Math Olympiads for Elementary and Middle Schools

November/December 2020

1. MESSAGE FROM NJR

From the desk of our Executive Director

It feels like forever since I last had the opportunity to put together a newsletter. I’m guessing that we have all been “in the same boat” while dealing with the great covid-19 pandemic of 2020. With the imminent release of hundreds of million doses of some vaccine world-wide, I am hoping we will not need to call it the great covid-19 pandemic of 2020 – 2021. My colleagues at MOEMS® would like to take this opportunity to wish you a blessed and wonderful holiday season and a happy and HEALTHY new year. For now, just continue to stay safe and stay healthy to finish out this most memorable year thus far of the 21st century.

 

First and foremost, a heartfelt thanks to each of you for being as flexible as we were asking you to be. I believe that without the support, cooperation and comforting, reassuring notes of appreciation we received from you, we would not be as far along as we are now. It is early December and the expectations that I had going into this 2020 – 2021 MOEMS® Contest Year back in the fall have been far exceeded. With the certain uncertainty that each state, territory, and country was faced with as far as schooling our youth and keeping them safe was concerned, it was clear that many options for our much beloved contests had to be implemented. I fully expected our team enrollment to be about 25% of the 2019 – 2020 numbers, and would have been happy if we hit 50%, but I am happy to report that with about a week of late registration still left, we have hit 57% of last year’s team enrollment numbers. That is a tribute to you, the PICOs who made problem solving a la MOEMS a priority for your students. Thanks for trusting us and for pushing us to make our problems available to more kids than I could have imagined during the summer months.

 

From all indicators, our first contest has been an unqualified success. This unscientific conclusion comes from the following facts: very few frantic calls from PICOs who could not download the contest despite a totally new format; the several conversations with PICOs who wanted to be reassured of how to deliver our first-ever virtual MOEMS Contest; only three sets of scores sent to my email address instead of the PICO’s email address (we solved those issues together); and finally, over 54% of the scores from that contest have already been reported (and there are still four weeks left to record those scores)! I am impressed, gratified and extremely thankful to all of you for working together with us to make this inauguration of MOEMS OnPaper and MOEMS OnLine a smashing success.

 

During the course of this 9-month pandemic we have put out an international version of our Mathematical Olympiads Problems Volume 4, extended deadlines for early and standard enrollments, created timeframes for contests, rather than just a single date, loosened regulations for parent-run institute teams, and afforded an opportunity for any child who wants to be part of the MOEMS experience to do so. All of this took place while our Problem Writing Teams (twenty-six current and retired math educators), working together virtually, maintained the high quality of our problem sets. Much has been accomplished in such a short time.

 

It’s all good and it gives me pause to tell you how much my being the director of this world-wide organization is the most rewarding educational experience in my forty-nine years as an educator. Thanks for being you!

 

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, (S3H)
Nick

2. IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR ALL PICOs

MOEMS Secure Site

1. TEAM IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS (Team ID)
Each team entered in the Olympiads has its own unique seven-digit Team ID, which appears on all communications you may receive. The first five digits of this ID is the zipcode and the last two digits indicate the individual team within that zipcode. We have also assigned the letters A, B, C, etc. to different teams from the same school; however, that letter is not part of the seven-digit TeamID.
2. STUDENT IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS (Student ID)
Each student registered for a team has a unique six-digit Student ID, which will not change from year to year. This number can be used to transfer a student from one team to another. Since this tells our computer where to find that child’s records, the STUDENT-STUDENT ID coupling cannot be changed.
3. LIST NUMBER (List)
Every time MyTeam is displayed, there will be a List value shown. This number is useful to the PICO but meaningless to the computer. Since the order of the student list can be changed (see ITEM 5. below) this list number only indicates the student’s position in the list as currently displayed.
4. ADDING AND SUBTRACTING NAMES

To add a student to your roster: MY TEAM>STUDENT LIST>EDIT STUDENT LIST> and enter that student’s information in the student list in the next available blank line and Student ID.


To remove a student from your roster: MY TEAM>STUDENT LIST>MORE OPTIONS>select the student or students using the checkbox>REMOVE STUDENT. This action is only necessary in case you need to replace a student after your original roster of 35 has filled up. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU LET US REMOVE A STUDENT FOR YOU. PLEASE EMAIL US AT office@moems.org .


To replace one student by another: This is not needed. Remove and then Add. We will generate a new Student ID for the new entry.

5. CHANGING LIST ORDER
You can tailor the team display order to your liking. MY TEAM>STUDENT LIST>CHANGE LIST ORDER>{SORT BY SURNAME; SORT BY FIRST NAME; SORT BY STUDENT ID; or MOVE STUDENT manually using the UP/DOWN commands}>SORTING COMPLETED.
6. CHECKING YOUR SCORES
You can check your scores at any time. MY RESULTS>OLYMPIAD #>{EDIT RESULTS; PRINT SUMMARY; EMAIL SUMMARY; REPORTS; OLYMPIAD STATISTICS}

MOEMS in General

7. TEST ADMINISTRATIVE WINDOW

Whatever happened to a fixed testing date? Because of the constraints put upon all of us by Covid-19 and because of the new OnLine test administrative format, we have replaced a Division E date and a Division M date with an approximately 4-week testing window. Whereas we used to urge you to test on a convenient date as close to the fixed dates listed, now it is up to you to determine the best date for you and your team in the testing window. Note: For large teams participating in the OnLine format, it is possible and permissable that you will have to break your team into more manageable groups and test each group separately but as close to the same time as possible.

