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!

Recap: BEAM Goes to Fall Yale Splash 2018!

Recently, nearly 70 BEAM alumni had the opportunity to travel to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut for one of our favorite yearly events: Yale Splash. This program offers students from 7-12 grade to enroll in courses that are taught by undergraduate volunteers in classrooms on campus. The students register online and get to pick their own classes and organize their own schedules. Yale Splash allows students to choose from an array of intriguing topics within many different fields. This year some of the students favorite courses included “Viking Age Iceland,” “The Science Behind Cookies,” and “Sharks: Nature’s Most Misunderstood.”

In my favorite and most interesting class, “How The Brain Works”, I learned that you actually see upside down but it’s your brain that flips your vision right side up.
— Ethan Chase, 8th Grade

After classes were dismissed, BEAM students reconvened at the library to meet with their assigned groups for tours. We had three undergraduate volunteers come to help give students a brief tour of campus and lead them to their assigned dining halls. A lot of our older students were especially excited to see a friendly face because Aishat Adekunle, a freshman at Yale and also a BEAM 7 alum from 2013 was one of our tour guides that evening! Although the weather was very choppy, students got see the ins and outs of a college campus. We explored the downtown area, ventured into the undergraduate commons and even got a sneak peek into student housing.

From this trip overall I learned that college is a lot of work, but now I’m ahead of the game. I’m way more informed about college life than most kids my age so I’m ready for it when it comes in 4 or 5 years thanks to BEAM.
— Amber Sosa, 8th Grade

After the tours, students were brought to the Yale dining halls for dinner. Fitting to BEAM, one of the dining halls we ate at is named after famous mathematician Grace Hopper. Students got to enjoy various foods and share with each other about their classes and highlights of the day. Afterwards, we all rallied back to buses for our journey back to New York City.

The pictures above feature many of our students throughout the day. The first picture is of 8th graders Yilin and Faoziah enjoying their 2 hour bus ride. Next, 11th grader Brianna and 8th grader Jeremiah show off their Yale Splash t-shirts. More 8th graders are shown hanging out; Ethan, Jeremiah and Amber are enjoying a quick break in the library’s lounge. Although it was quite rainy, Aishat got to reunite with some of her old friends from BEAM, Teo, Silvio, Rashik, Maria, Amanda and Elisa, before taking the students on a tour. Lastly, we have the same group eating at the John Edwards dining hall with Betty, one of the day time staff for the trip.

BEAM 7 Students Look to the Future: Contemplating Careers in Math

When we ask BEAM 7 students what they see themselves doing as an adult at the beginning of the summer and then again at the end, their replies are always all over the map. Oftentimes answers change from one end of the summer to the other, and it can be hard to read from their response how their experiences at BEAM might have shaped the careers that they see for themselves in the future.

For example, mathematician is the only career that appears on both of Karen’s lists from before and after the summer; her responses seem to point towards a settled desire to pursue math. Meanwhile Amara only includes mathematician on his list at the end of the summer, hinting at a dramatic discovery of math. But their actual stories are more complicated, and at the same time richer: more reflective of what it really means and how it really feels to encounter advanced mathematics.

 Amara doing a scavenger hunt, code-breaking activity.

Amara doing a scavenger hunt, code-breaking activity.

Even though mathematician doesn’t appear among the careers that Amara can see himself pursuing before BEAM 7, his words on our opening survey already read like those of a budding mathematician.

I hope I become better and I want to achieve to become more of a person who likes challenge.

And when he writes about working on a math problem for days, it is clear that he is pressing towards that goal of embracing the struggle that comes with mathematics: It was so frustrating, but I never gave up.

John Urschel, former pro-football player and math PhD student at MIT, had something similar to say about his own earlier encounters with mathematics: It was so hard... And it was a struggle that I really loved.

Amara’s journey over the summer touches on a theme that is common to the study of advanced mathematics. Success in mathematics often means learning to love not just the mathematics, but also the toil that comes with it.


By the end of the summer, when we ask Amara what he likes about math, his response is a single word, one that captures the precise sentiments of many seasoned mathematicians: Challenging.

 Karen folding origami.

Karen folding origami.

