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SUE's LITTLE BIG LIST:

Silly little things that seem to make a BIG difference in Math Olympiads
by Sue Norton-Scott

  1. Do not connect Math Olympiad to grades. It’s a learning opportunity.
  2. If you are restrained by your school district’s budget, you might consider approaching a parent organization, professional engineering group, or local corporation about sponsoring a team. The $90 to sponsor a team of 30 students is a great deal. A team can be formed from ANY grouping of your students - just follow MO divisions E and M guidelines. Keep sponsors informed of your progress.
  3. Expect students to use an organization system to keep all their MO materials together. Some teachers provide a pocket folder. If the system involves a binder, always 3-hole punch MO papers for them. Punch the problem side of contests, not the answer side.
  4. Expect students to share their MO contests with parents at conference/evaluation time. Whenever possible, show contest problems to parents and principals.
  5. Introduce students to Math Olympiad by giving them a practice contest on day ONE, using fullblown test conditions (scratch paper, timed, privacy screens). Except: walk around the class, whisper: “Good job! You got one right!” (But don’t tell them which one!) It drives them bananas. Gets their attention. Discourages both over-confidence and doodling on their scratch paper during all of their “extra time”. During a real contest, of course, you will be silently proctoring and not communicating with students.
  6. Devote at least 1 hour a week for MO practice. Doing even 2-3 past contest problems individually and as a group really helps develop the strong thinking habits.
  7. Consult the “Hints” on the PICO tab at the www.moems.org to vary practice strategies. (PICO stands for Person In Charge of Olympiad). I especially recommend the “Group activity to coach by (and kids love it!)“ that can be found there. It’s a relay race that’s well worth the teacher preparation time.
  8. Week before contest: Log into the MO website from the PICO home page. Run off master copy of the contest problems, student answer page, and the answer key from website. Add a line on the answer sheet for students to write their names. (That way, they don’t need to write their name in every answer square). Copy the problem and answer pages back-to-back. If needed, 3-hole punch problem side of the paper. Put contests in a manila envelope. Seal. Make a big deal of opening the envelope on contest day. Distribute contests answer side up. “Don’t turn your page over until the timer starts.”
  9. Have students use “privacy screens” (e.g. notebooks standing up) to discourage wandering eyes
  10. Invest in a class set of mechanical pencils that are used only during the contests. Distribute “power pencils” to encourage “power thinking”. It’s a potent psychological boost.
  11. Provide plenty of scratch paper. Staple scratch paper to the contest so that later on, they can analyze their own thought processes.
  12. Write ending time on the board. In addition, use a timer and announce “5 more minutes”. Writing an educated guess in the answer square is better than leaving it blank.
  13. Time’s up: students form a line to turn in power pencils. You staple their scratch paper to their contest papers.
  14. Record results on a class list. Specify which questions the student got correct (e.g. Sam Smith A, B, E). Use the class list to input scores online from your PICO home page. Always print out the online results for your files.
  15. Have absent students take the Olympiad ASAP, preferably before others go over answers. Do not report their scores, however.
  16. Give “pep talk” before handing back student contests. “The best way to improve is to practice.” “There is a reason why they call this the Math Olympiad .” “This is a learning opportunity.” Encourage many different ways to solve the problem.
  17. Follow “Reviewing the Contest: Dynamic Group Presentations” procedure to go over contest.
  18. Share contest statistics with class. The statistics link is located on a tab at the top of the PICO home page. You might want to edit what you share: E or M divisions, not both. Also, you might want to omit the gender data. I recommend presenting both the data for each problem (e.g. 45% of fifth graders got problem C correct) and for the entire Olympiad (e.g. 35% of all sixth graders got 2/5 problems correct).
  19. Encourage students to interpret the statistics in a personal way: “I must not be so bad - only 23% of fifth graders got that one right!” or “Wow! Only 34% of sixth graders got 3 or more problems correct and I’m one of them! Cool!”
  20. Ask students to keep their own scores totaled throughout the competition, as well as from year to year.
  21. In May, you will receive the awards package that includes certificates for participants, a trophy for the top scorer, plus pins and patches earned by individuals. Team certificates and plaques are also included. Who gets what is clearly provided in the team summary roster. For example, students scoring 8-12 problems correct get a certificate and a patch. Those scoring 8-16 problems get a certificate, a patch and silver pin. A certificate, patch, and gold pin go to students earning 17-24 points. Personalize the trophy by using a label maker. The cut-off ranges are determined by percentages of all students taking the Math Olympiad, so the ranges will differ from year to year.
  22. Be sure that students understand the award system. Use the publicity packet provided to spread the good news.
  23. If possible, give out awards at a school ceremony. Read a sample problem aloud so the audience appreciates the level of difficulty


