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Douglas O'Roark

Virtual Summer (and Spring) 2021

By | Events

While schools are opening, the outlook for summer programs still looks virtual. While that’s disappointing for all of us who have been stuck at home, the good news is it does make national summer programs accessible–along with some spring programs as well.

1. Consider registering for the National Math Festival which will run April 16th-18th. It’s a chance for kids of all ages to interact with the world’s most interesting mathematicians!

2. The Museum of Math’s Summer Programs will be held from June 28th to September 3rd. You can sign up by the week (sessions are 9AM-3PM eastern, aka 8AM-2PM Central time), and they have programs for students in three grade bands–rising 1st-3rd, 4th-6th, or 7th-9th.

3. Wolfram produces the ultimate math software, Mathematica. For many years Wolfram has supported MC2’s Annual Symposium, QED.

The week of June 14th Wolfram’s Middle School Summer Camp is open to middle school girls ages 11-14. Admissions are on a rolling basis, so apply soon! Participating students will learn to think computationally in order to address problems in math, the humanities, or whatever is of individual interest. Their high school camp runs from July 1st to the 17th, and mixes, science, math, and technology.

4. The Summer STEM Institute runs for six weeks starting on June 20th. It’s a research and data science boot camp, a lecture series, and mentorship program all rolled up into one. Apply by April 16th; you must be at least 13.

5. High Schoolers, want to learn about Artificial Intelligence? AI Foundry is a 10 week bootcamp led by AI researchers, inspired by Stanford’s AI curriculum. You can learn more about the AI Foundry Program through their website: https://www.thenextepoch.com, and interested students can apply here. You’ll want to hurry, since the program starts on April 10th (application due by 4/4)!

6. Math Circles of Chicago does plan to offer camps for rising 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, and possibly high school students. We expect our camps to run in July, and expect to make an announcement about the registration process in the next few weeks!

7. To learn about other camps, check out this blog post from last year. 🙂

Finally, teachers, think about applying to the Park City Math Institute. Applications are due by April 5th–it will change your life!

So Many Online Options

By | Uncategorized

MC2 continues this winter and spring online; for the moment we hope we’ll be back in person this summer. In the fall, when it seems almost certain that our in person sites will re-open, we will maintain our online sessions to provide access to students who couldn’t participate otherwise. Like many organizations, we’ve found that one of the few silver linings of the pandemic is that we’ve learned to adapt to the online setting to further our mission.

Online options provide greater access to great programs everywhere. Our colleagues across the country provide a range of opportunities:

1 The Julia Robinson Math Festival

Prior to the pandemic, JRMF’s main activity was to support groups across the county to hold local in-person math festivals. MC2’s festival takes place every June, for example. Since March JRMF has undergone a remarkable shift. Their weekly webinars introduce a new activity every week.

2 Museum of Math

When MoMath reopens it’s well worth a visit (11 East 26th St. in NYC). In the meantime, they have a wide variety of virtual programs, from social gatherings for tweens and teens to Family Fridays (think origami) to summer camps and more.

3 Art of Problem Solving

AoPS has been the premier online math enrichment site for many years. For students interested in taking math courses that go beyond the standard curriculum, it’s the place to be. AoPS is also a platform for the math contest community–their Community Forums have a wide variety of discussion topics.

4 MathCommunities.org

The American Institute of Mathematics provides links to their own programs (e.g. ‘Math Mondays’) along with those of their partners.

Survey Says: Thank You Teachers

By | Uncategorized

As MC2 has expanded over the last five years, we’ve kept an eye on our surveys. We don’t want to increase enrollment at the expense of lowering the quality of our programs. I’m happy to say that the fall results are in, and 92% of our students Agree or Strongly Agree with the statement, “Overall I am very satisfied with my experience in math circles.” 84% said MC2 made them more interested in math.

Given that we’ve been online, it’s a testament to our teachers that these satisfaction rates are so high. Our students wrote things like, “I really liked the kindness of everybody,” “My teachers were great, that’s the only note I wanted to share. I had a fun time!”, and “The teachers were really nice and made me want to come to the meetings!”

We survey our teachers too. 98% agreed that, “I am highly satisfied with my work as a Math Circles instructor.”

Peyton Morgan, pictured here, led 8 MC2 sessions at 3 sites this fall.

I think the number 2 reason why we do our work well is that we have the right values–empowerment, inclusion, access, student agency, and the promotion of student collaboration. But the #1 reason for the quality of our work is that we have over 60 teachers that are committed to these values. Many of these teachers lead very busy lives, yet make the time to teach MC2 sessions on late afternoons and on weekends.