On the other hand, Karen brought her desire to be a mathematician with her to BEAM and her goal to pursue mathematics did not waiver throughout the program. However, she did learn more about how it feels to pursue challenging mathematics, and the kind of community you want to have in your corner as you tackle difficult math problems.

This is what Karen had to say about what she learned at BEAM:

People aren’t really how you would think they are. There will always be someone with their arms wide open to pour feelings out to.

The larger mathematical community isn’t always a supportive one, especially for students of color. BEAM is out to change that, and we aren’t alone. Mathematicians of the highest caliber are beginning to recognize that humanity along with all her children, their history, their hurts and highest hopes, have a place in the midst of math. In the words of Francis Su, former president of the Mathematical Association of America and math professor at Harvey Mudd:

We are not mathematical machines. We live, we breathe, we feel, we bleed.  If your students are struggling, and you don’t acknowledge it, their education becomes disconnected and irrelevant.

Math doesn’t happen in a vacuum, devoid of feeling or emotion. As Karen wrote about her experience working on a math problem for days: It was stressful, but after solving it I was satisfied.

Pursuing math is stressful! It is satisfying and rewarding and beautiful, but also (and often) stressful. The stress and the struggle are necessary aspects of pursuing math, worthy aspects of expanding the mathematical frontier. But the struggle doesn’t have to be a lonely one.

Every mathematician needs a shoulder to cry on from time to time, and that is what Karen found at BEAM, a community she can count on.

Only time will tell whether Karen and Amara choose to pursue being a mathematician as a future career, but they have already encountered currents that can carry them to the very heart of mathematics: the exhilarating joy of struggle and the strength of a supportive and understanding math community.

BEAM's Post-Summer Newsletter is Here!

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

  • Information about the first summer of BEAM Los Angeles

  • An invite to join BEAM for an upcoming fast-paced night of slightly-mathy trivia, 10/29 in NYC and 11/13 in LA!

  • What our alumni did this summer

  • "What We're Reading"

Missed it? You can read the newsletter now.

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

BEAM Alums Do Amazing Things: Summer Vacation Edition

BEAM starts with the summer programs we run (BEAM 6 and BEAM 7), but then encourages our students to apply to summer programs, internships, and jobs that keep their academic growth going. Here's what a few of our alums did during summer 2018!

Malachi, Mathworks Honors Summer Math Camp at Texas State University

Malachi holds the BEAM alumni record for most consecutive summers spent at a math program: six! After a summer at BEAM 7 (2013), Malachi attended MathPath (2014) and then the Mathworks Honors Summer Math Camp at Texas State University (2015-2017), which he returned to as a staff member this summer (2018).

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Meet Malachi

Malachi is a first-year student at SUNY Binghmaton where he plans to major in actuarial science.

What did you do this summer?

I went back to Mathworks for a very different experience. Some of it was the same, like the camp environment. Some friends I remembered (but there are fewer of us in my grade each year). Above all, I had more responsibility. I had to grade papers, reading student proofs. We had to focus on where the information was both efficient and sufficient. We tried to follow a script, but each counselor has a different level for what constitutes a good enough proof. We were constantly trying to make sure we weren’t too lenient or too tough. With three years of writing proofs, you know what a proof is. So I told my students to focus on clarity and correctness. You can be clear about the wrong point. Or you can be correct but no one can understand your work. But if you meet those two requirements, the proof is right. That’s how I graded.

A big part of my job was being welcoming to the young kids. I worked to bring my social skills to the job because the students were so academic and I just wanted to make them feel comfortable, feel happy to be there. It was nice to be responsible for the well-being of other people. I chose to be a first year counselor because I knew I wanted to be welcoming to new students. I supported a mix of 9th-11th graders, but spent the most time with 9th graders. I even had one student who had finished 8th grade but had already finished Calculus!

In my spare time, I also took an optional course, where topology was the course being offered by a professor on campus for the benefit of the counselors. So I was studying and working.

 Vielka, Malachi, and Crisleidy at their graduation from Brooklyn Tech. Vielka and Crisleidy spent summer 2018 working for BEAM as Junior Counselors at BEAM 6 NYC.

Vielka, Malachi, and Crisleidy at their graduation from Brooklyn Tech. Vielka and Crisleidy spent summer 2018 working for BEAM as Junior Counselors at BEAM 6 NYC.