Just a Little More Competition to Stimulate Review
by Nora Guseman Fifth Grade Teacher Solana Pacific

Thank you for your stellar program. This is my third year coaching a 5th grade team through my leveled math class and I feel like I am finally in the swing of things. I just wanted to share a strategy I am using, just as I have benefitted from those that other PICO's have shared via your site (specifically the celebratory Treasure Hunt!)

This year, I noticed that my students, though extremely talented in mathematics, were not very enthused about going over our Math Olympiad problems. While I normally emphasize cooperation, I felt these students would thrive with a little more competition. So I'm balancing the two with a team game. We use this method in an ongoing way, whether we are practicing or reviewing the solutions after a contest. Best of all, it seems to be working!

Set up: Administer the contest according to directions. Students select and name teams of 3-4 players. Teacher records the team name and members on an index card. Within their team, they must each have a number (1-4) and an appointed score-keeper.

To Play:

  1. Teacher re-reads the problem aloud (they have just done the contest) and the teams can confer about the strategies they used and answers they found.
  2. After a few minutes, roll a die to determine which team member stands up as representative for their team. Then pull a random team card for which team will present the problem. (If I roll 5 or 6 whoever stands up first gets to represent their team.)
  3. Once the presenter is selected, s/he comes to the board and can potentially earn the following 5 points.
      1. State the problem
      2. Problem Solving Strategy
      3. Show process
      4. Explain the solution
      5. State the answer in a complete sentence (This alone has increased their ability to clearly explain.)
  4. After the presentation, more points can be earned by anyone who raises his or her hand to elaborate on a topic, explain an alternate strategy, notice a pattern, use mathematical vocabulary, etc.
  5. During work time, the teacher can circulate and add points for good note-taking, cooperation, good discussion, etc. Extra points can be earned for students looking up information on their own (eg. A student offered a good solution that hinged on whether zero was a counting number or not...)
  6. At the end of the session, score-keepers report their scores, which the teacher records. Play continues next time.

The level of participation and enthusiasm has increased. The mix of individual accountability and teamwork is appropriate, and the random selection keeps everyone tuned in. Furthermore, this system conveys that I believe they are all capable of tackling these problems. They are rising to the challenge!



 

Mathletes in Training
by Jacklyn Benner, Pointers Run Elementary School

Is it an accident that our students are called "Mathletes"? I think not! Just like "Athletes" our "Mathletes" have to prepare for a "meet" by limbering up and training.

As athletes prepare for an athletic event, they PRACTICE SKILLS specific to the event in which they will participate. They work, study and refine their performance. Just before the competition, they become limber as they WARM UP their bodies. Then, DURING THE EVENT, they prepare themselves mentally and come up with a plan for success. AFTER THE COMPETITION, they review their performance, celebrate strengths and work on areas in which they need to improve. Mathletes need the same type of preparation when the event is the Math Olympiad.

On the night before each Math Olympiad, my group of Mathletes LIMBER UP with a standard homework assignment:

HOMEWORK: Mathletes!

Tomorrow is our next Mathematical Olympiad!

As you know, the brain muscle must be warmed up just like the "regular" muscles. To get ready for the Math Olympiad, I need you to review the skills you have addressed in your "training." Then, you'll know what skills you have available to work with during the Math Olympiads.

Here's what you need to do for homework tonight:

1) LIST SKILLS you need to review. Then do a few problems to get yourself in shape. Either check these problems with a calculator or with an adult. If you made an error, write an explanation of the EXACT ERROR YOU MADE next to that problem.