Moreover, we managed to have three teachers at almost every online session this fall. This could have been an overwhelming financial burden to our organization, but many of these teachers taught voluntarily. I particularly want to thank the undergraduate and high school students who stepped up when we made a plea for volunteers in September so we could meet the demand for our online programs.

It’s the time of the year to give thanks. Thank you to our teachers, without which MC2 wouldn’t exist, but more importantly our teachers are the reason why MC2 is so good at what it does!

 

Our Fall Plan

By | Uncategorized

Planning for our fall sessions is happening in earnest. We will, of course, be online, so we have a lot of planning to do. Last spring when we went online we held only a limited number of sessions at three program levels; this fall all five of our program levels will meet again. Some key things to note:

1. Fall Registration

Pre-registration for our fall programs will open the week of August 31st. Our lottery will run on September 19th, and remaining spots will be available on a first come first serve basis. Students who were enrolled in our spring in person programs can re-enroll at the site they were assigned to in the spring.

2. Offerings

Although our sessions will be online, we will continue to use our site names–in effect, a site is really a grouping of sessions taking place at the same time.

  • Back of the Yards sessions will continue to meet Saturdays at 10AM; UChicago and Payton will meet Saturdays at 1PM (with a 2nd round of Haynes-5/6 sessions at 2:30PM).
    • All Saturday sites will hold Haynes-5/6, Brahmaupta-7/8, and Cantor-A1/Geo sessions
    • Kovalevsky-A2/PC sessions will be part of our Payton site (but not UChicago)
    • Euler sessions will be part of our UChicago site (but not Payton)
    • When we return to in person sessions, we will again hold Kovalevsky-A2/PC and Euler at both Payton and UChicago.
  • Our after school sites will all meet at 4:30PM.
    • Mondays: Morgan Park, Haynes-5/6, Brahmaupta-7/8
    • Tuesdays: Bridgeport, Haynes-5/6, Brahmaupta-7/8
    • Wednesdays: Little Village, Haynes-5/6
    • Thursdays: Lane Tech, Haynes-5/6, Brahmaupta-7/8, and Cantor-A1/Geo sessions
    • (Our Pilsen site will resume when we go back to in person meetings)

All of our Haynes-5/6, Brahmagupta-7/8, and Cantor-A1/Geo sessions will meet for 75 minutes. Kovalevsky-A2/PC and Euler online sessions will be 90 minutes. You can find the meeting dates for all of our sites here. You can find descriptions of our program levels here.

Of course, online sites are equally accessible to anyone with a computer and wifi not matter where you live–keep two things in mind when you rank your choices: (1) Once we return to in person sessions, you can re-enroll at the site that you last attended; (2) your personal schedule. That’s it–you’re welcome to attend at any site that fits your schedule!

3. QED, Chicago’s Youth Math Symposium

We are committed to holding an online version of QED this year. Our anticipated date is December 5th, although this may change depending on circumstances. As our plans become firm we will share more information!

4. New Site

Since 2015 we’ve added 5 sites as we’ve grown to serve nearly 800 students in our academic year program. Adding one new site in the fall has become a habit, and our plan had been to add a new site this fall until Covid made that a near impossibility. However, once we are able to return to in person meetings at our current 8 sites, we will immediately add a new 9th site: ‘Online’. Our mission is to create opportunities for all children in Chicago to build a passion for mathematics, and it’s clear that an online site will provide access to more children than ever before!

5. Math Circles in a Box: MC2iaB

Last year we piloted a new program: MC2iaB. MC2 sessions were held in after school programs in Little Village Academy and Goudy Elementary. This year we are expanding to 15 schools across the city, with an emphasis in the Back of the Yards, Little Village, and Austin communities. We provide teachers at local schools math circle plans, workshops, and coaching to help them develop as math circle leaders. If you know a middle school teacher who might be interested in participating in the MC2iaB program, have them complete this form.

Math Circles at Home: Flips & Tools

By | Uncategorized

When spring math circles were suspended in March, I started sharing some ideas for at home, independent math circles, posting them here until our summer camps started. From here on out I’ll post one idea each month where math circles don’t meet. Send any ideas you have to info@mathcirclesofchicago.org. Thanks!

Flips

Did you know that 1089 is a 9-flip? Let me explain.

1089 x 9 = 9801. See? Multiplying 1089 by 9 results in 9801, which is 1089 ‘flipped’.

  • There are other 9-flips. Find one. Are there more?
  • There are also 4-flips; numbers that you can multiply by 4 that result in ‘flipping’ the number you started with. Find a couple of 4-flips.
  • Are there other kinds of flips besides 4-flips and 9-flips? Are there any 5-flips or 7-flips? If not, why not?
  • Think about extreme cases. There are a lot of 1-flips. What is true about all of them? Can you have a 2 digit flip (like, say, a 19-flip)? Why or why not?
  • What other questions about flips could you ask?

