Saturday, December 19, 2009

Last night was EPIC!

Thanks to George Reuter for writing a great contest!

Mr. Reuter, when do you sleep? For those who don't already know, Mr. Reuter is a math teacher at Canandaigua Academy in western New York, and he is a father of five (including toddler twins!), and he is head coach of the Upstate NY Math Team, and he is also Vice President of NYSML. He also manages to maintain an awesome sense of good humor (check out this facebook page dedicated to collecting his funny remarks.)

He is also a personal inspiration to me. As I tried to emcee the contest for 45 students from the Albany area last night, I wondered how in the world Mr. Reuter managed to keep his cool and maintain his sanity while emceeing the NYSML state tournament last April for over ten times as many students from all over New York. He made it look easy. I know he will be an awesome emcee for this year's NYSML state tournament, which we will be hosting at UAlbany on April 10, 2010.

Thanks to NYSML Fall problem reviewers Mike Curry, Beth Schaffer, and Tom Zink, who did an excellent job of meticulously reviewing the problems. As noted before, Beth and Tom are both alumni and former captains of Albany Area Math Circle, who have continued to contribute their talents and energies to younger students in Albany Area Math Circle and Upstate NY ARML students, indeed to students all over the country and the world, in a variety of ways.

Thanks to Albany Area Math Circle advisor Professor Moorthy, who did an outstanding job of organizing our scoring room last night, with an awesome team of parent volunteers: Shuang Lin, Naomi Ogawa, Michal Rusak, and Katherine Scheib! They did an exceptional job of staying on top of a steady flow of answer sheets steadily streaming into their hands. It's really an amazing amount of papers to keep track of in a very short period of time, and their work was exemplary and efficient.

Thanks also to our AWESOME math circle alumni who were home on their college winter breaks and who returned to help out with administering the contest: Drew Besse, Liz Simon, Susanna Todaro, and Lindsay White. Without your help, and without the help of parent volunteers Rita Biswas and Anil Tolpadi, the contest would have been complete and utter chaos.

Thanks to all the students who participated last night, from our veterans to our rookies. For many of our younger students, it was their very first experience with participating in a high school math contest, and I know many of the questions were very hard, and sometimes the formats of all the different rounds got confusing, but I know that it will become more and more familiar over time. Thanks to all our high school students who welcomed our younger students onto their teams, especially our team captains: Andrew Ardito, David Bieber, Peixuan Guo, Brady Pelkey, Noah Rubin, and Felix Sun. You managed many challenges, including the fact that your teams were very heterogeneous, including various numbers of middle school students and other contest rookies. Several of the teams faced the handicap of being less than full strength (6 or 7 members), which made the relay rounds exceptionally challenging, especially the final one.

Special kudos to the very brave and courageous Guilderland and Shenendahoah teams, which were both under full strength in numbers AND composed primarily of middle school students. Although the relative inexperience of your teams last night posed many challenges, I know that both those teams are building a tremendous foundation for the future. Zubin Mukerjhee and Noah Rubin have been rising to the challenge by leading excellent middle school math circles in Guilderland. Felix Sun and Eric Wang have been coaching the MATHCOUNTS teams at the three Shen middle schools.

Kudos as well to Brady Pelkey from Hudson Falls, who captained a team otherwise composed of Niskayuna students. Brady is always someone we know we can count on to welcome new members to our math circle and help them feel comfortable with challenging problems.

Our top three teams were HEEG; a composite team composed of students from Shaker HS/JHS, Bethlehem HS, and Albany Academy; and Niskayuna Red, a team composed of students from Niskayuna High School, Iroquois Middle School, and Van Anterp Middle School.

Team high scorers were: Paul Rapoport (Composite 1), Preston Law (HEEG), Dave Bieber (Niskayuna Red), Bradley Johnson/Matt Walsh (Niskayuna Green), Isaac Malsky/William Wang (Guilderland), Felix Sun/Eric Wang (Shen).

Thanks again to everyone who made this contest possible: the problem creators, the parent volunteers, the omnipresent Mr. Babbitt (who organized all the paperwork, picked up the essential pizzas for our break, recruited outstanding parent and alumni volunteers, and constantly anticipated countless small but critical details like discovering that most of the electrical outlets near the projector system didn't work due to the ongoing construction and finding one that did.) Thanks also to Professor Rita Biswas, who was constantly thinking about how all this is going to translate to Albany Area Math Circle's hosting of the state tournament on April 10, 2010.

We will get one more opportunity to run NYSML Seasonal this year--in February--I know that Rita, Bill, and I learned a lot about what works and doesn't work. We won't have many alumni around then, so we will need even more parent volunteers to help us out, but I'm confident that will be an even better experience, because of all we've learned from running our first NYSML Seasonal.

And I know we can translate it all into a GREAT NYSML State meet on April 10, 2010.

And I know that last night's rookies who may have the opportunity to participate in other high school contests will be much better prepared as a result of last night's experiences. Thanks again to all who made it possible.

Thanks also to Prof. Chad Orzel of Union College, who gave a very engaging talk last night about teaching physics to dogs. It was a nice intermission between the two halves of the contest. Our students, alumni, advisors, and parent helpers all enjoyed it. He deserves yet another separate post of his own, which he'll get after his book lands under our Christmas tree next Friday. (Hmmm, hope nobody in my family is reading this?)

Here are the slides from an earlier version of the talk he gave last night:

In the spirit of his talk last night, I'll simply add this postscript:

We will post the number, names, and existence of individual perfect scorers (if any) after the extended contest administration window ends at midnight on January 1, 2010. Such individuals (if they exist) are not eligible for individual team high scorer awards, due to rules that avoid award duplication.

So, in other words, a wave function as to the possible existence and identity of perfect scorers will collapse at midnight on January 1, when we will release the news to the world.

IMPORTANT SERIOUS REMINDER: All students who took last night's contest are reminded that they should NOT discuss it with any students who might have yet to take the contest. That means: Don't discuss content of the problems, difficulty of the problems, or scores that you or anyone else got. And, especially, do NOT post any such information on the Internet until the extended contest administration window closes on January 1, 2010.

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