Sunday, May 28, 2006

Serious About Math Education

Both my husband and I have advanced degrees in engineering. We value math education. I have been very concerned about the inconsistency and quality in public school math curriculum, so I take the responsibility on my own to make sure my kids learn a solid foundation.

When they were at elementary school, they did the Highline advanced math program at http://home.blarg.net/~math/. The two-year program is effective to practice basic skills in all areas. In addition, I purchased contest books from http://www.mathleague.com/. These books offer challenging multi-choices questions.

If a student is serious about math, I suggest she or he accelerate through all middle school and high school math curriculum. My older son took EPGY math from Stanford gifted program http://epgy.stanford.edu/ and finished precalculus around 8th grade. He got a good foundation and that really counts. I wished he had taken Geometry too but somehow we did not do it.

In addition, both of my kids visit http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/ website. The website publishes a two-volume book called "The art of problem solving". The book is geared toward AMC competitions. My friend's son Jonathan Hung, a 8th grader, worked through both volumes. It was frustrating at the beginning because of the depth, but he worked very hard and overcome the challenges. He placed 1st at Washington State Math Competition this year and also made it to the Washington State MathCounts team. The team finished 2nd place at the National and Johnathan placed 29th among 228 finalists. I can take some credit in his success because I introduced the website and books to him :).

To really excel, a love of mathematics is needed. It is more important to foster that passion so the child will work on problems by her or himself without parent supervision. Luckily, this is the case at my house. My older son has been a USAMO qualifier for two years and my younger son was invited AIME this year at 7th grade. They both think math is their favorite subject and are happy with what they have learned. It is very rewarding to know that the mathematical seeds I planted in them have been growing steadily and lively.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

Our family loves to watch the show "Numb3rs" . The show's main characters are Don and Charlie. Don and Charlie are brothers. Don works at FBI. Charlie is the younger one, a prodigy in math, who finished college at 13 and works as a Math Professor. In each episode, Charlie helps Don to apply math modeling to solve FBI crimes. It is math and science in action. Our kids love it.

There is another aspect of the show that intrigues me -- the wisdom hidden in their conversations with their father.

In one episode, Charlie's father told the following story. When Charlie was in the fourth grade, he was constantly bullied by another student. Don had to walk Charlie home everyday to protect him. However, one day Don was not able to do so. The bully followed Charlie home and picked on Charlie. Charlie's father watched the whole thing from the window and did not come out to help.

He said to Charlie, "You are always so loved and protected. But the world is not a safe place. Only when you started to fight back that is when I realized that you have enough heart to take whatever life is going to throw at you."

He did come out to break the fight between the bully and Charlie later.

While this is a made-up story, not many tales are as true and as profound like this one. I wish to share it with all parents on this Mother's day.