Tools

How could you approach the flip investigation?

  • Guess and check. It gets us through life most of the time.
  • Try a spreadsheet. This is sort of like guess and check on steroids. You can collect a lot of data fast and get a feel for what it takes to find/create a flip.
  • Do some initial analysis. Take 9-flips. Multiplying by 9 results in a number much bigger than what you started with. That limits what numbers you might have in the first and last digits of the number you are playing with. With 4-flips, you have more options….
  • Use Algebra if you know some. Suppose I have the number ABCD, where D is the digit in the 1s place, C is in the 10s, B in the 100s, and A is in the 1000s place, so that ABCD = 1000A + 100B + 10 C + D. How does that compare with DCBA? Of course, it’s better not to have too many variables, so use your analysis to narrow things down a bit. If you have a 9-flip, what number do you think will be in the left-most decimal place?

(Thanks to A. Gardiner’s Discovering Mathematics: The Art of Investigation for introducing me to Flips!)

Math Circles at Home: Adding Boxes

By | Uncategorized

Suppose you place two numbers in a row of boxes like so:

Then we generate the next number by adding those first two boxes together.

We continue in this fashion to complete the row:

 

 

On the other hand, suppose I give you this:

What numbers should be in the boxes between the 5 and the 16?

Some follow up questions:

  1. A simpler case: If there are only 3 boxes, and I give you the first and the last boxes, what goes in the middle?
  2. What happens if I switch the first and last number?
  3. Can you give a general rule for finding the numbers between the first and last box when there are 5 boxes?
  4. What if you had 4 boxes? Or 6? Or n? Can you come up with a general rule for finding the numbers in between when you have any number of boxes?
  5. If the first and last numbers are whole numbers, will the numbers in between be whole numbers? If not, under what conditions will those numbers be whole numbers?
  6. How can you change the rules? What questions could you ask then?

Box on!

Summer Opportunities & How to Multiply 9 Digit Numbers in Your Head

By | Uncategorized

Like MC2, a number of summer programs have now committed to running their camps online:

1. MC2’s Camps

Our lottery runs on Friday, 5/15. Camps will run the weeks of 7/13 and 7/20, serving rising 6th to 13th graders.

2. The Stanford Summer STEM Institute

This camp runs from June 21st to August 1st. It consists of a research and data science bootcamp, a masterclass lecture series, and  a guided research project. Rising 9th to 12th graders. Admission is on a rolling basis, so apply ASAP.

3. Wolfram High School Summer Camp

Wolfram has reached out to MC2, and they are looking to recruit more female students. The camp runs from July 5th to July 18th, and participating students will get an opportunity to learn the Wolfram programming language, engage in special computing topics like natural language and machine learning, while also having individual project time.

4. MyChiMyFuture

Mayor Lightfoot will be launching the MyChiMyFuture website on May 11th. You’ll find links to summer programs offered by Chicago out-of-school providers. This site will be a clearinghouse for the summer and beyond, from camps to online challenges to meet-ups!

 

Now, how do you multiply 9 digit numbers in your head?

First, and yes, this is a trick, one of the numbers has to be 142,857,143. But the other one can be anything you’d like! Here’s an example:

142,857,143 x 358,246,974

Steps below will be written out, but with practice you can do them all in your head.

Step 1: Write the chosen number twice: 358,246,974,358,246,974

Step 2: Take the number from step 1 and divide it by 7, moving left to right. That’s it! In this case:

35/7 = 5

8/7 = 1 with remainder 1, which you connect to the 2, the next digit
12/7 = 1, remainder 5, which you connect to 4, the next digit

54/7 =7, remainder 5

56/7 = 8

9/7 = 1, remainder 2, etc.

etc.

So, 142,857,143 x 358,246,974 =

51,178,139,194,035,282

Works every time!

 

Math Circles at Home: The Opposite of Times Tables

By | Uncategorized

When my children were in primary school, I found that multiplication times table tests were far less common than when I was their age. At least, teachers were less likely to give them. Other parents, however, worried that their kids wouldn’t get enough ‘practice’ and wouldn’t be ‘fluent’ in single digit multiplication. So they’d time their children completing times tables at home.

This, to me, encouraged flippancy, not fluency. In the short term, flippant memorization of multiplication facts might work, but in the long term it’s a disaster.

There is a place for (fluent) mastery of multiplication facts. So, if not times tables, what then?

Do math with your children instead. Give an actual problem to be solved, where the practice of ‘multiplication facts is built in. Try this:

Numbers can be partitioned in many different ways:

7 = 3 + 4 = 1 + 1 + 5 = 2 + 2 + 2 + 1 = 1 + 1 + 1 + 1+ 1 +1 + 1 = etc.

