Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Congratulations Professor Moorthy!

The Mathematical Association of America has honored Albany Area Math Circle advisor Professor Mukkai Krishnamoorthy of RPI with the Edyth May Sliffe Award for Distinguished Mathematics Teaching.

Prof. Moorthy was nominated for the award by students on Albany Area Math Circle's AMC12 team, which scored among the top 25 teams in the country in 2008. AAMC team members were: Andrew Ardito, Matthew Babbitt, David Bieber, Schuyler Smith, and Qianyi ("Landy") Zhang.

Here is the text of their nomination for Professor Moorthy:

Professor Moorthy has been with the Albany Area Math Circle since its start in 2001. He generously volunteers 3 hours of his time every Friday night, giving expert guidance to the members of the math circle. He explains solutions with amazing clarity, and has seemingly endless patience. He will often give students problems of his own composition. These problems are always interesting, and lead to a greater understanding of the concepts involved. In short, Professor Moorthy has played an integral role in making the Albany Area Math Circle as successful and rewarding as it is, and we are all deeply indebted to him. Because saying thank you doesn‘t come close to repaying him for all his contributions, we nominate Professor Mukkai Krishanmoorthy for the Edyth May Sliffe Award.

Matt, Dave, Professor Krishnamoorthy, Schuyler, and Andrew
(not pictured: Qianyi "Landy")

Frequently asked questions about AAMC

What is Albany Area Math Circle?

Albany Area Math Circle (AAMC) is a group of high school students from all over the Capital District who meet for three hours each Sunday afternoon from 4 to 7 p.m. at Siena College to collaborate on exciting and challenging math problems together.

You might call it “Extreme Math.” The problems are “outside-the-box.” Students need to come with enthusiasm for working hard and cheerfully making mistakes (which are inevitable—everyone makes them, even the veterans who have been part of the circle for many years. The adults advising the group cheerfully admit that they make mistakes as well—it is part of the fun of the experience.) The key is for all members of the circle to share their half-baked approaches and ideas and discover that the whole really is more than the sum of the parts. The essence of the fun is a “Shared Aha! Experience” when several students finally crack a problem together.

Who is eligible to join AAMC?

High school students from all around the Capital District are welcome to become part of our community. There is no qualifying test for high school students. You will need to register by joining our AlbanyAreaMathCircle yahoogroups email list before your first meeting. (See instructions below for how to do this.)

The only requirements for a high school student member are enthusiasm for working hard and cheerfully on challenging math problems, a willingness to make mistakes, to celebrate your mistakes and learn from them, to share both cool insights and half-baked solution approaches with other students.

We expect all members of AAMC to work with one another in a generous, kind, and helpful spirit. We expect all students to behave in a way that will contribute to an enthusiastic and productive learning community.

Are younger students eligible to join AAMC before ninth grade?

The problems we work on at AAMC at our regular Sunday meetings are very challenging, even for advanced high school students already taking college courses. Furthermore, our weekly meetings are three hours long, which is a long time to work on hard math problems!

However, AAMC's high school students provide many outreach efforts for younger students who enjoy math challenges.

We encourage our high school student members to serve as assistant coaches in MATHCOUNTS programs at nearby middle schools. Over the years, AAMC members have enjoyed serving as student coaches for MATHCOUNTS programs at Acadia, Doyle, Farnsworth, Gowana, HEEG, Iroquois, Koda, and Van Antwerp Middle Schools. If your middle school would like a student coach to assist the teacher or other adult sponsor coach, AAMC would be happy to assist in recruiting one. Your school's head coach can send a request to and we will follow up.

Some of our high school student members serve as coaches of satellite middle school math circles.

We encourage local schools to offer the AMC contests, starting with the AMC8 for students in eighth grade and below, which is offered in November. Middle school students who achieve Honor Roll scores on the AMC8 are encouraged to take the AMC10 or AMC12 contests in February. These high school contests are extremely challenging, but they can be good learning experiences for a few younger students who are ready to take the next step beyond middle school math contests. Students who score high on the AMC10 or AMC12 contests may qualify for the American Invitational Math Exam (AIME) given in March.

With the exception of our special outreach activities described above, our regular AAMC meetings are organized for high school student members. Very rarely, middle school students who have qualified for the AIME may also be invited to join our regular Friday evening meetings. This is very much the exception, rather than the rule, and younger students should not be discouraged if they find the AMC preliminary exams extremely challenging. Some of our strongest high school members only qualified for AIME after several years of trying.

There are many excellent math enrichment resources available for younger students at libraries, bookstores, and on the Internet.

Do AAMC members participate in any math contests?

Yes, AAMC students have joined together to form teams that have competed in a number of math contests over the past five years. AAMC teams have done very well, but you should know that participating in math contests is strictly optional for AAMC members. We realize that official competitions are not everyone's cup of tea. There is no requirement to participate in official math contests and students who just want to join in the fun of working hard on challenging problems at our meetings are very welcome!

One important note: if your school has its own team for a particular competition, you should compete on your school's team for that particular contest, NOT on AAMC's team. We want to support those schools that choose to field their own teams.

AAMC members can find out more details about the contests open to them, including details of how to sign up for those contests, on our AlbanyAreaMathCircle yahoogroups website at this page.

