Categories: Bill Babbitt
Tags: Bill Babbitt, math, MATHCOUNTS
Frequently the arguments against registering a MATHCOUNTS team is that it costs money or that teachers don’t have time for it. I think it’s time to go beyond this kind of thinking because it is exactly this kind of thinking that has gotten the US where we are, which is below the average of the OECD countries that participated in an international exam in math and science.
A team of four students and a teacher working MATHCOUNTS problems in a classroom somewhere shouldn’t be the goal – it’s the first drop in a mathematical pond where the effect of the ripples from that drop which are far more important and ultimately more valuable.
Building a mathematical community – starts with an enthusiastic teacher and 4 students diligently working on math contest problems. Those four students have an effect on their friends and other younger students – and possibly persuade them to also diligently work on math contest problems. This can be done at weekly meetings that might involve pizza and an appropriate social time. Participant students grow older and move on but are asked to COME BACK to assist their former teacher in coaching younger students. The positive energy builds, young students learn from older students who are modeling desirable behavior, older students get service credit for say ‘National Merit Scholarships’ and create line items for their college resumes. The effort continues to expand blossoming into (dare I say) a full blown math circle. A lively community actively involved in math, linguistics, and physics competitions.
The ripple effect from such a group in a single school could quite possibly be a tide that lifts all boats. And all of this from a little MATHCOUNTS team working diligently with a teacher in a classroom someplace. I don’t think we can afford not to.