon what is being taught in Metroplex Math Circle. Competitions, online resources and advice on preparing for college admissions will all be discussed.

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Evan O’Dorney, an active participant in the Berkeley Math Circle was the $100,000 winner of this year’s Intel Science Talent Search.  He joins last years’ winner, Amy Chyao, in continuing the connection between math circles and this prestigious contest.

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 15, 2011 – Honoring high school seniors with exceptional promise in math and science, Intel Corporation and Society for Science & the Public (SSP) today announced the winners of America’s most elite and demanding high school research competition, the Intel Science Talent Search.

Evan O’Dorney, 17, of Danville, Calif., won the top award of $100,000 from the Intel Foundation for his mathematical project in which he compared two ways to estimate the square root of an integer. Evan discovered precisely when the faster way would work. As a byproduct of Evan’s research he solved other equations useful for encrypting data. This furthered an interest he developed as early as age 2, when he was checking math textbooks out of the library.

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The Mathematical Association of America awarded Dr. Zvezdelina Stankova the Haimo Award for distinguished college teaching of math.  Dr. Stankova spoke to the Metroplex Math Circle last month and she is the founder and director of the excellent, Berkeley Math Circle.

Please take the time to read the article and watch the video above which speak to the positive impact realized by Zvezdelina and math circles in her native Bulgaria and in the US.

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mathgifted-brainscanThe Eide Neurolearning Blog is an interesting resource for keeping up with the current advances in neuroscience and brain imaging.  In a recent post they discuss the uniqueness of mathematically gifted minds.

It will not surprise math circle participants to hear that such brains approach math problems quite differently.  Traditional school programs may offer such students little support and it is the community of interest provided by a math circle or the time to play with hard problems that these students crave.

By temperament, strong math minds will tend to be introverted and have high focus and task persistence for activities of intrinsic interest. This may mean they are difficult to direct in the traditional or even non-traditional classroom (prefer studying lines of own interest), and they may be benefited particularly by mentors (often relatives or math teachers at higher levels of education) willing to discuss topics, ideas, and problems far in advance of their years.

The Eides also recommend the PBS video Fermat’s Last Theorem for aspiring mathematicians.

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This last semester marked some significant milestones in the first 3 years of the Metroplex Math Circle hosted by the University of Texas at Dallas.


Attendance for all Math Circle sessions was particularly high with at least 50 students, parents and teachers participating in each session.  This compares very favorably with many other math circles around the country.

Two of our sessions were particularly well attended.  The first session of the semester with Richard Rusczyk filled our regular room to capacity with over 104 attendees.  The special MMC event with Dr. Arthur Benjamin set a record with over 340 attendees from the local community.

Lecture Content and Speakers

As with all successful MMC semesters, Fall 2008 offered a great variety of pure and applied mathematics as well as new and returning speakers.

Topics this semester included:  combinatorics, cryptographymath and finance, number theory, and Dr. Andreescu’s expert coaching for AMC 8, AMC 10 and AMC 12 preparation.

We were very glad to have returning speakers like Alicia Prieto Langarica, Dr. Paul Stanford, and of course Dr. Titu Andreescu.  We were also fortunate to have new speakers travel from around the country to share their knowledge with us including Chengde Feng, Richard Rusczyk, Dr. Bennette Harris, Simion Filip and Dr. Tanya Khovanova.

News and Events

An important paper, Cross-Cultural Analysis of Students with Exceptional Talent in Mathematical Problem Solving was published by Dr. Andreescu and his colleagues.  This paper set off a global debate in popular media including The New York TimesReuters India,  and Newsweek about the role of American culture in discouraging math achievement particularly among young women.

Metroplex Math Circle was also very happy to see a local math contest return to the Dallas area sponsored by the Malayalee Engineers Association of North Texas (MEANT).  Their event was very well attended by math circle participants who distinguished themselves in the contest.

Online Presence

Metroplex Math Circle has been very successful in supporting its local community in alignment with the goals and aspirations of the University of Texas at Dallas.   But we have also attempted to serve the global community and to promote the reputation of UTD through electronic media.

Since its launch in August, the new Metroplex Math Circle website has had over 8,600 unique page views.

The Yahoo Group currently has 97 members and is used to distribute information on upcoming events and to support discussions by students, parents and faculty members.

Metroplex Math Circle is also interconnecting to the global problem solving community through The Art of Problem Solving and the MSRI Math Circle Directory.

In 2009 we will continue to experiment with new media including an outpost on Facebook.

This semester was only successful due to the following contributions:

  • Generous sponsorship from the University of Texas at Dallas
  • Speakers willing to invest significant time to prepare lectures and travel great distances to share their love of problem solving
  • Parents sufficiently committed to the education of their students that they are willing to sacrifice a significant fraction of their weekends
  • Students who are willing to be attentive throughout the lectures and who are inspired to work on problems and ideas raised by math circle
  • And of course none of this would exist were it not for the original inspiration and continuing direction of Dr. Titu Andreescu

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This was an interesting article earlier in the month about the strong interest that elite universities are taking in recruiting the best students from China. William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s admissions dean, has the following to say in the article:

Even fifth-graders in Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline, who as adults will face international competition for jobs, should begin beefing up their academic résumés if they want a shot at an Ivy League education, Fitzsimmons said.

“We’re trying to send a message to young people, as young as primary school, to make the most of their studies,” he said, “because they’ll be competing with students around the world later on.”

It won’t surprise Math Circle participants but the qualities that are attracting elite universities to China are mathematics and problem solving abilities.

The first Shing-Tung Yau High School Mathematics Awards, named for the Harvard math professor who organized it, drew more than 900 students from all corners of the country. The 40 finalists who assembled for three days in Beijing had spent the past six months preparing to shine – not only for the judges, which included three Harvard professors, but also for the admissions deans they would meet.

“This is a historic event,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’re trying to get out the word that Harvard is world class in math, science, and engineering, not just in the humanities.”

…Professor Yau, chairman of Harvard’s math department who conceived of last month’s competition, has returned to his homeland to not only spur the improvement of math education in China through the contest, which rewards students for creativity and collaboration, but also to help funnel a generation of Chinese high school students into America’s premiere colleges.

This competition will enhance the experience for everyone attending US universities, but it also requires that students prepare themselves to compete against this new international standard.  Programs like the AMC contests and Math Circles are intended to do just that.  The article ends with this comment about a boy who had been profiled.  I think Math Circle participants will find it very familiar even if the report finds it remarkable:

The next morning, a Saturday, Tiger showed up at his school’s weekly math club and spent three hours learning about number theory – “just for fun,” he said.

To read the full article please click on the logo below:


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