BEAM Thoughts on the College Admission Scandal

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Today, we have a guest post from Ayinde Alleyne, BEAM’s College Support Coordinator. Ayinde wrote the message below and sent it to all our students currently enrolled in college. His perspective is clear and powerful so we wanted to share it with you.

By now, I believe most of you have heard of the College Admission Scandal that made the news last week. For those who haven't, the Justice Department has charged 50 people with participating in a multi million-dollar bribery scheme to get affluent, connected students into highly competitive colleges.

We have a lot of thoughts about this at BEAM, and I'm sure that many similar discussions are happening at your colleges. I did want to share a specific thought I had with all of you.

From the moment I was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania, I dealt with many versions of the idea that I didn't earn my admission. Some of those ideas came from others: hearing many factually incorrect comments about affirmative action, constantly being questioned about my grades. Some came from myself: withdrawing from an intro chemistry course my first semester, getting two Ds the next semester.

The exposure of a scandal like this makes me think about the hours you all work and sacrifices you and your families have made. Things like this provide proof that there are people who did not earn their place in college, and if anyone ever asks, use this to remind them that those people are not you.

I wanted to leave you all with an article I felt captured the culture of pressure that has been created around one version of success.

The Atlantic: “Kids Are the Victims of the Elite-College Obsession

BEAM students and families: please reach out if you want to talk about any aspect of this.

Ayinde was recently named as a 2019 PASEsetter, a champion of afterschool education. At the awards banquet, Ayinde shared his story, which you can watch here.

Ayinde advises rising college first year Aisha on prepping for college.

Ayinde advises rising college first year Aisha on prepping for college.

Infinities, Graph Theory, Game Theory, and Traveling Circuses: What Mathematicians Talk About When They Visit BEAM

This winter, BEAM is busy! We are busy hiring summer faculty, summer counselors, and other summer staff and even a few full time staff. But those aren’t the only positions we are looking to fill. Every summer we invite guest speakers to BEAM Summer Away and BEAM Discovery sites. Our invited speakers are talented mathematicians from around the world, and their talks are a window into the work of professional mathematicians, giving students an opportunity to learn new ideas from the wide world of mathematics. Some past speakers have focused on complex mathematical topics, while others share their day to day life as career mathematicians. As we line up further intriguing talks for this summer, now is a great moment to reflect on some of the lovely talks and mind-bending math our guest speakers shared with us last summer.

This past summer our guests included Dr. Edray H. Goins, Dr. Susan Loepp, Tai-Danae Bradley, and Darleen Perez-Lavin. They each presented a unique take on a mathematical topic and BEAM students got a kick out of what they had to share.

Edray confronted a complicated topic: infinities and cardinality. Though this topic is deep and challenging even for mathematics majors at top colleges and universities, Edray balanced the abstract ideas with concrete examples. He started with basic ideas and questions: What is a set? How can you count things in a set? How many subsets are there in a set with n elements? Then the talk got more abstract, and Edray lead students through a very enjoyable explanation of Cantor's famous theorem. Students had the chance to see how much there is to the mathematical world than just numbers, equations and geometry formulas.

BEAM values having guest talks that start out very friendly to students and then go off the deep end in mathematics a bit because they allow students to see just how serious and deep math can be!

Dr. Edray H. Goins is a Professor of Mathematics at Pomona College in Claremont, CA and president of the National Association of Mathematicians. Edray presented at BEAM Discovery Los Angeles.

Dr. Edray H. Goins is a Professor of Mathematics at Pomona College in Claremont, CA and president of the National Association of Mathematicians. Edray presented at BEAM Discovery Los Angeles.

Dr. Goins presents to the students at BEAM Summer Away during Vassar 2016. Edray has been a guest speaker at BEAM for three straight summers!

Dr. Goins presents to the students at BEAM Summer Away during Vassar 2016. Edray has been a guest speaker at BEAM for three straight summers!

Dr. Susan Loepp, Chair and Professor of Mathematics, Williams College. Susan presented at BEAM Summer Away at Union College.

