Monday, January 12, 2015

We're Too Cool to Function!

You know that your students are enjoying doing challenging math problems when:

A) They show up 45 minutes before the school day starts.
B) They cheer and give each other "High Fives" when getting a question right.
C) They draw all over your board after the contest is over to discuss how to solve a problem.
D) They design a math t-shirt that says "We're too cool to f(x)."
E) All of the above.

The correct answer is E.  All of these things happened when my students participated in MAA's Math Madness competition.  There are several things that make this competition great.

Math Shirt Designed by Moravian Academy's Math Madness Team

First, students compete as a team against another school.  The team score is made of the top scores, like in a cross-country meet.  The top scoring students varied from week to week and sometimes even included freshmen.

Second, students compete against themselves.  They see their previous personal best on their computer screen and try to get a new personal best.  The problems are varied - some of the problems are multiple choice and some are short answer.  Some involve traditional topics in algebra or geometry.  Others involve graph theory or probability.  But no matter what there is always something every student can answer and they get immediate feedback about their answer being right or wrong.  Here is a sample problem.  Can you figure out the correct answer?

Third, after the bracket round of competition was over, we could still arrange for competitions against other schools and my students wanted to continue to compete!  The 7:20 AM meeting time was not a deterrent!

Finally, the cost was reasonable at $12.50 per student for the entire fall season.

What is the next step for my team?  I have found a set of videos at MAA's Curriculum Inspirations website to help my students develop some new strategies to attack challenging problems.  We are also going to watch the Who Wants to Be a Mathematician Competition from January 12, 2015.  

MAA's Curriculum Inspirations