2) Preview PROBLEM SOLVING STRATEGIES/TECHNIQUES

  • Read over a few old Olympiads. Review Problem Solving (PS) activities we have done in class. Read parts of your math book related to PS. Use a book on math PS. Go to, and use, a math Problem Solving website …
  • Turn in a list the DATES of the old Olympiads, pages and names of books you read, and write out the web addresses of the sites you visited.

 

We open Olympiad Day with a discussion of the activities the students did the night before to prepare. This act of sharing in the Olympiad arena helps set the stage for the challenge ahead. It is the final mental warm up and extends the limbering up from the night before into the daylight. Believe me, I learn new things each time from my students! When I let the students self select activities as they limber up before an Olympiad, these Mathletes usually go far beyond any homework I would have assigned.

Taking part in a systematic training program and limbering up before the Big Event help our students prepare for the challenges offered by the Mathematical Olympiads … as well as challenges our students will face throughout their lives.




Letter from a veteran PICO to a beginning PICO
Letter from veteran PICO Tricia Rothenberg (Georgetown, TX) to new PICO Shary Horn (Alvin, TX) answering her three questions.

Hi, Shary,

I'm so glad you are planning to begin the Math Olympiad program! Here are my answers to your questions. If you have more now or as you implement the program, I'd love to answer those, also!

This is just the way we are using the problems in Georgetown. I'm sure there are many other ways to implement the program!

1. How do your teachers use the problems during their class time?

Our teachers give the students 3 Math Olympiads problems to solve per week. The problems are chosen from the book of past Math Olympiads problems entitled Math Olympiad Contest Problems for Elementary and Middle Schools by Dr. G. Lenchner, which can be ordered using the form in your handout from CAMT, or by going to http://store.moems.org/ . We have selected a set of about 108 of these non-routine problems for each grade level so the students work different problems each year. Naturally, some of the problems are more difficult than others, so we have tried to use the easier ones for 4th grade, etc. The problems were initially chosen and then tried in the classroom, and then we did a bit of refinement to our problem sets as we found that some were too difficult or too easy for a certain grade level.

Generally, teachers present the problems, either all 3 on Monday or one a day Mon-Wed, and give the students some class time (first individually, and later in the week, usually with a partner) to make sense of the problems and perhaps get a bit of assistance when needed via clarifying or scaffolding questions from the teacher. After students have more experience with these challenging, genuine problems, some teachers allow students to work on them at home, also.

It is always good to have a note to send home to help parents understand that the purpose of the Math Olympiads problems is to give students experiences with genuine problem solving, in other words, using a problem solving model involving making sense of the problem; selecting, developing, and using problem-solving strategies; and evaluating their solutions for reasonableness and accuracy, etc.

We encourage teachers to use this body of Math Olympiads non-routine problems as mathematical experiences OUT of the context of a formal lesson. While they can also make good problems to use as the basis of a great lesson ­ a very good use of them ­ we want to have a body of non-routine problems that is used across the district for students to be able to do genuine problem-solving ­ where we have not "shown them how to do it."

Students write up their solutions to these problems. They start out explaining their understanding of the problem, how they solved it, what worked and what did not work and why, and why they believe that their answer is reasonable. Students are preparing for writing more formal proofs in their high school years. Some teachers have spirals or journals for this, and some keep portfolios (folders) of each student's problem solving write-ups.

VERY IMPORTANT: Teachers encourage MULTIPLE SOLUTIONS to the same problem, which will naturally happen when students are given these challenging problems and not told which strategy to use. This makes possible rich discourse ­ COMMUNICATION ­ about the problems. Students (usually with different strategies) present to the class their solution strategies, and learn to talk fluently and clearly about mathematics and defend with mathematical reasoning and facts their solutions. They learn to listen to each other and to be flexible in their thinking about problems. Generally, teachers set aside time each week for students to present the three problems of the week. It is very common for students to not get the right answer, and we really emphasize that the most important thing is the student's THINKING and COMMUNICATION, and his use of the PROBLEM SOLVING PROCESS. That is what we teach using Math Olympiads problems. We also like "right answers," but in the creative problem solving process, and with children grappling with complex problems, right answers do not always happen. With more experience with the problems, they will get more accurate. At the end of the problem-solving discussion of each problem, the teacher ties the solution strategies together, possibly asking children to analyze the similarities and differences of the solution strategies presented, and with a discussion of the important mathematical concepts she wants to emphasize in the problems.