What was the application process like? Did BEAM prepare you in any way for that application?

Technically you have to apply. But I knew they had wanted me to return; they liked the skills I brought and the diversity (both ethnic and geographic). They didn’t ask me to complete the entire application process.

What was the highlight of your summer experience?

Being able to have the experience of building trust with new students, piquing their interest. I love having an impact on others. Some kids, I know I made their experience better. I did that. I’d already done the trips, the program itself, so the main focus for me was being the favorite counselor for some students.

What was something unexpected about your summer experience?

It was exactly what I expected. There were times when the workload was overwhelming, especially when my topology class had to be balanced against the grading. So I learned to balance my work (which I have always done) but also the work of everyone else in my group. But I knew that responsibility was coming.

Why did you keep going back to Mathworks?

This year, the money was a big factor! But at this point, it’s comfortable. It’s an environment I want to be in. Folks have similar interests. I know I will meet people who I like to be around, I like to converse with. I want to have that impact that other counselors had on me in the past. Each year, there are people I want to see again, math I can learn that I’m interested in, research that I want to get to do. It’s a family bond, a family atmosphere, a bond I have. I love that BEAM is 3 weeks, but Texas is 6 weeks. Just imagine how much stronger the bond is!

 Malachi attends MathPath, 2014.

Malachi attends MathPath, 2014.

Zeñia and Teo, Cooper Union Summer STEM

Both Zeñia and Teo were accepted into this very competitive program! We asked them each about their experiences. 

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Meet Zeñia!

Zeñia is a 12th grader at St. Mark's School, a boarding school in Massachusetts. 

What did you do this summer?

I took a racecar engineering design class. The class split up and each group focused on a different component of a racecar. My group worked on the “impact attenuator”, which is something that purposely deforms to protect the driver in case of impact. We wanted to find the best shape and material for an “ideal crash.” We wanted to work with carbon fiber rather than aluminum which is used currently. Our job was to figure out what the ideal attenuator would be for a racecar crash. We used a testing rig (put weights and crush it) to test out prototypes. We built a lot of prototypes. We chose which was best and modified it accordingly. 

The program lasted for 6 weeks. We did presentations every week. Presenting was a great skill I can take back for my own future. 

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What was the application process like?  Did BEAM prepare you in any way for that application?

They had you write an essay about why you were interested in STEM and spending the summer doing something in this field. Sarah at BEAM helped edit my essay. 

 Oscilloscope graph.

Oscilloscope graph.

What was the highlight of your summer experience?

Understanding the oscilloscope because no one on our team knew what it was. We were able to understand it, graph data and analyze the date. After this we made the prototype and then “crushed it.” [See below for what that looked like!]

What was something unexpected about your summer experience?

I’ve been used to going to summer programs that are sleepaway. The idea of commuting to a college campus and it took me some time to adjust. I had to go home at the end of the day. I expected to get tired and annoyed, but I didn’t, which was a great realization. 

Would you recommend this summer experience to other students?  Why or why not?

Yes! Definitely, I would. I knew I was interested in mechanical engineering and knew this experience would be great for me. Even if you don’t know what specifically in engineering you want to do, there were a lot of programs to choose from. The team and faculty were very supportive and helpful. You didn’t need prior knowledge; everyone was willing to teach you. This was helpful in helping me figure out what type of engineering I wanted to do. 
 

 Crushing the prototype!

Crushing the prototype!

Meet Teo!

Teo is a 12th grader at Millennium High School. 

What did you do this summer?

I played Fortnite—just kidding. I did a STEM program at Cooper Union for 6 weeks. I chose the "STEM to STEAM Rube Goldberg Project" because I saw a video about this that BEAM sent out to us when they were telling us about the opportunity at Cooper Union. We were put it to teams where we were tasked with creating a kinetic sculpture which is basically like a “moving art piece” where we had to answer the question “What Does NYC Mean to You?” We created a marble machine that went through all parts of NYC. There were electronic parts. We built parts and 3-D printed components. It was a combination of constructing and engineering. 

What was the application process like?  Did BEAM prepare you in any way for that application?

They required transcript and an essay asking why I wanted to be a part of the program. BEAM helped because I wrote the essay the day before it was due and Dan really stuck by me through the night and helped me revise my essay. Disclaimer: don’t do this. 

