About Math Team Strategies

Welcome! We're excited that you are interested in teaching Math Team Strategies at BEAM 6.

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Why Math Team Strategies?

The Math Team Strategies courses are designed to introduce students to contest problem solving. There are two reasons we believe this can be so important for students.

First, contest-style problems challenge students to apply their mathematical knowledge in new ways. They cannot be solved using procedures alone, and so students must genuinely think about their mathematics knowledge to correctly solve them. It is our hope that students will make this transition in their mathematical thinking.

Second, math contests are a way for students to stay involved with mathematics beyond BEAM. After the summer, we can help students' schools register for math competitions for them. Moreover, there are numerous online tools that students can continue to use after the summer, and by starting them off on those tools now, they will be able to further their educations on their own.

Different Classes

We believe that interesting content makes learning problem solving strategies more exciting. We furthermore believe that depth is more valuable than breadth to learn mathematics and how to do mathematics. Hence, we would like to see Math Team Strategies courses teach problem solving through the lens of a particular content area. We have identified several content areas that we believe to be rich areas to explore. (Click the links to see sample problems in each area.)

  • Number Theory (with a focus on divisibility and prime factorization)
  • Combinatorics (with a focus on the multiplication principle)
  • Geometry (with a focus on deriving angles and side lengths)

Of course, if you have another area to propose, please do so!

Providing several different Math Team Strategies courses also allows us to adhere to an important principle of BEAM: that student choice drives engagement.

Students help each other

DETAILed Overview

Each Math Team Strategies course should be designed to equip students to do well in the MATHCOUNTS contest. The courses take shape by identifying common problem types and learning the mathematics to do well on those problems. While the course should have enough time to introduce students to solving a particular type of problem, there will be much more content for students to learn after the summer. Hence, it is important that we equip students to learn on their own after the summer.

We don't have detailed lesson plans or handouts for students, but we do have many years of archived math contest problems and copies of Art of Problem Solving textbooks that you can use to plan your course. You will have the flexibility (and responsibility) for developing your day-to-day lesson plans, selecting problems, and creating handouts.

A note on Math Team Strategies Homework

We encourage the use of the Alcumus system on Art of Problem Solving as a good place to assign homework, especially given its past popularity with our students. Art of Problem Solving is the largest online community for middle and high school students interested in contest mathematics. Alcumus is a free adaptive system that gives contest-style problems to students, with focuses on particular topics. Since it is online and free, students can keep it up on their own when they get home. We recommend giving students particular badges/goals to aim for on the site under the topic of your course. You do not need prior experience with Alcumus for the course; it is easy to learn. You can monitor students' progress online.

Similarly, it would be helpful for students to get a start on the Art of Problem Solving website's forums, so that they can have a yearround social community centered around mathematics. To that end, homework assignments that encourage them to read forum posts or to reply on certain forum threads could give them a connection to this community.

Boys hard at work

Other Important Notes

Remember that the goal of this course is to give students a start that they can build off of. Sometimes class will move slowly and might not cover as much as you hoped, especially because students might be missing important basic skills. If they feel empowered to continue learning on their own, then the class has been a huge success.

While we believe that competition can be healthy, it is not for everyone, and competitions often turn young people off from mathematics. To prevent this, it is important to emphasize how interesting the problems are and the learning that students are doing independent of winning or losing. The class should always maintain a positive atmosphere for all students and should not spotlight students who are particularly quick or solve more problems; everyone's progress should be celebrated.

Additionally, contests often emphasize speed to a much greater extent than speed is valuable when doing mathematics. While preparing students for the speed required on contests, your course should also emphasize that this is an artificial element of most math contests and that they should strive to do and enjoy the problems rather than to rush through. Please don't let students walk out thinking that speed is a measure of their mathematical skill!

Ready to Apply?

Our applications all involve giving a course description about how you would teach your course. For the Math Team Strategies course, please include a specific problem, the context for teaching that problem (for example, what you might cover in before doing it), and how students would tackle that problem in class.

In addition, we ask that you send us a copy of your CV or resume, or a short summary of your education and work experience. (In particular, please don't spend hours polishing your CV on our account if you do not have one ready!)

Once we have received your application, our hiring committee will review it and then get back to schedule an interview if we feel you're a good fit.

Ready to apply? Want to preview the application? Please click the button below!

Melanie teaches