Thursday, June 17, 2010

Spectacular summer math programs in Upstate NY: Part I

I'll be writing about two terrific summer math programs in Upstate New York that still have openings. One is a week-long daycamp program for middle school students and one is a week-long math immersion retreat for middle school teachers. (Because why should students have all the fun!)

This post is about the program for students. I'll write about the program for teachers later this week.

Albany Area Math Circle alumni Dave Bieber and Markus Salasoo will again offer their summer math day camp for middle school students July 12 to 16 amid the beautiful and inspiring surroundings of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks in Niskayuna. Parents and siblings of math campers are welcome to walk around the grounds of the adjacent wildlife sanctuary while Dave and Markus lead their students in a week of fun "think outside-the-box" mathematics.

Dave and Markus initiated this camp in 2008, and this will be their third year of running this very well-received program. Dave has written about the first year of the camp here. Dave has also been coaching the Van Antwerp Middle School MATHCOUNTS team for the past two years. The National MATHCOUNTS organizations recognized his very successful coaching with "Coach of the Week" honors in March. Dave was the first ever student coach to receive this recognition! You can read more about Dave here.

Dave and Markus started this program as high school students, and it is great to see them build on their enthusiasm and experience continuing to run it as they move on into college: Markus is a rising sophomore at Cornell and Dave will be a freshman at Princeton in the fall.

The camp is aimed at mathematically and behaviorally mature middle school students (entering 6th through 8th grades). More information and a camp application are available here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

In memory and appreciation of Prof. Leo Schneider

Just two months ago, we were honored to have Professor Leo Schneider come to Albany for NYSML, the statewide math championship math meet, where our students, as well as students from all over New York State, got to see him in action as he helped to run the tiebreak rounds (above, with George Reuter) and subsequently explained the mathematics behind the solutions to those problems to an audience of hundreds of students.

Professor Schneider has composed many terrific problems to challenge and inspire high school students at ARML and NYSML over the years. In fact, he has written all of the problems used at NYSML for at least a decade, and he has also overseen the grading of the essay/proof-based Power Question during that time. He has also contributed AMC contest problems and volunteered with the International Math Olympiad. Our students have very much enjoyed working on many of his problems during official competitions, as well as learning more from those problems by working on them informally afterwards as they prepared for future competitions.

Yesterday, the American Regions Math League (ARML) national organization honored Professor Schneider by awarding him the 2010 Al Kalfus Award for Distinguished Service. Prof. Schneider was on-site to receive that honor, as well as to serve in his role as Chief Judge of the national high school math contest, including overseeing the grading of the power round on Appolonian circle packing.

Less than 24 hours later, we received the sad news that Professor Schneider passed away suddenly while traveling from ARML.

He leaves a remarkable legacy behind--thousands and thousands of students all over the state and all over the country, inspired and energized by the mathematical excitement he created in the problems he composed for them. And decades of future students will grow mathematically by continuing to work informally on those problems in the future.

Professor Moorthy, Mr. Babbitt, Professor Biswas, Beth Schaffer, and I had the privilege of meeting and dining with Professor Schneider and other NYSML officials the night before NYSML this year. His eyes sparkled as he talked about how he'd found inspiration for this year's Power Question in a visit to a factory that used computer-controlled milling machines. His motto was "There's a Power Question in everything!" and it's clear that his mind was constantly open to the possibility of interesting mathematics in every daily encounter.

Thank you, Professor Schneider. You will be missed, and we will think of you as we continue to work with future cohorts of students and to reflect on the mathematics embodied in the problems you have composed.