We have found that the Math Olympiads problems provide a worthwhile and challenging way to review mathematics children have previously learned and use it in a meaningful way, to develop their own meaningful solution strategies, and to preview concepts that they will learn formally later on.

ALSO ­ teachers give students an opportunity to participate in the Math Olympiads contest ­ which happens twice in the Fall (Nov. and Dec.) and three times in the Spring (Jan. - Mar.). The contests take about 30 minutes to take, and then students are given the opportunity to discuss how they solved them. We feel that students' presenting their solution strategies is a very important part of using these non-routine problems in the classroom. We have engendered quite a bit of excitement about the problems with the contest. Many students will receive awards in this contest ­ all students receive a certificate, for example.

Teachers use rubrics, checklists, completion grades, etc. when/if they grade the Math Olympiads problems.

2. How is it used after school hours?

In grades 6 - 8, we have used the Grades 7-8 Math Olympiads contest at an after-school math team/club. Students learn to solve challenging non-routine problems, take practice Math Olympiads tests, and take the tests either during lunch recess or after school at math team. Also, as I mentioned above, in conjunction with their classroom M.O. problem solving, students often write up their solutions at home as homework.

3. Any thing else that will help.

You and the other teachers (and possibly the best students) can "attend" the series online Math Olympiads 1-hour workshops (free) coming up this school year. You can register at www.artofproblemsolving.com and then look at the schedule of "Math Jams" (you'll see a "tab" at the top of the webpage that says Math Jams) to see when all the Math Olympiads Jam sessions are to be.

Also, the online system of registering students, recording scores, and printing off the tests and solutions has been VERY user-friendly and easy to use!

Best wishes to you! Keep in touch and let me know how it's going with Math Olympiads and other issues in your district!

Tricia





 Reviewing contest problems and learning from them
by PICO Elizabeth Sadqi, Pine Crest Elementary, Silver Spring, Maryland

I am the PICO for a team of 4th and 5th graders. On any given contest, we have students scoring from 0 to 5. We always spend time reviewing (contest) problems. I have found it best to NOT reveal students' scores until AFTER we review problems. If, for example, one student knows that she scored a perfect "5," she might not really participate in re-solving and explaining her work with others. At the same time, if another student knows that he earned a 0, he might be too frustrated to really participate in the activities.

As we all know, the contest problems are challenging. Many of my 5th graders begin to recognize patterns and apply formulas to the problems. Oral explanations of their work become more sophisticated. However, we always have students who do not understand application of formulas or who are really stumped on a problem for spatial or other reasons. I now have students ACT out certain problems. It is time-consuming but quite fun and very enlightening!

So far this winter we have "acted out" contest problems involving an ant walking along the edges of a cube. I gave the students nets of a cube to cut out and tape together. Then, I gave them all colored markers-- a dark color and a light color. They started tracing the ant's movement with the light marker. If they overlapped vertices, they would start over with a darker marker. After tracing and talking with teammates, all of the students understood that the correct answer was 8 meters.

We also acted out problem involving fast and slow watches. The students worked in groups of 3. Each student had a small Judy clock to manipulate. One student kept the accurate time, one kept the slow watch, and one kept the fast watch. They moved their clock hands in unison, recorded times as they went along, and came up with the correct answer of 1:00 pm! It was a long process, which required much concentration by the students, but everyone was able to participate, regardless of their math ability. Every student moved a clock, participated in recording time tables, and contributed toward an accurate solution.





How To Coach Olympiad Kids (O.K.’S)
by Betty Jorgensen, a PICO since 1984-85, Cambridge Elementary School, Cambridge, NE

(Note: Betty Jorgensen retired in 2004 after 20 years as a PICO.  Her plans, even in retirement, include promoting the Math Olympiads.)

 

  Math Olympiad problems usually involve some problem-solving strategies that are not a regular part of the elementary math curriculum.  Hence, a certain amount of frustration can result from students who are not familiar with them. Here is what I did to handle the situation.

1.          Scheduled weekly practice sessions for about an hour one day a week after school. Encouraged students to attend, but attendance was not required. I found students more willing to participate if it was their choice.

