Posts Tagged ‘Richard Rusczyk’

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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Richard Rusczyk has created a number of excellent videos for MATHCOUNTS.  These would be excellent primers for our younger problem solvers.

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Almost two years ago many of us were fortunate enough to hear Richard Rusczyk, the founder of The Art of Problem Solving speak here at our Math Circle.  Now for those who may have missed that memorable talk or for those who would like to share it with others, there is a video of  a very similar talk given by Richard at the prestigious Math Prize for Girls.

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Richard Rusczyk’s long awaited Precalculus Book is now available!  Here is the description:

Precalculus is part of the acclaimed Art of Problem Solving curriculum designed to challenge high-performing middle and high school students. Precalculus covers trigonometry, complex numbers, vectors, and matrices. It includes nearly 1000 problems, ranging from routine exercises to extremely challenging problems drawn from major mathematics competitions such as the American Invitational Mathematics Exam and the USA Mathematical Olympiad. Almost half of the problems have full, detailed solutions in the text, and the rest have full solutions in the accompanying Solutions Manual.

As with all of the books in Art of Problem Solving’s Introduction and Intermediate series, Precalculus is structured to inspire the reader to explore and develop new ideas. Each section starts with problems, so the student has a chance to solve them without help before proceeding. The text then includes solutions to these problems, through which new techniques are taught. Important facts and powerful problem solving approaches are highlighted throughout the text.

About the authors: Richard Rusczyk is the founder of http://www.artofproblemsolving.com. He is co-author of the Art of Problem Solving, Volumes 1 and 2 and Intermediate Algebra, and author of Introduction to Algebra and Introduction to Geometry. He was a national MATHCOUNTS participant, a three-time participant in the Math Olympiad Summer Program, a perfect scorer on the AIME, and a USA Math Olympiad Winner. The solutions are co-authored by Naoki Sato. He is a curriculum developer and the director of WOOT at Art of Problem Solving. He won first place in the 1993 Canadian Mathematical Olympiad and is a 2-time medalist at the International Mathematical Olympiad. He has been Deputy Leader of the Canadian IMO team three times.

ISBN: 978-1-934124-16-1
Text: 528 pages. Solutions: 272 pages.
Paperback. 10 7/8 x 8 3/8 x 1 1/16 inches.

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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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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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Following are some pictures of the first MMC meeting of the 2008-2009 season.

As you can see we have an excellent facility thanks to the generosity of UT Dallas. What is harder to see is that we filled every seat in a room with capacity >100.

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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.


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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The day has finally arrived, the first lecture of the MMC 2008-2009 season!  We are very pleased to have Richard Rusczyk join us from San Diego.  Richard is the author of many books used by accomplished problem solvers for individual study or as the backbone of a classroom course.  One example is his new book Introduction to Algebra.

Introduction to Algebra

Learn the basics of algebra from former USA Mathematical Olympiad winner and Art of Problem Solving founder Richard Rusczyk. Topics covered in the book include linear equations, ratios, quadratic equations, special factorizations, complex numbers, graphing linear and quadratic equations, linear and quadratic inequalities, functions, polynomials, exponents and logarithms, absolute value, sequences and series, and much more!

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One of the many things taught and practiced at a Math Circle is the invaluable skill of communicating a solution to another person.  This is a skill that many students find translates to fields beyond math as well.

Richard Rusczyk, our September 20th 2008 speaker, has written an excellent guide to solution writing based on his extensive experience.  Here is the introduction:

You’ve figured out the solution to the problem – fantastic! But you’re not finished. Whether you are writing solutions for a competition, a journal, a message board, or just to show off for your friends, you must master the art of communicating your solution clearly. Brilliant ideas and innovative solutions to problems are pretty worthless if you can’t communicate them. In this article, we explore many aspects of how to write a clear solution. Below is an index; each page of the article includes a sample ‘How Not To’ solution and ‘How To’ solution. One common theme you’ll find throughout each point is that every time you make an experienced reader have to think to follow your solution, you lose.

To access the guide please click on How to Write a Solution.

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