Wednesday, January 21, 2015

1/20 Math Olympiad #3

So this week was our third MOEMS Math Olympiad. I brought cupcakes again since they struck such a deep chord with the kids the first time. In the interest of empowering the kids,  I also let them vote on whether to eat them first or after the contest. (I leave it to the reader to guess what they chose) Before we started I had them warm up on another 8x8 kenken puzzle like the ones I had introduced the previous week. These seem to work pretty well although I have to stop them in the middle in order to fit everything in. My hope is that starting things and letting them bring it home is whetting the appetite and beneficial. I need to figure out how the kids are adapting to this approach.

As usual, a lot of the kids finished the Olympiad early. I haven't graded them yet so it remains to be seen if my pleas to double check your answers will have eliminated careless mistakes.  By the end, we had just enough time to rush through a group discussion of the answers.  In retrospect this was probably a mistake, there was too much time pressure to comfortably answer everything and it worked against the collaborative atmosphere I want to foster.

On that note I've been watching a talk by Richard Rusczyk this week:

http://techtv.mit.edu/collections/mathprizeforgirls/videos/30866-math-prize-for-girls-presentation-by-richard-rusczyk

My take home from this is I want to work more on strengthening the peer group especially when I'm having kids explain how they solve problems.  My first thought is a quick talk about respecting and listening to others when they're in the front. I occasionally have an issue with one kid saying something like "But you could do X which is much easier."  That interaction is part of what I want but at the same time I don't want the presenter to get shut down which is a tricky line to walk.

The other two things I've observed. The take home AMC8 questions so far have not been that exciting even with the multiple choice element removed. There just isn't much room for the kids to problem solve together in the first 10. I'll wait to see if we get more meat out of the latter ones.

Secondly, behavior this week was much better. Chaos can breed chaos and hopefully I have a handle on things. Secondly, I'm thinking the sessions run better with more work occurring as opposed to lectures. So I still want to continue working on the concept of square roots but I think I'm going to try out making my own worksheet with some exercises along the way and see if that works better at keep everyone engaged.


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