2.          Each session dealt with a certain kind of problem and strategies, formulas, rules, logic, etc. that might be useful in solving these problems. Dr. George Lenchners Creative Problem Solving In School Mathematics is very helpful for developing each unit and for providing sample problems.

3.          In practice sessions, students worked in groups of two or three students. I encouraged them to discuss strategies and solutions among themselves before asking me whether an answer was right or wrong. This focuses on the method rather than the solution.

4.          About half the time we did a set of five Olympiad-style problems from Dr. Lenchner's book during the last 30 minutes of the session.

5.          I urged students to draw pictures for the given facts in a problem.

6.          I suggested that students try solving a simpler problem or making a table of results. Then they could look for a pattern or rule to solve a problem with larger numbers.

7.          I acted out a problem and observe the results.

8.          I did some logical thinking and tried to estimate the answer before beginning to work.

9.          I always complimented and encouraged students; and welcomed different methods of arriving at a solution.

10.      Following each official Olympiad, we discussed the problems and solutions, and I answered questions concerning why some answers were not acceptable.





 

Guidelines For Cooperative Group Members
This is part of an article which appeared in the May 1988 issue of the Arithmetic Teacher.

 

 "Three rules are useful when students work in cooperative groups in practice sessions.  (When an official contest is being taken, students must work individually.) The rules need to be explained to the students and discussed, since they are only as useful as they are understood and practiced.

1.       You are responsible for your own work and behavior.

2.       You must be willing to help any group member who asks (for help).

3.       You may ask the teacher for help only when everyone in your group has the same question.

 

The third rule often puts the greatest demand on teachers when first implementing cooperative groups. Children typically ask for individual help. Asking children to check with their group, rather than giving them help at that time, is not a usual teacher response. However it is an invaluable response for encouraging students to become more independent and to rely on each other. Assure students that you will come and discuss whatever problems the entire group faces.

 

How Large Should Groups Be?

A cooperative group requires no magic number of children to work. At some times, students work best in pairs, although groups of three to six students are successful in other situations. What is important is that groups be small enough for all students to participate.

 

How to Group Students.

It is important for students to be willing to work and learn with all their classmates. Grouping students randomly accomplishes this objective.


1.       Students can move their desks into clusters of four each. The teacher labels each cluster with the number of a playing card  ace, two, three and so on. The corresponding cards are shuffled and distributed; children with aces go to the aces cluster, children with twos to the cluster  labeled two, and so forth.


2.       Numbered slips can be drawn from a hat to determine random groupings of either three or four students.

 

A Caution

Seating students in small groups does not magically produce instant successful cooperative group work. Practice, encouragement, and discussion are required, but it is well worth the effort.




 





A group activity to coach by
 (and kids love it!)

by PICO Debbie Escobar, Farnsworth Middle School, Guilderland NY

 

1.       Divide the team, or let them divide themselves, into teams of four. Give each team a number or let them choose a name for the team.

2.       Make enough copies of an old Olympiad contest for each of the teams. If you have six teams, make six copies.

3.       Cut the problems up. Place the six copies of  each problem into its own envelope.

4.       Explain to the students that this is a relay race.  When you distribute the first problem, the whole team should work cooperatively on it. Once they feel certain they have a correct answer, one member of the team should come to you with it.

5.       Keep a scoring sheet that has a short column for each team. When the first team to bring you a correct answer checks in, give them 10 points. (5 for correct answer, 5 for speed).  The second team gets 9, the third gets 8, and so on.  The worst any group with the right answer can get is 5. As soon as a team has given the right answer to you, give them the second problem.

6.       Keep handing out the new problems as soon as a team checks in with the right answer, until you go through all five problems.

7.       Occasionally I will get a group that begins taking stabs in the dark. If this happens a lot, you might insist on seeing the calculation work on paper, or limit the number of times the groups can come back with an answer. (Id only do this as a last resort)

8.       Save some time at end of class to go over problems that seemed to cause difficulty for the teams.

 





Good Housekeeping Rules for Online Scoring

1.       Team Identification Numbers (TID)
Team Identification Numbers (TID) Each team entered in the Olympiads has its own unique four-digit TID, which you received by email with your password. Our computers locate your records strictly by TID. Different teams in the same school have different TIDs. Some PICOs also like to assign the letters A, B, C, or the numbers 5, 6, 7, 8, etc. to different team names (which also enables our staff to resolve errors quickly). However, the letter may not be used in place of the four-digit TID.