 Teo shows his kinetic sculpture to other BEAM 11th and 12th graders during a college tour of Cooper Union.

Teo shows his kinetic sculpture to other BEAM 11th and 12th graders during a college tour of Cooper Union.

What was the highlight of your summer experience?

Getting engineering experience. I learned to use laser cutting machine, how to 3-D print, and how to do circuitry work. I also used hand saws and electric saws to cut through tough material. I used a lot of tools. 

Would you recommend this summer experience to other students?  Why or why not?

If you’re in to engineering, yes! It is a good experience. Or if you want to find out more about engineering it might be a good way to determine if it’s for you before you go to college. Now I really want to study engineering because it was fun. 

Adrianne, Black Girls Code

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Meet Adrianne!

Adrianne is an 11th grader at NEST+m.

What did you do this summer?

I spent the summer with Black Girls Code. Over the course of the program, we first learned how to build websites, and then apps.

What was the application process like? Did BEAM prepare you in any way for that application?

BEAM introduced me and my mom to the program and then my mom signed me up. There wasn’t much of an application!

What was the highlight of your summer experience?

Presenting the final project: my app. What I made was a dog app, and it basically helps you find your lost dog. I had to make a map which is very hard. Very hard!

What was something unexpected about your summer experience?

The sense of community that I built. I didn’t expect to be as close within a 2-week period as I was. It was really intense. We also got to go on some trips too.

Would you recommend this summer experience to other students? Why or why not?

Yes, definitely. Not only does it allow you to know more about computer science in general, but also we went on trips to different companies and you hear about the different companies. Above all, it was a program with like-minded people who want to achieve the same goal as you.

Maria, Lenox Hill Hospital Radiology Internship

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Meet Maria!

Maria is a 12th grader at St. Jean Baptiste High School in the Bronx. 

What did you do this summer?

I did an internship with Lenox Hill Hospital (where Beyonce gave birth to her first child). I was assigned to the pathology dept (where they do lab work, including bloodwork, surgical specimens, and more). My mentor made sure that I got to rotate through all the different part of Pathology: surgical path, chem path, hematology path for examples. I was introduced to all lab leaders in each department. Also, on Wednesdays, we had enrichment days where everyone in the program got together with the director of the program and we would meet different people in the hospital or do surgical tours. We got to see the inside of an OR (operating room) and I saw two operations from next to the operating table. I saw a mastectomy and breast reconstructions and also an above-the-knee amputation. Through glass, I saw an “angiogram”—to check blood flow in the brain. 

In surgical pathology I got to see different specimens that came in. For instance I saw breast tissue that was taken from a mastectomy. I also saw a fetal autopsy on a 15 weeks fetus. 

 Infectious diseases under the microscope.

Infectious diseases under the microscope.

In hematology I looked at slides under a microscope. I saw malaria-infected cells and cancer-infected cells. I also saw how they prepped the slides. 

I got to meet the doctor who the movie Brain on Fire is about. I was starstruck. Dr. Najjar is a very famous doctor who made a groundbreaking discovery in medicine. 

What was the application process like?  Did BEAM prepare you in any way for that application?

There is a partnership through my high school; my guidance counselor approached me and told me to apply. I had to complete an application, write an essay, and go through an interview. I also had to provide info about my grades. I was the first interviewee and I was very scared. They asked me about stuff I wrote in my essay, such as how the program would benefit me and my interests in medicine. In the interview, I talked about BEAM as a program that has guided me. 

Yes, BEAM helped me throughout! I had Sylvia read my essay a bunch of times. 

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What was the highlight of your summer experience?

Networking. What 17-year-old can say they have connections with doctors at a hospital? It’s also something substantial to put in my college application. 

Watching the mastectomy was another highlight. It was a 9-hour surgery, I was there only for four and it was exhausting for me. The surgeon was also teaching his students. On top of leading the surgery, he was also teaching, which is important and definitely something that I want in my future when I go to med school. 

Would you recommend this summer experience to other students?  Why or why not?

I would say yes, but only if you’re considering a profession in health and medicine because it definitely makes or breaks it. You either love it or hate it. You see the hospital as it is—it’s not like watching Grey’s Anatomy

Isabella, NYU Tandon School of Engineering's ARISE

 Isabella presents her passive dynamic walker at the end of the summer.