Dr. Susan Loepp, Chair and Professor of Mathematics, Williams College. Susan presented at BEAM Summer Away at Union College.

Susan introduced a team game that involved wearing hats. It costs money to play, but if you win, you get the cost doubled back.  Will you win or lose money in the long run? Susan gave student volunteers a chance to play the game (not with real money) and think about optimal strategies. After a lot of trial and error (and some inadvertent cheating), students claimed to Susan that they could win 50% of the time. But she said they could do better! The rest of the talk focused on independent and dependent probability and how those concepts impact game theory. Students found the session fun and silly, yet thought provoking. Many were still talking about it the next day!

Tai-Danae came into the room with lots of brightly colored cubes. The purpose? The Instant Insanity puzzle. Everyone got four cubes with each face colored in one of four different colors. The question: can you make a stack four cubes tall so that each side of the stack has one face of each color? With over 80,000 possible configurations, this is a big challenge, but using the tools of graph theory you can solve it quickly! If you're curious, Tai-Danae also presented it on PBS Infinite Series and you can take a look and try it yourself.

Tai-Danae Bradley is a PhD candidate in mathematics at the CUNY Graduate Center, and creator of the intriguing math blog:    https://www.math3ma.com/   . Tai-Danae presented at BEAM Discovery NYC Uptown.

Tai-Danae Bradley is a PhD candidate in mathematics at the CUNY Graduate Center, and creator of the intriguing math blog: https://www.math3ma.com/. Tai-Danae presented at BEAM Discovery NYC Uptown.

Darleen Perez-Lavin is a SMART fellow and graduate student at the University of Kentucky. Her talk was based on quantum computing research at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Darleen presented at BEAM Summer Away at Union College.

Darleen Perez-Lavin is a SMART fellow and graduate student at the University of Kentucky. Her talk was based on quantum computing research at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Darleen presented at BEAM Summer Away at Union College.

Darleen gave a presentation on the Traveling Circus Problem, a more general version of the well-known and very difficult Traveling Salesman Problem (so well known and difficult that the University of Waterloo has a whole website devoted to it). Darleen presented new research on how this problem is related to quantum physics. Her talk gave a glimpse into how pure mathematics can have applied applications. The ideas jumped from Euler's solution to the Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem to talking about modern physics! Students interested in applied mathematics were especially fascinated.

We can’t wait to see all the amazing talks that this upcoming summer has in store. And if you enjoy cool math (and aren’t quite as busy as BEAM is at the moment), we encourage you explore the topics touched on in the talks above.

BEAM students play a game during Dr. Susan Loepp’s math talk at BEAM 2018.

BEAM students play a game during Dr. Susan Loepp’s math talk at BEAM 2018.

Recruiting and Selecting BEAM Students: A First Hand Account

Today, we have a guest blog post from long-time BEAM volunteer, Maury Bohan, who is also a retired 6th grade math teacher. Maury accompanied our staff on a recent admissions school visit and had this to say about her experience:

Early in March, on a Wednesday morning, I had the pleasure of joining Lynn Cartwright-Punnett at PS 171/Patrick Henry Preparatory School in East Harlem, which has been a BEAM partner school since 2014. I had wanted to participate in a visit to one of BEAM’s partner schools, and Lynn felt it would be beneficial if we used the visit as a chance to share details with our many volunteers, instructors, and supporters.

A 7th grader works on the Admissions Challenge.

A 7th grader works on the Admissions Challenge.

We began the morning with eight 7th graders, two of whom attended last summer’s BEAM Discovery program. The goal was to check in on the BEAM Discovery alumni were doing and also to identify any 7th graders who we had not met in 6th grade, who would benefit from joining our program, AND who could succeed despite not having attended last summer. Lynn shared the goals of the BEAM Pathway Program, which include “…going farther than you expect, learning more, and exploring new ideas.” In addition to the potentially overwhelming information that the students would be with BEAM all the way through college, she also tempted the young students with details about dorm life, field trips, and good, hard brain work. After responding to questions, Lynn handed out the Admissions Challenge — seven questions to be completed in 40 minutes, and explained that the goal is not to do all of it perfectly, but rather “to figure out what you can figure out.”