2.       Password
Use the TID and password to access your team records, contest and practice problems, and up-to-date statistics. Each PICO can access only his or her own team records.
Passwords are randomly assigned. For your convenience, you can change it to one easier to remember. Teams that have the same PICO and email address are linked (grouped together) so that entering the password once with any TID allows access to all linked teams.


3.       Entering Student Names
Most PICOs prefer to enter team members in alphabetical order. Clearly, you must enter each student's name before you enter his or her scoring. To enter the names, you MUST press the "Submit" button on the bottom of the screen. NEVER CHANGE A STUDENT'S LINE NUMBER, or that child's scoring will be assigned to another child. This can result in several students not receiving the correct awards.

Enter "late joiners" at the bottom of the list. Enter all scores for a particular student next to the name ONLY.

IMPORTANT: Never delete a student's name. Let us do it. Just contact us with all the information.


 

4.       Adding and Subtracting Names
(a) To add a student to your roster:  Enter the name on your team roster at the bottom of the list. Do not move names down.
(b) To remove a student from your roster:  Give us the school name and TID, the student’s name and SID, grade and gender. We have offline records also to correct.
(c) To replace one student by another: Follow both directions (a) and (b) above.



5.       Entering and Correcting Scoring
First select the correct Olympiad. Then use checkmarks to indicate correct responses. For absent students, check the absence box. Leaving all boxes unchecked means that the student tried all problems with no correct answers. To enter your data, you MUST press the "Submit" button on the bottom of the screen. If a student's answer is different from ours, but results from a fatal flaw in the problem or is the result of a different, valid interpretation of the problem, mark it wrong and follow the Appeals process (see item 6). You can correct or change a score online at any time up until the end of March.

 

6.       Appeals (see Item 5)
Mark the student wrong and tell us in print the mathematical basis for granting credit. Include the team name and TID and the student name. To get credit, the student's work must be completely correct, the reasoning must be entirely consistent with the question and with "What Every Young Mathlete Shound Know." You will be sent the judges' decision either through the newsletter or by private communication. If an appeal is granted, all students who had that answer should be given credit. See item 5.

 

7.       Communication
Place your TID and return address on all communications to MOEMS.

 

8.       Checking your Scores
Even with online recording, errors in scoring can occur. To guarantee correct scores — and therefore correct awards — each team receives a printout of its student scoring for the first two Olympiads as stored in our computer along with the January Newsletter. Correcting small errors at this point prevents them from mushrooming into bigger errors at awards time. Later, each team receives a printout of its student scoring for all five Olympiads as reported to us along with the April Newsletter. Corrections at this point, done promptly, are imperative if students are to receive the correct awards.



 


Building Team Spirit

 

One means of building team spirit is to ask every member of the team to wear a Math Olympiad T-shirt, and/or cap to each contest. You might even want to arrange to have the name of the school and perhaps the word mathlete, your team roster, or the year printed on the back. The enclosed form describes our T-shirts, caps, pennants, ruler-pens and bumper stickers. These are now available as part of our fund-raising campaign.

Some PICOs order class sets of our book, Mathematical Olympiad Contest Problems for Elementary and Middle Schools, and allow the students to take them home. Others ask children to buy a copy to help them start to build a personal library. These PICOs feel that a child who has the book is often more likely to continue to work independently, getting a lot more out of the material than the child who does nothing more than attend practices. A marvelous way to build enthusiasm and self-assurance is to help a child feel competent; with extra practice, time usually develops those qualities.

 


 

Building  Team  Spirit
by Donald Costantino, PICO at Yardville Heights and Morgan Schools in Hamilton, NJ

 

Through school fund raisers at my two schools, we have been able to purchase Olympiad shirts for every member of our grades 4 and 5 teams.  Students are charged up for meet day by pre-announcing a group plan to wear their shirts on that day.  We further recognize students' efforts by heralding their names in the main hall.  We list meet dates and the school's high-scoring students for each meet.  This allows for mini-excitements rather than waiting for the yearly summaries.

