Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Upstate NY All Stars!

Albany Area Math Circle members of the New York State All Star Math Team thank the New York State Society of Professional Engineers for their support:  
Yujun (Etheal) Chen, Emma Willard School
Sherry He, Emma Willard School
Gili Rusak, Shaker High School
Jien Ogawa, South Colonie High School
Cecilia Holodak, Niskayuna High School
Matt Babbitt, heeg
Zubin Mukerjee, Guilderland High School
Ziqing (Bill) Dong. Farnsworth Middle School

Complete 2012 Upstate NY AllStar Math team roster for 2012 ARML, including students from all over Upstate New York (defined as New York State minus {New York City, Nassau County, Suffolk Count})

Matthew Babbitt heeg
Jemmin Chang Somers
Yujun Chen Emma Willard
Yiqun Cui Brighton
Matt DeCross Pittsford-Sutherland
Pranav Devarakonda Brighton
Matt Dobbins Corning West
Ziqing Dong Farnsworth
Ryan Gao Brighton
Huajun Gu Corning West
Jeff Guo Penfield
Sherry He Emma Willard
Cecilia Holodak Niskayuna
Doug Knowles Churchville-Chili
Jeremy Koob Corning West
Benjamin Lei Arlington
Devin Li Corning West
Allen Liu Penfield
Ben Lowenstein Pittsford-Sutherland
Dongze Lu Harley-Allendale-Columbia
Evan Lustick Canandaigua
Zubin Mukerjee Guilderland
Jien Ogawa South Colonie
Jordan Roeder Canandaigua
Gili Rusak Shaker
Perry Wang Corning West
Felix Weilacher Penfield
Yunmei Zhang Harley-Allendale-Columbia
Simon Zheng Somers

Guerrilla Math venues?

Schenectady--and more broadly, the Capital District, have many wonderful free outdoor activities.  They are fun family places to go and enjoy our beautiful summers.  And they are great places for you and your families  to do Guerrilla Math!  Just bring some sidewalk chalk or a portable whiteboard and markers, and your ideas for fun math explorations to share with families waiting for the event to begin or during intermissions, afterwards. 

Here are few links I got from a colleague at Union College.  If you can suggest other links, please post in the comments below.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Guerrilla Math Circle at the Youth Peace Rally

It is a beautiful day for more sidewalk chalk Guerrilla Math Circles.  I will be doing it at today's Youth Peace Rally at Jerry Burrell Park in Schenectady.

As I wrote in my last post:

Jerry Burrell Park is a place that is near and dear to my heart, because one of my former students at Union College, Jeremy Taglieri, spent a year working along with two friends to raise $84,000 in funds and recruiting 140 volunteers to renovate the park.  They called their project Project SKIP, where SKIP = "Schenectady Kids Imagine and Play."  Jerry Burrell Park is also the site of a SICM free lunch site, and in fact, volunteers from my own church will take a turn serving lunch for a week there later this summer. 

All math circle families, siblings, friends, and neighbors are cordially welcome to join us.  But--as I also wrote in my last post--I am mindful that not all parents will be comfortable with their families coming to this neighborhood.  It is a decision that should be made with full information--this is one of the highest crime neighborhoods in our area, and in 2010, just a few weeks after the playground's renovation, a 17-year-old shot and seriously wounded an 11-year-old boy and his 18-year-old older brother.  Each family needs to make a choice they are comfortable with.

But today, I choose to join those who hope to bring and keep peace in this community.  And I will bring what I have to share--the beauty and excitement of creating and discovering mathematical patterns.

Directions:  Jerry Burrell Park is located at the corner of Hamilton and Schenectady Streets in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood of Schenectady.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pascal's triangle in sidewalk chalk

First 15 rows of Pascal's triangle (mod 2) in sidewalk chalk

Imagine that you throw a dart at Pascal's triangle.  What are the odds you will hit an even number?

Paul Zeitz raised this fascinating question at the MSRI Great Circle's workshop three years ago.

It's a fun one to explore in sidewalk chalk--perfect for Guerrilla Math Circles.

A good way to start thinking about this problem is simply to begin coloring in the triangle--and what could be more fun that the idea of creating a really large one with sidewalk chalk?  And engaging any curious passersby in helping you.  How big can we make it if we get lots of folks helping us?  (And of course, we could also start some people on exploring Pascal's triangles with multiples of other prime numbers colored in.)

I started one the other day in Schenectady's Central Park and I will be back there this evening (Friday June 8) to do more.  There is a nice large stretch of blacktop that is blocked off from automobile access.  It is adjacent to Tiny Totland and not far from the Music Haven (site of many wonderful free concerts) and also near the picnic pavillion area where Schenectady Inner City Mission serves free lunches in the summer.  Central Park is the "crown jewel" of Schenectady's park system, designed by Frederick Olmsted and with a world class rose garden.  To get to where I will be tonight, enter Central Park via the main entrance off Central Parkway and then turn to the left when you get to the lake.  Park in the parking lot near Tiny Totland and look for me in the blacktop area between Tiny Totland and the lake.