For a given number, take the numbers in one of its partitions and multiply them. Out of all the possible partitions of that number, what’s the biggest product you can get? Can you come up with a rule that guarantees the largest product?

In this investigation, you’ll find you have to do a lot of multiplication, more than if you completed a times table. But now you will multiply with a goal in mind. You’ll need to organize your work, make conjectures, consider simpler cases, connections between cases, and, most importantly, you will be doing this work with a purpose.

And all those things are sorely missing when you do times tables.

Math Circles at Home: Trapezoids, Hexarights, and Reptiles

By | Uncategorized

With school back in session (online), here’s a simple math circle activity to try at home when you need a break. 🙂

  • A trapezoid is a quadrilateral with at least one pair of parallel sides.
  • A hexaright is a hexagon with all sides at right angles.
  • A reptile is a polygon that can be divided into four congruent pieces, all similar to the original.

This figure at right is a trapezoidal reptile; note that the horizontal sides of the trapezoid–both the ‘big’ original along with the four ‘little’ copies–are in a 2:1 ratio.

 

Show that the trapezoids and hexarights below are also reptiles. From there, try to make up a new reptile of your own!

Math Circles at Home: Two Tricks to Teach Your Parents

By | Uncategorized

I used to be hesitant in building a math circle session around tricks, but I’ve come to appreciate their place. On MC2 Parent Surveys, we often get responses like this: “I can see my child’s curiosity about math is sparked–she tells me about what she did afterwards and has to tried to have me play along with games she learned.” There’s a place for puzzles, tricks, and games that students can share with a parent or sibling.

For this ‘At Home Math Circle’, I encourage the kid to read the directions and then try it out with a parent! Note: You’ll need a standard deck of cards for each trick, and a standard die for the 2nd.

1. Piles to King

Note: It’s essential that your deck of cards be a complete deck with 52 cards–no cards missing, no jokers!

Step 1: Deal a card face up. Say it’s a 6. Continue to deal the cards face up on top of that 6, and in your head count up to king. Count in your head–so you’d deal the 6, then count 7,8, 9, 10, jack, queen, king to make a pile (to be clear, the value of the cards will likely not be be 7, 8, 9, etc.; it’s just a way to keep track of how many cards should be in your pile). Note that if the pile starts with 6, it will have 8 cards. If you start with a 3, you’ll get a stack with 11 cards; a stack that starts with a king will only have that one card!

When your count gets to king, that pile is done. Keep making other piles in the same manner. Make 4 or 5 piles.

Step 2: Turn all of the piles upside down. Ask the subject/parent/victim of your trick to hand you all but three piles. Take the cards that you are handed and put them with the unused remainder of the deck.

Step 3: Have the subject turn over the top card of two of the remaining piles. Take the deck and count out the number of cards corresponding to the cards that are revealed. If you see a 3 and a queen, count out 3 cards, then count out 12 cards (a queen is a 12, a king is 13, and a jack is 11; aces are 1’s). Important: After that, deal out 10 more cards.

Step 4: Count the remaining cards in your hand. Suppose there are six; announce that the remaining card on top of the third pile is a six (if there are 11, you’d say jack). Then turn the top card over on the final pile, to the amazement of all (assuming you’ve done your arithmetic right!)

Tips:

  • Do all of the counting in your head. This will make the trick more mysterious.
  • You can make as many piles as you want, just don’t run out of cards. For example, if you are close to running out, and you deal out an ace, that pile would have 13 cards–if you run out, the trick won’t work if you make that pile!

2. The 3 and a Half of Clubs

Note: You can buy a three and a half of clubs card online, but, at the moment that may be hard to do. Alternatively (ask your parents if this is ok), draw on the three of clubs and make it a three and a half. 🙂

Step 1: Put the three and a half of clubs 9th from the top of the deck. Shuffle the deck, but don’t disturb the 9 cards at the top!

Step 2: Invite the subject to deal out 20 cards, face down, one on top of the other.

Step 3: Have the subject then remove from 1 to 9 cards–their choice–from the top of this new stack. (They shouldn’t tell you the number they chose).

Step 4: Have the subject figure out how many cards remain in the pile. This is a two digit number. Have them add those digits together, and then remove that many more cards. (If there were 14 cards left in the pile, they would remove 1+4=5 cards).

Step 5: Have the subject roll the die but not show you the result. Tell them that the average of the top and bottom of the die will be the same number as the card at the top of the stack.

If they laugh at you because the average is 3 and a half, great, because you know what’s going to happen!

Extensions:

  • Try to think about why each trick works.
  • For Piles to King, how would you have to adjust the trick if there were four piles and the top card were revealed for three of them?