7th graders at another BEAM partner school, KIPP Infinity, tell their 6th grade colleagues about BEAM Discovery.

7th graders at another BEAM partner school, KIPP Infinity, tell their 6th grade colleagues about BEAM Discovery.

After the 7th graders left the room, we were joined by a new crew of about fifteen 6th graders. They were physically so much younger than the 7th graders — clearly still children — and obviously nervous. Lynn immediately put them at ease, asking what they already knew about BEAM Discovery — basically that it is a summer math program five days per week for five weeks. She shared the daily schedule, and the goal to challenge brains, to grow and do more than students could do before, and to be a member of a math-loving community. Again there was talk of preparation for college, in terms of how choosing courses and activities during the summer is a way to start building autonomy so as to eventually be ready for decision making in college. Lynn then handed out the Admissions Challenge, and reminded students that “The goal isn’t perfect work; it’s interesting work.

Besides the results of the students’ work on the Admissions Challenge, there are a few other ways for them to demonstrate their potential as a BEAM student. They are all asked to share how they felt about the challenge and what they liked about it. They are also given some extra problems to do at home and send back, which can show readiness and interest, and allow students to perform while not under time pressure.

There is a third way that a student might earn some unofficial points toward gaining a slot in a BEAM program, and it was demonstrated after the sixth graders left us. Lynn earlier had an opportunity to quickly review the 7th graders’ responses to their Admissions Challenge and had asked the school contact person to bring one student back to our classroom for an interview. This would allow Lynn to ascertain whether the student is as ready for this summer’s 7th grade program as all the incoming alumni of last summer’s Discovery Program will be. I enjoyed listening first as the two of them chatted about school and math, and the student’s personal life. She shared that her life outside of school is mostly homework, supporting a younger sister’s homework, and church. She has never been outside of New York City, and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. What is she most concerned about in regards to BEAM’s summer program? That it is a sleep away program!

After chatting, Lynn and the student got down to work, discussing some great math problems. How encouraging it was for me to observe their back and forth, and the young lady’s willingness to draw conclusions, and then re-evaluate them given Lynn’s prodding. The student’s patience, persistence, and flexible thinking seemed to me qualities that will make her succeed, and that BEAM would benefit from. And this is where those unofficial points toward entrance come in to play. “Slant points” are like an additional note, one which this girl definitely received, that says if there is a tie for a slot at BEAM, this student has that “something extra” that makes her the preferred candidate.

As a retired teacher, I can’t imagine many more encouraging mornings than watching all of these 6th and 7th graders voluntarily meeting with a stranger to demonstrate their interest and talent in mathematical thinking. I can’t wait to hear which students are joining us this summer, and I look forward to seeing them grow and thrive through high school.

Maury works with Alberto and Rebecca on trivia questions at BEAM’s annual night of puzzles and trivia.

Maury works with Alberto and Rebecca on trivia questions at BEAM’s annual night of puzzles and trivia.

BEAM Students Make Summer Plans

BEAM students and families gather for the summer program presentation.

BEAM students and families gather for the summer program presentation.

After spending two summers at BEAM, what do BEAM students do next? They might want a summer break, staying home or traveling with their family for vacation. But many students want another productive thing to do with their time! Each winter, we encourage our alumni to apply for summer programs to help broaden their knowledge, explore enriching learning experiences, and spend their break in a meaningful way. This is especially part of BEAM’s mission to prepare under-served students for future STEM careers. We aim to support students by helping them to applying to various STEM orientated summer programs, and our unscientific surveys of STEM professionals prove what the BEAM audience already knows: summer preparation in middle school and high school opens the door to STEM success in college and beyond.

BEAM alumni Teo and Jennora share their experience from summer programs they have attended.

BEAM alumni Teo and Jennora share their experience from summer programs they have attended.

