Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reflecting about a math competition

I just got back from working on the math portion of an academic olympics for one of the Chicago Public Schools areas. First time ever. Some thoughts:
  • I think math competitions may best be done not as a first response, Jeopardy-style competition, but to give a paper and pencil test with a tough time limit (e.g., 20 questions in 20 minutes). Students would still need to know their math, and be quick about it, but not be penalized if the luck of the draw puts them with some super competitors. At least for the first round...
  • Or maybe do a paper-pencil for Round 1, and then go to the first response mode for a second and third round.
  • And/or have a class of questions that are 10-second questions, and some that are 5-second questions.
  • In the case of a Jeopardy-style competition, run all of the questions by some teachers first to see if they can answer them in the allotted time (in this case, five seconds). I came up with a number of questions that were not mathematically difficult, but were complex enough that it was hard for anyone to figure out in five seconds. And so time ran out before anyone attempted a response.
  • Double-check the slides, projected, to make sure all of the labels and text are nice and big.
  • And if you switch from Windows to a Mac, or from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice, look at all of the slides beforehand to catch any problems with incompatibilities between their respective formula editors and fonts/symbols! (By the way, there's a beta version of an OpenOffice extension that provides a very nice two-screen presentation, (the "Sun Presenter Console") where the audience sees the presentation slide projected, and the presenter has a nice view of the slide, notes, time, and upcoming slide.)
For what it's worth, the finalists at both levels (intermediate and upper grades) did a remarkable job.


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