 





Confidentiality


No student names or scores are released:


1.       We do not release the standing of any team or individual. Only the school contact person, the PICO (if they are different people), and our staff see contest results. There is one exception: we publish Honor Roll lists in May. Even there, lists are alphabetical by category, without ranking.


2.       We do not release the score of any team or student to anyone other than the PICO. The only exception is also the Honor Roll, in which the names of students who achieved a perfect score for the full year are listed.


3.      We do not sell or give our mailing lists to anyone. However, if a new or prospective PICO asks which schools in the area participate, we may help them out.







“Rookie” Mathletes


For beginning Mathletes, especially fourth graders, we recommend that the PICO tell the students that this is their training year: it takes time to learn how to handle problems; scoring develops from sustained effort; they are learning how to look at a situation more than one way, and how to read for meaning.




Appeals


If an appeal is accepted, then all students who had that answer should get credit. It does not matter if they worked it out or just guessed. To give a student credit, drop us a note or e-mail which includes the team name and four-digit TID, the student name and two-digit SID, and the problem number.




Awards Presentation


We recommend that you hold a special school function for  presenting awards. This puts a cap on the year for your students.


As suggested in the March newsletter, some formats for presenting awards are:

1.       A special school assembly to which the parents are invited.


2.       A Board of Education meeting to which the parents of Olympians are invited.


3.       An evening reception for parents (especially desirable when one or both parents work).


4.       A team picnic or barbeque.


Ask one of the following to talk on the importance of mathematics or problem solving: Superintendent of Schools, Principal, Board of Education member, PTA President, or Mathematics Supervisor.


One of our PICOs has special plans for awards. You may want to consider it for your students. She gives special awards to the three students in each grade level who have the highest scores. She affixes a gold seal (available in stationery stores) to one of the corners of their certificates. The Art teacher prints each student
s name, grade, and distinction in calligraphy.


Another PICO intersperses old Math Olympiad questions between awards during the ceremony, allowing her mathletes to shine in front of their parents.
 



 

After the Season is Over . . .


The March Olympiad should not signal the end of student practice for the rest of the school year. We hope that PICOs will use the remainder of the school year to continue to help all Olympians to develop their natural abilities and grow into their potential.


Many PICOs continue to practice with their Mathletes in order to build for next year. Some PICOs ask each returning child to set a personal goal, and then use the practices to train for that goal. A surprising number of youngsters are ambitious and eager enough to tackle problem collections on their own. All they need is the suggestion, and problem sets to take home.


This is a good time to:


1.       Teach new topics such as continued fractions, divisibility, sequences and series, logic, mathematical shorthand, etc. (See Creative Problem Solving in School Mathematics),


2.       Present problems from previous years (See Mathematical Olympiad Contest Problems for Elementary and Middle Schools), and


3.       Introduce variations and extensions of this year’s problems. When a problem is varied and extended, the student’s understanding deepens significantly. Older problems could also be extended.




 

. . . Award Presentations


A marvelous yearlong activity should never fade away. A strong finish provides closure and underlines the importance for children, parents, and the educational community.
Why not make special arrangements to present Olympiad Awards to your Mathletes? Each school will receive a certificate for every student and a trophy for the highest scorer of the team  providing the school has registered its students and has submitted at least one score sheet.
Some recommended formats are:

1.       A special school assembly to which parents are invited.

2.       A Board of Education meeting to which the parents of Olympians are invited.

3.       An evening reception for parents (especially desirable when one or both parents work).

4.       A team picnic or barbeque.


Ask one of the following to talk on the importance of mathematics or problem solving: Principal, Superintendent of Schools, Board of Education member, PTA President, or Mathematics Supervisor.