On January 26th, BEAM students gathered at NYU’s Courant Institute for the annual Summer Program Information Session. This event’s main focus was to start the process of selecting summer programs and preparing summer applications. The information session began with a presentation highlighting the importance of applying to summer programs and how to go about the application process. We also had a panel of four BEAM alumni who answered questions and discussed their experience in different types of summer programs. After hearing about the different options, students broke out into groups by grade in order to review a list of their personalized summer program recommendations. As the beginning of the year goes by, we encourage our students to start their applications as soon as possible in order to give themselves the best opportunities. Overall, the information session pushed students to start thinking about their pathways towards STEM careers in addition to giving students the chance to hang out with the BEAM family.

BEAM students: it’s not too late to apply to amazing opportunities for summer 2019! Contact your year leader to learn more.

A Look Into BEAM Saturday Classes

In fall 2017, BEAM launched BEAM Next: a program that offers a range of prep and enrichment classes to students from grades 8 to 11 (we’re adding 12th grade opportunities next year!). Nearly every Saturday, students gather at Courant Institute*, the mathematics building on New York University’s Campus, to engage in classes catered to their interests in STEM. The year has been broken into three trimesters featuring different courses. A students day typically consists of two blocks of class and lunch. The morning classes, Things You Need to Know (TYNTK), are centered around the crucial topics students need to learn based on their grades.

8th grade students Yilin and Caroline team up for a combining like terms game in their Algebra class.

The topics grow as BEAM students grow. TYNTK covers:

  • 8th grade: SHSAT prep (fall) and Algebra 1 (winter, spring)

  • 9th grade & 10th grade: How to survive high school, a two-year sequence that covers everything from studying to outlining an essay to email management to calendars and organization

  • 11th grade: SAT/ACT prep (fall, winter) and college admissions support (spring)

  • 12th grade: college admissions support (fall, winter) and getting ready for college (spring)

Starting left, Zeina, Maryam, and Bryan walk through a problem with help from the Supplemental Algebra instructor Barbara.

Starting left, Zeina, Maryam, and Bryan walk through a problem with help from the Supplemental Algebra instructor Barbara.

Right now, 8th grade students enrolled in Saturday classes are taking either a Supplemental Algebra or Fast Paced Algebra course in order to ensure they have success on the Algebra 1 Regents in June, which opens the door to future math courses (especially Calculus!). Our Algebra classes are designed to help build a deeper understanding of the content and build on what is taught in their school’s curriculum. One student, Yilin says that “algebra class has helped reinforce a lot of past knowledge and has also helped to advance the foundation of important math skills”. The class isn’t meant to accelerate their learning but to add depth towards the material they already know. Algebra at BEAM gives students the opportunity to expand their problem solving skills and brings a fun challenge towards topics that they may have already learned.

After students leave Algebra, they scatter to their enrichment courses. Current offerings including computer programming in Python, graph theory, and evolution. We’ll share more about enrichment in a future week!

*We would like to thank the Courant Institute, the Center for Mathematical Talent, and New York University for the use of their classrooms, which are generously provided to BEAM at no cost.

New Names, Same Great Programs!

At BEAM Discovery 2018, two students work together to solve a math problem.

At BEAM Discovery 2018, two students work together to solve a math problem.

Here at BEAM we are incredibly excited for the new year! We are already diving into hiring our summer staff and admissions for our summer programs. We anticipate many highs and lows as waves of college and high school acceptances for our current BEAM students roll in. As BEAM braces for all the fresh and familiar that the new year is bound to bring, this seems like the perfect time to debut our programs’ shiny new names. Throughout the fall of 2018, BEAM staff spent some time carefully thinking about how to update our program names to make sure they truly showcase what our programs are about. After much thought, we are excited to announce our new program titles.

Our summer program after 6th grade, formerly BEAM 6, will now be known as BEAM Discovery. We’ve made an even bigger change to our other program, BEAM 7. Recognizing that we now support students from 7th grade through college, we’ve renamed it the BEAM Pathway Program, which comprises the summer program and all that comes beyond. The idea behind these new names is that first you discover BEAM, then you walk down the pathway with us, which culminates in college graduation! There are many steps in the BEAM Pathway Program, each with its own name: BEAM Summer Away (the residential summer program), BEAM 8th Grade Support, BEAM HS Support, BEAM College Prep, and BEAM College Support.