Isabella presents her passive dynamic walker at the end of the summer.

Meet Isabella!

Isabella is an 11th grade at Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.

What did you do this summer?

I was in a research placement at a mechanical engineering lab at NYU’s polytechnic campus in downtown Brooklyn.

What was the application process like? Did BEAM prepare you in any way for that application?

It was all kind of a blur because I was doing it way back in January. I didn’t expect to get in, because I really struggle with writing. The essay process was rough and it took a lot of my time. Each week, at BEAM Next Saturday classes, we took some time to break down what was required to apply and how to meet necessary deadlines. That really helped me get the application done and get in.

What was the highlight of your summer experience?

Being able to understand complex computer languages that I haven’t before. We learned to use Arduino and Matlab.

What was something unexpected about your summer experience?

It was kind of hard. But other than that I felt prepared for everything.

Would you recommend this summer experience to other students? Why or why not?

Yes, I would recommend it. But I don’t know if their experience would be the same as mine, because there’s different labs in different buildings. You get what feels like a real college experience.

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Jennora, Met PALS Internship

Meet Jennora!

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Jennora is an 11th grader at Bard High School Early College. 

What did you do this summer?

The Met PALS program (Metropolitan Hospital Center Preparation for Achievement in the Life Sciences) is prep for people who want to go into medical field. You get a chance to figure out what exactly you want to do in the medical field. You’re walking in the hospital, with your coat on, watching what’s going on and talking to the staff. There’s also lectures about how you become different types of medical professional. 

What was the application process like?  Did BEAM prepare you in any way for that application?

It was not that rigorous! I was volunteering at the hospital already and the coordinator told me that Met PALS would be a chance to do more intellectual tasks. So then I filled out some forms and there was an interview, but I didn’t have to write an essay. 

BEAM has helped me over the years get into programs: how to write essays, answer questions, do paperwork. Now I can apply for things by myself and I can be independent and I know what to do, but if I do need BEAM for an application or a recommendation letter, I know you’re always there. That support is so helpful. 

In the past, BEAM has helped Jennora with her successful applications to GOALS for Girls and Center for Excellence in Youth Education (CEYE) High School Summer Program, where she studied zebrafish toxicology. 

What was the highlight of your summer experience?

So much! Surgery was amazing; I would have never have expected being able to watch a real surgery in the Operating Room. But there was so much more to the program. I loved the overall experience, being by yourself, walking around the hospital, being independent, being surrounded by adults who know what they’re doing. It felt mature and independence. I grew so much as a person.

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What was something unexpected about your summer experience?

Surgery! Didn’t know I would see that. I got to change into scrubs and be on the inside. In some departments, you would talk to patients and even hear private information. It was crazy to see a biopsy in front of my eyes!

Would you recommend this summer experience to other students?  Why or why not?

Of course!! There were only 10 of us in the cohort. Lots of freedom. Plus, I’m curious about the medical filed and I really got an inside look. There are so few opportunities at my age to understand so many things about the medical field. I’d never heard of residency before doing this! I saw radiology, PT, OT, internal medicine, NICU. I explored the whole hospital. 

Porter, Center for Talented Youth

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Meet Porter!

Porter is a 9th grader at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn.

What did you do this summer?

I played a lot of video games... I also went to the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) and took an engineering class, which was basically an intro to the engineering process.

What was the application process like? Did BEAM prepare you in any way for that application?

The application process was not really so stressful. You had to take a test, and then find out if you qualified. Then, you got to select what classes you wanted and which location. BEAM facilitated the test and helped me study for it.

What was the highlight of your summer experience?

Meeting other people interested in the same things as me.

Would you recommend this summer experience to other students? Why or why not?

Yes. It was really fun. It was also really interesting and instructive.