 


 

Our End-of-Year Party

by Joann Arnett, A.L. Lotts ES, Knoxville, TN

 


For several years when all testing is over, I have created a Treasure Hunt for my Math Olympiad students. This is what we do for our party. The students love it and each year ask if we are going to have our Treasure Hunt.
I take old Math Olympiad problems and adjust the numbers to equal a room number in the school (with permission from the teacher who has that room). I place stickers in that room. The student must solve the problem, go to the room, and get the sticker. There are nine problems and they have 30 minutes to work. The first one back to the starting point wins a special prize.
Students are given a calculator and work in pairs. Parents monitor the halls and help. After the 30 minutes, the students return. They are given a small piece of candy for each sticker. Then the parents prepare refreshments (usually ice cream sundaes).
Since I have two teams, the stickers are coded  by color or subject to keep them separate. I have two sets of treasure problems: one for fourth grade, one for fifth.
It is a lot of fun to watch their enthusiasm as they work; I
ve seen them drop to the floor as they thought of a way to solve the problem. Also, it is interesting to see the different strategies and teamwork.




 

Scavenger Hunts
By Debbie Escobar



Another idea I have used is a problem scavenger hunt, but you need either adult or older student helpers to make it work. Find problems that indicate a place or subject that would correspond to a location in the school. For example, a problem that mentions sewing might relate to the Home Ec room; or a problem asking about page numbers in a book might be hinting at the library.  I found several of these in the old olympiad tests. For each problem, make enough copies for all teams and find a helper to be posted somewhere in the school and give them out.  Sites should correspond to the previous problem in the scavenger hunt, and give a hint as to where the next location will be.  The helper should stand with the problem during the scavenger hunt to make sure teams dont cheat by stealing the other copies of the problem so other teams cant find it. Give helpers the correct answer to the problem (if you can trust them not to assist friends) and ask them to check off or initial the problem to indicate teams achieved the right answer at that location.  (otherwise you will have teams running from site to site grabbing problems without solving them one-at-a-time in group work.) Divide students into groups of three or four.  Begin at your olympiad meeting by giving them a problem that hints at another location in the building.  They solve the problem successfully, you check it, and they figure out where to go next from the clues in the problem.  At the next site, they solve the problem successfully, get it checked by the helper (helper initials) and figure out where to go next.  For example, if the problem at a station set up in the gym mentions sewing, students would go to sewing room next.  At the end of the hunt, the first team to come back to you with all of the problems checked off or initialed by helpers is the winner.  Tell students they must end the hunt at a specific time and come back to you even if they havent finished all the problems.








 

Mathematical Dissections
by Jacklyn Benner, Pointer’s Run School, MD



After each Olympiad, I like to do an item analysis of the performance of my teams.  As a class, we create a fraction that shows the number of students on the team that were correct on each question.  We convert the fraction to a percentage for further analysis.

We then discuss each question in order of greatest to least need.  That is, we begin to discuss the problem on which the least number of students were correct and      finish with the problem on which most of the class was correct.

The students become the teachers as they show each other how they solved the   question under discussion.  In this way, classmates learn from each other how to solve the problems in fourth or fifth grade vocabulary.  I distribute the
Answers and Solutions written by the Olympiad mathematicians themselves to expose the students to an adult solution method.  We review the adult technique.  These are   usually understood since the students have a well-developed background of solution techniques. After our discussions, the students could have 28 different methods to solve one problem!

Next, we discuss what the problem solver had to know in order to solve each problem correctly.  The students then record this on a
Self Analysis paper and address in what ways they might improve their own performance on each particular problem.

When the Newsletter arrives with the statistics for the last Olympiad, we compare our class results with the
Percent Correct for Grade and Problem just for fun. The        students really enjoy predicting whether they beat the average fourth / fifth grader as I reveal the number of students who were correct on each problem.

In this classroom, the students enjoy the
mathematical dissection of each Olympiad problem and celebrate their gain of knowledge.






 

Mathematical Dissections

Andrea Nordquist sent in the following article from her school’s newspaper.


The Joseph C. Fox Latin School of Kellenberg Memorial High School held its very first Math Olympiad overnight retreat on Friday March 8th to Saturday the 9th. 32 students and Mrs. Nordquist, Miss Phillips, and Danny Griffin played games, made a delicious pasta dinner (we even cut the peppers in geometric shapes), and tried to score points during a basketball challenge.One of the highlights of the evening was when Mrs. Nordquist showed an original Showtime movie called The Red Sneakers. At first we thought we were going to have to sit through a dull math movie, but it was great! It showed the importance of math, especially in basketball, why math is important for college, and to be yourself, and not depend on magic to succeed in life. A great time was had by all.
A Math Retreat  What a lovely idea! Editor