 

The testing window also accomodates testing difficulties based on school-wide testing days, field trips, non-standard school calendars, flu epidemics, etc

8. INDIVIDUAL ABSENCE OF A STUDENTS

Periodically, we are asked if a student can make up an Olympiad after an absence. This matter is covered in the sheet entitled Organization and Procedures, which lists the rules of competition:

“TIME AND PLACE — For purposes of test security and firness, all students must take the contest at the saem date and time…”

Accordingly, absences may not be made up since this compromises the security of the questions. Although this rule will disqualify a student from receiving the Dr. George Lenchner Award, we do not wish to violate any child’s sense of propriety.

The two testing formats do, however, offer a possible solution to the absent student situation. If you are using the OnPaper form of the contest for the rest of your team members, the OnLine form is still available to you to use at approximately the same time with the absent student.

Our prime objective is to foster mathematical growth on the part of children. Scores and awards should be secondary. We would, however, hope that the PICO give the absentee a copy of the questions and solutions afterwards in order to help promote growth on the part of the absent student.

9. PROPER USE OF THE PRACTICE QUESTIONS AND PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED CONTESTS.
Old contests and practice sheets may be reproduced on paper for use in the classroom, practice sessions, or for at-home assignments. Our materials are copyrighted and as such, may not be reproduced for electronic transmission on any website (secure or non-secure). Our copyrighted materials have been discovered on supposedly secure, password protected websites and legal action has been initiated for those offenders. Please do not inadvertently or deliberately plagiarize our materials. We also ask that you explain to your students that they, too are not permitted to post the problems on the internet. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the use of our previously published contests, please feel free to call our office at 866-781-2411.

3. APPEAL

Fortunately, there were no appealed answers to any of the questions on either division of Olympiad 1. If there had been a successfully appealed answer, the PICO involved would have received our determination. Furthermore, this newsletter would have explained the appeal, our decision, and instructions to all PICOs about checking their students’ answers.

In the case that you find it necessary to appeal a given answer to questions on any of the following contests, here is information that may prove useful and informative to you.

WHEN & HOW TO APPEAL

If a student’s answer differs from the official answer on the contest key but you think it is right, mark it wrong and contact us with an appeal of the decision. Do not decide yourself that it should be accepted. In your appeal, give the student’s answer and explain clearly the student’s reasoning. Our panel of 12 judges will then rule on it.
  • Appeals are granted only for the following:
    • The wording of the problem allows for a different interpretation;
    • the wording of the problem is inherently flawed.
  • Appeals are denied if a student does not answer the question as asked, if any fact given in the question is ignored, or if the answer results from a student error. In many cases much good thinking is “wasted” and no credit given because of a tiny careless error.
  • If an appeal is accepted by our judges: The PICO of that student and the PICOs of all other students who had the exact same answer should go online to give these students credit regardless of the work shown. In May this could make a difference between earning an award or not. Just log on to your team record and change the score. You can always change contest results.

THE APPEALS PROCESS

Only a PICO may make a formal request for an appeal. Several parents insist upon calling or e-mailing our office, so it is incumbent upon you (the PICO) to explain that it would be impossible to respond to them individually.

 

Here’s how an appeal works…

 

  1. We receive one or more requests for an appeal to a specific question and it’s answer;
  2. We generate an email to our Appeals Committee (11 or 12 members, depending upon the Division), and ask that each member submits an “approval” or “denial” of the appeal, normally within 48 hours;
  3. As soon as a majority of those members “approve,” an e-mail will be sent to all PICOs of that division;
  4. PICOs are instructed to give credit for the newly accepted answer, as well as for the original answer, and to correct the records submitted on our secure website;
  5. If the appeal is denied by the Committee, only those PICOs who raised the appeal will be notified immediately;
  6. The next available newsletter will have a more complete discussion of the reasons for the acceptance or denial of the appeal.

 

Hopefully, as a PICO, you have kept a copy of the original paper with the students’ answers (as has been suggested in newsletters and other places on our website), so that the correction of grades may be facilitated. It has also been suggested that you keep those answer sheets for the entire year in a secure place.

 

Given this procedure, please understand that the entire process can take up to 5 or 6 business days after the first appeal is received. We take our mission to provide creative and intellectually-stimulating problem solving experiences very seriously, and will continue to hear your concerns.

"FOR HOW LONG SHOULD I KEEP THE CONTESTS?"

As a result of the timing of appeals in the past, several PICOs asked, what our policy is regarding the retention of contests after they have been graded. The fact is, we don’t have a written policy, but here’s a suggestion from one of our veteran PICOs. The name of the PICO has been withheld due to the nature of the circumstances described.