How do I sign up for the AlbanyAreaMathCircle@yahoogroups email list?

Step 1) High school students and parents should send a message to:

Please send a separate message originating from each email address where you would like to receive math circle emails.  So, for example, if Sarah and both of her parents all want to subscribe to our email list, they should each send an email to the above address from their respective emails.  The body text of your email can just briefly state your name, school, and grade (or your student's name school and grade) so we can recognize you as a math circle member or parent and approve your subscription.

Once you are approved for subscription, you will automatically get information about problems to print out and bring to meetings, how to sign up for math contests with us, and many other important details!

Step 2) Please use the form at this link to give us all the essential contact information for your student.

Where and when do you meet?

This year, we are again meeting on Sundays evenings from 4 to 7 p.m. at Siena College. We are grateful to Siena College for hosting us. Members who join our yahoogroups list will get information about the exact location and parking/entrance directions. Whenever Siena College is closed for bad weather or holidays, AAMC will NOT meet.

Who are the AAMC advisors?

The founding AAMC Advisors are Mary O'Keeffe and Mukkai Krishnamoorthy. They have served as volunteer advisors to the group since its founding in 2001. Here is some brief biographical information about each of them.

Mary O'Keeffe has been an advisor to AAMC since it started in 2001. She teaches public finance at Union College, including a service-learning course in which economics students run a free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site, preparing tax returns for low income working families and senior citizens at Union's Kenney Community Center. She is also a consultant at Miller Risk Advisors. Her background includes an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Bryn Mawr College summa cum laude and a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard, where her special fields were public finance and mathematical economics. In the past, she has taught at Harvard College, University of Houston, Caltech, Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Harvard Law School. She was honored to receive the Manuel Carballo Award for Excellence in Teaching and Public Service awarded by the graduating class from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. She has volunteered as an enrichment mentor at several public schools in Schenectady and Niskayuna. She has coached MathCounts teams at Iroquois as well as homeschool MathCounts teams. In 2004, she was honored to receive the Mathematical Association of America's Sliffe Award for Distinguished High School Mathematics Teaching in recognition of the outstanding performance of Albany Area Math Circle students on the AMC12. Email to will reach her.

Mukkai Krishanmoorthy (fondly known as "Professor Moorthy" by our AAMC students) has also been an advisor to AAMC since it started in 2001. Prof. Moorthy received his Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Technology and he teaches computer science at RPI. In addition to his classroom teaching and research, he has coached RPI's computer science competition team. For almost a decade, he has also helped Mrs. Nancy Smith coach MathCounts at Doyle Middle School in a number of years, particularly in 2001 when Doyle sent two students to Nationals! In 2008, he received the Mathematical Association of America's Sliffe Award for Distinguished High School Mathematics Teaching in recognition of the outstanding performance of Albany Area Math Circle students on the AMC12.

Prof. Moorthy's website is here. Prof. Moorthy has truly remarkable talents in problem-solving, which he has generously shared with our Math Circle. He also has noteworthy talents in other areas including the ability to recite 139 digits of pi while juggling three balls. You can watch videos of this impressive feat on-line.

We have been fortunate to have several awesome co-advisors join us since then, including Dr. Bill Babbitt and Alexandra Schmidt.  You can read more about them here and here.

Is there a cost to joining AAMC?

We are an all-volunteer organization and we do all we can to keep costs minimal.

We do ask that AAMC friends and families contribute to a fund for pizza that we maintain. The suggested contribution is $10 per month. Contributions can be given to Mrs. Anita Devanandan, who coordinates recordkeeping.

We also try to keep costs down at travel contests. Entry fees are generally moderate ($10 per student is typical.)  advisors coordinate information so parents can make arrangements with one another to carpool to distant contests. Some contests can be done as day trips to hold down overnight lodging costs. Other contests are held on college campuses and, with advance notice, it is sometimes possible for students to stay with college student hosts in the dorms at minimal cost. In most years, the statewide NYSML tournament arranges host families who are willing to accommodate students traveling from a distance. (Last year's lodging arrangements for NYSML were very unusual, due to the NYC location.)

Where do AAMC members live? Can I arrange a carpool to weekly meetings or contests?

Albany Area Math Circle brings together students from a wide variety of communities.
Our membership changes from year to year, so you should check with our registrar, Mr. Babbitt, to locate other current members who live near you.

Students and alumni have hailed from all over the Capital District including the following communities:
    • Albany
    • Averill Park
    • Ballston Lake
    • Bethlehem
    • Clifton Park
    • Coxsackie
    • Cropseyville
    • Delmar
    • Fort Edward
    • Guilderland
    • Latham
    • Niskayuna
    • Saratoga Springs
    • Scotia-Glenville
    • Schenectady
    • Troy
    • Watervliet
AAMC members have come from the following schools: Albany High School, Averill Park High School, Bethlehem High School, Coxsackie High School, Guilderland High School, Niskayuna High School, Schenectady High School, Scotia-Glenville High School, Shaker High School, Shenendahoah High School, and Troy High School. We also have homeschool students and students from the Albany Academies, Doane Stuart, and Emma Willard.

We are happy to build bridges of collaboration among students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to work together.