This year, the Foothill Math Team will again be open to all 1st through 5th Graders at Foothill Elementary School!
Fourth and fifth grade team members will meet for an hour once weekly (on Fridays at 7:30am) to learn and to practice math problem solving. The team members also participate in 6 contests between October and March: 5 Math Olympiad contests and 1 Math Kangaroo contest.
First through third grade team members will meet for an hour regularly to solve math games and puzzles. The younger students will participate in the Math Kangaroo competition in March.
Here are the associated dates:
4th and 5th Grade:
Fridays that school is in session at 7:30am from September 15th through March 9th. The Math Kangaroo competition will be after school on March 15th. The final pizza party will be after school in late May after the awards arrive.
1st through 3rd Grade:
Team practices are led by parent volunteer coaches. Coaches review short lessons on creative problem solving techniques. The Mathletes work in small groups and have the opportunity to share their strategies for solving problems. The goals for the Mathletes are to develop and improve their mathematical problem-solving skills, and to have fun during weekly sessions, take home problems, and contest participation. We want our Mathletes to experience the satisfaction, joy, and thrill of meeting challenges.
Math Olympiad was started in 1977 with the goal to stimulate enthusiasm for math through the teaching and practice of creative problem solving. Last year nearly 150,000 “Mathletes” from 6,000 schools participated worldwide. At Foothill, the Math Olympiad team will consist of 4th and 5th graders who meet weekly to explore problem solving strategies. Once a month, from November to March, students will participate in a challenging problem solving contest provided by the Math Olympiads Foundation, http://www.moems.org.
The Math Kangaroo Olympiad began in 1998, and takes place on the third Thursday in March. 21,000 American students participate along with over 6,000,000 other participants worldwide. The competition has the form of a multiple choice test to be solved within 75 minutes. There are 12 levels of participation, corresponding to school grade levels. The objective is to encourage children and teenagers to master mathematical skills.
To give parents a flavor of the types of things the Math Team does, here are the Learning Goals for the 4th and 5th Grade Team, 2016-2017:
Learning Goals for 4th and 5th Grade Math Team (2016-2017)
The main goals for Math Team are listed under the ‘Understanding the Problem’, ‘Planning How to Solve the Problem’, and ‘Looking Back’ sections, and we’ll spend every meeting on these goals. Contest problems draw from the topics under ‘Carrying out the Plan’. We will overview these topics throughout the year, but won’t have the time to delve deeply into any of these topics.
Understanding the Problem
• What is the question that a problem is asking?
o Restating a problem in your own words
o Asking good questions
• What should a good solution look like?
o Restating a problem in your own words
o Asking questions of colleagues
o Evaluating others’ solutions
• Does the problem give you enough information? Not enough? Too much? (Identifying overconstrained and underconstrained problems.)
Planning How to Solve the Problem
o Drawing a picture or diagram
o Making an organized list
o Making a table
o Solving a simpler related problem
o Finding a pattern
o Guessing and checking
o Acting out the problem
o Working backwards
o Writing an equation
Carrying out the Plan
Most of these topics are covered in the in-school curriculum.
o Flexibly using numbers (Breaking them apart to aid computation, spread throughout the standards and their implementation.)
o Sum Patterns (e.g. Gauss’s Formula)
o Factoring (Greatest Common Factor and Least Common Multiple)
o Divisibility Rules
o Squares, Rectangles, Triangles & Circles: Perimeter, Circumference, Area
o Polyominos (Puzzle pieces used for all grades between K and college to explore patterns.)
o Rate Problems
o Venn Diagram
• Checking the reasonableness of an answer
• Identifying multiple strategies for solving a problem
Test Taking Strategies
• Test preparation
• Reading directions
• Overviewing tests
• Answering questions in strategic order
• What to do if you are nervous
Resources (Amazon links are purely for your convenience):
George Polya. How to Solve It. 1945. This classic is still used heavily in mathematics circles and is one of the inspirations for Dr. George Lenchner’s book. You can find several Penguin Edition copies of this book, or a PDF online. (e.g. https://notendur.hi.is/hei2/teaching/Polya_HowToSolveIt.pdf)
George Lenchner. Creative Problem Solving. 1983. This is the primary ‘textbook’ used by MOEMS.
Beast Academy. (https://www.beastacademy.com/) A set of comic books targeting deeper math concepts for students in 2-5th grades.
Youcubed. www.youcubed.com/tasks contains a wealth of math games and apps with a low floor (easy to get started) and a high ceiling (room for deep thought about math concepts).
Glen Ellison. Hard Math for Elementary School. 2013. Each chapter goes deeper on a basic mathematical concept. A good resource for longer-term math projects.
Sandor Lehoczky and Richard Rusczyk. The Art of Problem Solving. Volume 1: The Basics, 7th Edition. 2014. This book has clear descriptions of the most common math concepts used in math contests worldwide.