We at MOEMS felt it presented an almost fool-proof way of keeping records in order for the entire year.

 

“I have been a PICO for 11 years, and … I thought I would write and tell you my experience regarding keeping past contests.

 

When preparing for a contest, I make copies of the contest and answer sheets on separate sheets of paper. That allows me to quickly copy the whole stack of students’ original answer sheets after I have graded them. When we discuss the contest the following week (unfortunately, we don’t have enough time to discuss it the same day the contest was given), I give students the copy of their answer sheet, along with their original contest and scratch paper so they can look back to see how they had attempted to solve the problem.

 

I KEEP THE ORIGINAL ANSWER SHEETS. I keep these until the end of the year, until all awards have been sent. I always did this so that in case there was a discrepancy about a student’s final score, I could look back and see where the error was made. Having the original answer sheets certainly made it easier to re-grade Contests after the appeal decisions. But having them also served a very important, albeit unfortunate, purpose one year. At the end of the season, when MOEMS released the score cut-offs to earn the various awards, I had announced to the class what those cutoffs were and gave them a score summary of what their scores had been so they could see what award they would be getting at our big Math Olympiads Awards Banquet in May.

 

The next day a student approached me saying I had made an error on her score summary sheet, and that her total really was high enough to earn an Embroidered Patch, instead of just missing it by one point as my records had shown. She handed me her answer sheet from one of the contests and sure enough, it looked like I had marked one wrong that was indeed correct. I then looked back at her original answer sheet from that contest, and that problem had been left blank. In an attempt to “earn” a patch, the student had added in the correct answer in black pen so that it matched the print that the copier had made. Apparently, she had forgotten that I could or didn’t think that I would compare it to the original and be able to see that she had cheated. I took the appropriate actions and although it was very unfortunate, it turned out to be a huge learning and growth experience for the student.

 

From my experience, with the possibility of contest appeals, errors when grading or entering scores, or students questioning their awards eligibility at the end of the season, I would recommend all PICOs make and hand back copies of students’ answer sheets and keep the original answer sheets until the end of the year.

 

Thanks for welcoming feedback. I continue to be a big fan of MOEMS”

4. HOUSEKEEPING HINTS

PROBLEM WITH A WEB PAGE (ours or others’)?

Computers can be troublesome. Try these:

 

  1. Refresh the browser.
  2. Close the browser and open a new one. Occasionally the type of browser you are using (Chrome®, Edge®, Firefox®, Opera®, Safari®, …) is involved with the problem you are experiencing. If that is the case for you, you may have to install another browser in addition to your present one.
  3. Shut down the system and reboot.
  4. Use a different computer. If you are on a network the problem may persist even on a different computer on that network. Perhaps use your phone or tablet (if it used your phone signal) since these would not be on your school’s network.
  5. Use a different device entirely. Your tablet or smartphone may not be affected by the same problem your coumputer is experiencing.
  6. Contact us (email is preferable). There may be a problem at our end of which we are not aware.

EMAILS FROM MOEMS:

Many districts block our emails, thinking of them as Spam. In particular, unknown to us, Spam filters in the district or on the computer blocked about 200 emails to PICOs that contained the passwords. You can do three things to help.

 

  1. Please put office@moems.org into your address book;
  2. Inform your tech support people to allow these addresses to reach you;
  3. Also inform your tech person to allow access to this foreign URL: https://secure.pta.net.au
  4. And check your Spam folder regularly. Besides sending your password, we need to mass-mail to alert you when your contests and newsletters are posted online.

LOGGING IN:

If you forget your password, click on the word “here” in the message “If you do not know your Team ID or password, please click here.” underneath the Log-in boxes. The current password will be sent automatically to the PICO’s registered email address. If you log in incorrectly too many times, you will be locked out. However, if you shut down your browser and then reopen it, you can try again.

STATISTICS:

These can be viewed after logging in at any time all year. You can always see how the world did on any given contest. Because they are updated with every single entry, they are accurate, but take time to appear on your screen.

 

Warning: Because some PICOs enter “dummy scores” to test the system and then delete them, the system thinks that all those students got every question wrong. That’s why the earliest statistics are very low and inaccurate. With large numbers the statistics grow in accuracy, offsetting unusual circumstances.

MOEMS is available for your smartphone or other mobile device. The ONLINE SCORING SYSTEM, the MOEMS ONLINE STORE, and more should be available for your mobile device. Click on the “MOEMS Mobile” icon on the home page to give it a try. Bookmark it. Let us know how it works for you. Suggest any other Math Olympiad information you’d like to see available.

5. CONTESTS 2 & 3 DATES

CONTEST #
DIVISIONS E and M TEST
ADMINISTRATION WINDOW
Deadline for Score Entry
2
Dec. 14 – Jan. 16
March 31
3
Jan. 11 – Feb. 13
March 31

Contests should be administered at one sitting (OnPaper format) or within a short time of other administrations (OnLine format). If more than one school in your district participates in the Olympiads, try to schedule the contest on the same day for all district teams. (We have learned that children and parents from different schools in a district enjoy discussing the problems with each other. This could be a problem if all children do not take the Olympiad on the same date.)