Of course, being our usual nerdy selves, we had to throw around some rather mathy name suggestions before we settled on this sensible line up. While we ended up choosing names that are a little more practical and prosaic, we felt these whimsical, mathematical suggestions deserved an honorable mention as runners-up:

  • 7th Grade Summer Program: BEAM Axiom

  • 8th Grade Saturdays: BEAM Hypothesis

  • 9th-10th Grade Saturdays: BEAM Conjecture

  • 11th-12th Grade Saturdays: BEAM Infinity

  • College Support: BEAM Omega

As fun as these names were, we wanted to make sure that our new names clearly conveyed what each step of our pathway is really about. We believe we have captured each BEAM program with the name we have chosen, and we are excited to fully transition to using our up-to-date names here in 2019!

Students at BEAM Summer Away 2018 explore a waterfall together!

Students at BEAM Summer Away 2018 explore a waterfall together!

Thank You for All Your Support in 2018

Way back in July 2018, when the sun was shining and the days were long, we asked BEAM students at our summer programs to take a moment to reflect on what they had learned, how they had grown, and to say thank you to all the supporters who make BEAM possible.

Today, in December 2018, having just passed the shortest day of the year and with 2019 just around the corner, we thought we would brighten your day by sharing some of their thank yous.

To those of you who have donated to BEAM in 2018 or a past year: these thanks you are written to each and every one of you. Your support is what makes BEAM possible.

At this time, we also want to encourage new donors to get involved and returning donors to increase their contributions. All new or increased donations are subject to our π Matching Campaign.

Without further ado, here are the words of BEAM students sharing what they learned at BEAM and what they are thankful for.

Emely, 7th grade: I learned to play Splendor.  Ethan, 7th grade: Because of you, I made new experiences. [drawn with cards from a Set deck]  Mohammad, 7th grade: I learned  Binary . 01010100011010000110000101101110011010110111001 --> "Thanks" in Binary  Hawa, 7th grade: Thank you for the amazing time at the water park!  Erick, 7th grade: I learned the Pythagorean theorem.

Emely, 7th grade: I learned to play Splendor.

Ethan, 7th grade: Because of you, I made new experiences. [drawn with cards from a Set deck]

Mohammad, 7th grade: I learned Binary. 01010100011010000110000101101110011010110111001 --> "Thanks" in Binary

Hawa, 7th grade: Thank you for the amazing time at the water park!

Erick, 7th grade: I learned the Pythagorean theorem.

Kaitlyn, 6th grade: I was not interested in math at first. I only did it because I was good at it, but BEAM has taught me that  math  is so cool and used all around us. Thank you for donating and opening this opportunity for me.  Liz, 6th grade: I love the fact… that BEAM teaches us math that is more advanced than our grade level.  l love math!  Thank you for donating.

Kaitlyn, 6th grade: I was not interested in math at first. I only did it because I was good at it, but BEAM has taught me that math is so cool and used all around us. Thank you for donating and opening this opportunity for me.

Liz, 6th grade: I love the fact… that BEAM teaches us math that is more advanced than our grade level. l love math! Thank you for donating.

Sefora, 8th grade: The thing I learned this summer was: proving and disproving conjectures.

Sefora, 8th grade: The thing I learned this summer was: proving and disproving conjectures.

Ousmane, 6th grade: “In my experience at BEAM I learned many new experiences and sequences at “Weird World of Numbers.” For example, Fibbonaci, geometric, also arithmetic.  Ousmane chose to be photographed with Giselle, who taught his class on the “Weird World of Numbers.”

Ousmane, 6th grade: “In my experience at BEAM I learned many new experiences and sequences at “Weird World of Numbers.” For example, Fibbonaci, geometric, also arithmetic.

Ousmane chose to be photographed with Giselle, who taught his class on the “Weird World of Numbers.”

Gabrielle, 6th grade: I really like the new perspective I have on math.  MATH!

Gabrielle, 6th grade: I really like the new perspective I have on math. MATH!

Andrew, 8th grade: I grew a lot in mathematics. I learned about things I thought wasn’t possible and solved them.  So that’s why I love BEAM!