On Sunday afternoon, from 1 to 5 p.m. I will be doing more Guerrilla Math Circles at a different park in Schenectady, Jerry Burrell Park.  Jerry Burrell Park is a place that is near and dear to my heart, because one of my former students at Union College, Jeremy Taglieri, spent a year working along with two friends to raise $84,000 in funds and recruiting 140 volunteers to renovate the park.  They called their project Project SKIP, where SKIP = "Schenectady Kids Imagine and Play."  Jerry Burrell Park is also the site of a SICM free lunch site, and in fact, volunteers from my own church will take a turn serving lunch for a week there later this summer.

I invite Albany Area Math Circle families (students, parents, siblings) to join me in sharing the fun, beauty, and awesomeness of mathematics with a wider world, a world of folks who have yet to discover how much delight can be had in exploring the wilds of mathematics.

All of you can do these activities wherever your parents feel comfortable with your doing them.  I grew up in a city myself, and have always been comfortable having my children play in Schenectady parks when they were growing up, with--of course--sensible precautions taken about when and where to go.  Personally, I am comfortable being in city parks when SICM volunteers from churches all over the area are serving free lunches, but not when they are mostly deserted.  And this Sunday's event at Jerry Burrell Park is part of a larger event organized by city officials.

Nothing is ever 100% safe--and there are risks to just sitting in your own living room (a car might come crashing through the wall), but I recognize that these are decisions that math circle parents needs to make for their own children.  I feel compelled to point out that--sadly--just a few weeks after the renovation of the Jerry Burrell Park in 2010, a 17-year-old boy shot and seriously wounded an 11-year-old and an 18-year-old boy who were walking to the park from just a block away.

But--remember that you and your sons and daughters can also do these same activities WHEREVER you happen to be--on the sidewalk in front of your own home or the park just down the street from you in your own neighborhood.

No matter where you are comfortable with participating in our outreach activities, you can work with us to brainstorm ideas and post links to photos in the comments below.  Albany Area Math Circle members can also post about their experiences in our private discussion forum on the Art of Problem Solving.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Home of the math champions: Upstate New York!

Upstate NY All-Star Math Team celebrates the announcement that Allen Liu is the national high school math champion!

Hundreds of mathletes and coaches applaud Allen as he walks down to center court at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.  Allen's victory is all the more impressive because he is only an eighth grader.  He attends Bay Trails Middle School in Penfield, New York, but he has already been excelling in math classes at the University of Rochester.  He is currently attending the Math Olympiad Summer Program, along with high school students on this year's International Math Olympiad team and others considered strong prospects for future year teams.  As a USA Math Olympiad  qualifier every year since the fifth grade and a top-10 finisher at ARML since sixth grade, Allen has already compiled an extraordinary track record, yet he is an outstanding example of modesty and a generous spirit always willing to share what he knows with others.

Upstate NY All-Star Coaches Jen Vibber, Brenda Munch, and Tom Zink beam with pride as Allen becomes the newest member of their Upstate NY dynasty of national champions. No other ARML team anywhere in the country (or world!) can boast about so many national champions.  ARML went national in 1984. Since that time, 26 distinct individuals have won ARML.   Of those 26 champions, four are from the Upstate NY team:

Robert Kleimberg (1992)
Jeremy Bem (1993)
Aaron Pixton (2004)
Allen Liu (2012)
Coach Jen Vibber has been Allen's local coach throughout his middle school years, as well as a member of the Upstate NY Math Team coaching staff.  She is also the incoming head coach for the Upstate NY Math Team.  That's outgoing Upstate NY head coach George Reuter looking over her shoulder in the photo!  With the foundation built by George, Jen, and the other dedicated veteran coaches on the Upstate NY staff, we all know the Upstate NY team is in great hands going forward.  Thanks to all the tremendously dedicated coaches for the many hours of tireless work they put into creating an awesome community experience for mathematically passionate kindred spirit students all over Upstate NY.   It is obviously a labor of love for each and every one of them, as they are all volunteers.   They are outstanding teachers who inspire their mathletes with their character as well as their knowledge of problem-solving methods.

2012 Upstate NY Math Team Coaching Staff:

George Reuter (MCML/Canandaigua Academy) 
Doug Becker (MCML/Gates-Chili HS), Treasurer
Brenda Munch (MCML/Brighton High School)
Patty Pragel (MCML/Greece Arcadia High School)
Jen Vibber (MCML/Penfield High School)
Glen Stephenson (Corning West High School)
Tom Zink (AAMC/MicroStrategy)
Bill Babbitt (AAMC/RPI)
Rita Biswas (AAMC/UAlbany)

(If you would like to learn more about the "Parent Function" cited on the Upstate NY team t-shirts, check out Pat Ballew's blog post describing the fascinating history of the term's usage.)