Andrew, 8th grade: I grew a lot in mathematics. I learned about things I thought wasn’t possible and solved them. So that’s why I love BEAM!

Nasheily, 6th grade: I learned how to win games that use math and how to use proof by contradiction.

Nasheily, 6th grade: I learned how to win games that use math and how to use proof by contradiction.

Jack, 8th grade: I have made so many friends and I had a great time in all my classes. I learned that zero was an even number. BEAM is the best camp ever.

Jack, 8th grade: I have made so many friends and I had a great time in all my classes. I learned that zero was an even number. BEAM is the best camp ever.

Chloe, 6th grade: I learned about the Pascal triangle and it was very fun and interesting.

Chloe, 6th grade: I learned about the Pascal triangle and it was very fun and interesting.

Nate, 6th grade: I learned how to build circuits. :)

Nate, 6th grade: I learned how to build circuits. :)

Andony, 6th grade: At BEAM, I learned to think like a logician. Thank you!

Andony, 6th grade: At BEAM, I learned to think like a logician. Thank you!

Precious, 6th grade: Without BEAM, I wouldn’t have learned all these new math strategies. Thank you!"

Precious, 6th grade: Without BEAM, I wouldn’t have learned all these new math strategies. Thank you!"

The entire team of staff and students at BEAM wish you a happy new year. Thank you for all your support and remember that it’s not too late to give to our π Matching Campaign today!

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How would you do at a BEAM trivia night?

What does it look like to combine puzzles, trivia, and a bit of math? BEAM's Slightly-Mathy Trivia Nights do just that, challenging guests to work together with students on fun, weird, challenging puzzles. If you want a taste of what that means, here are four rounds from our 2018 event. Scroll carefully as we’ve included the problems and then the answers on a next page. (Warning: Round 4 is hard!)

Thanks to all the BEAM students, supporters, and staff who joined us for trivia nights in Los Angeles and New York. Please join us next year! Sign up for our mailing list to get announcements about events in 2019.

BEAM's End-of-Year Newsletter is Here!

Yesterday, BEAM's quarterly newsletter arrived in the inboxes of all our subscribers! The newsletter featured:

  • A look at the very first semester of BEAM College Support.

  • The announcement of our Year End π Matching Campaign

  • A recap of recent events at BEAM, including our annual Yale Splash field trip and Trivia Events in NYC and LA

  • "What We're Reading (and Watching)"

  • Information on our job openings for summer staff

Missed it? You can read the newsletter now.

Make sure you don’t miss the next one! Sign up for our mailing list.

The Second Annual BEAM Los Angeles Math Competition

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Kenny, Mayisa, and Adib were the top three individual competitors. Adib answered 17 of 18 questions correctly in the individual round!

Kenny, Mayisa, and Adib were the top three individual competitors. Adib answered 17 of 18 questions correctly in the individual round!

On Saturday, 60 middle schoolers and their coaches joined BEAM for the second ever BEAM Los Angeles Math Competition. Of these, fully half (30 students!) attended BEAM 6 last summer.

The competition featured an Individual Round and a Team Round along with time to share solutions and an awards ceremony. Awards were given to the top three individuals, the top three teams, and the top school overall (based on how their multiple teams did).

Want a feel for the competition? Here’s a question that stumped students during the team round:

What is the biggest number which can be evenly divided by 12 with no remainder that you can make by using each of the digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 at most once?

Students clearly loved the event! Here is some of their feedback:

We’d like to thank 9 Dots who generously donated the space for the competition; thanks so much!

Thanks also to all the students and staff of Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School, Berendo Middle School, Clinton Middle School, Equitas Academy #2, Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA), Rise Kohyang Middle School, Synergy Kinetic Academy, UCLA Community School, and Virgil Middle School who joined us on Saturday! We hope you had as much fun as the BEAM staff did in organizing this event.

Missed out? Here are some of our favorite images from the event!

Last year, BEAM held one math competition for 37 students. This year, we will be holding two and we can’t wait to see how many students show up for our spring competition! See you then!