Reflections on BEAM 6 LA

Thank you for such a great experience at BEAM. BEAM has made this summer the best summer of my life. I won’t ever forget about BEAM and will keep on exploring math.
— Karla, a student at Girls Academic Leadership Academy
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Recently, we asked Jacob Castaneda, BEAM's Executive Director of LA Programs about the first summer of BEAM 6 Los Angeles. Here's what he had to say:

It’s hard to believe that the first summer of BEAM 6 LA is now complete. On any given day, you would see an assortment of activity: frustration and enthusiasm from problem solving, silliness during breakfast, curiosity during class, passion during Open Math Time. Above all, you could feel a strong passion for deep mathematical thinking. The program was a success, and I firmly believe that the thing that tied it all together was the students' camaraderie and the understanding that everyone was at the program to grow. 

 From left to right, Sharon, Daniel, Rihighna, and Valerie work on problem sets during OMT.

From left to right, Sharon, Daniel, Rihighna, and Valerie work on problem sets during OMT.

 Clockwise from left: Emily L., Matthew, Adila, Galadriel (Counselor), Adib, Jarek working on one of the 100 Problems.

Clockwise from left: Emily L., Matthew, Adila, Galadriel (Counselor), Adib, Jarek working on one of the 100 Problems.

You could walk into any classroom this summer you would find students engaged in conversation around their mathematical thinking. I miss Open Math Time the most; I loved walking around and talking to groups of students collaborating on problems, having productive discussions and trying to explain their thinking to their peers.

Without fail, I could always find Sofia, Abigail A., Fernando, Oscar, Matthew, Adila, and Emily L. sitting with a counselor in the hallway outside of the trapezoid-shaped room, working on one of their problem sets or some other interesting puzzle.The music room had a high-energy group that liked to verbalize their solutions to problems, especially when twins Brissia and Rubi worked with Angel.

 David (right) and Erick A. (middle) solved one of the challenge problems, so Meghan (left) writes their names on the poster.

David (right) and Erick A. (middle) solved one of the challenge problems, so Meghan (left) writes their names on the poster.

Sometimes, Oscar would break from the trapezoid crew to work with Adib and Jarek on one of the remaining problems from the 100-Problem Challenge. Nearly half of the challenge problems were solved by groups of 2 or more students!

Faculty members also played an essential role in creating a strong community of mathematicians. Sam, our cryptography instructor, had students work in groups for weekly scavenger hunts whose clues were only readable through deciphering some code using a decryption technique learned in class. Diana had her math fundamentals class work in teams to analyze and interpret translations in Euclidean space. A math professor from Harvey Mudd visited our combinatorics class and was moved by the teaching strategy employed by Javier, the instructor. In that class, students were presented with a combinatorial pattern and asked to develop a conjecture and share it with their classmates, forming groups based on common reasoning and working to validate or invalidate others' conjectures. 

Math relays, held every Friday afternoon, gave students a chance to work in teams to solve challenging math problems. Staff members selected which students worked together, giving students an opportunity to work with new people each week. It was an absolute joy to see mixed groups work together, often for the first time, and achieve success with the problems. The buzz during Relays was palpable, and students were encouraging towards one another, even when they weren't on the same team. 

It's great to see the excitement about BEAM spill over into the start of the school year. We've received several submissions for the first challenge set and interest for pre-algebra classes. We expect to continue the mathematical momentum during our next math competition, set to take place in early November.

The unity among students was evident throughout the program. They supported one another in problem solving, combining their efforts to arrive at solutions. It was clear that the BEAM 6 community boosted the confidence of several students and left a lasting impression on their math journey. 

But don’t take my word for it! Here’s what our summer students had to say about their experience at BEAM 6:

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 On the topic of Open Math Time, Rubi says "It was cool because I got to work with other people."  Rubi is a student at New Open World Academy.

On the topic of Open Math Time, Rubi says "It was cool because I got to work with other people."

Rubi is a student at New Open World Academy.

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 "I feel more confident in myself."  Edilson is a student at Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School.

"I feel more confident in myself."

Edilson is a student at Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School.

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 "I've gotten smarter & it's easier to work in groups."  Cherokee is a student at UCLA Community School.

"I've gotten smarter & it's easier to work in groups."

Cherokee is a student at UCLA Community School.

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 "I achieved learning new things. I can apply the things I learned here in school and maybe even teach my friends at school about the things I learned."  Jamie is a student at the New Open World Academy.

"I achieved learning new things. I can apply the things I learned here in school and maybe even teach my friends at school about the things I learned."

Jamie is a student at the New Open World Academy.

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 "At first, I didn't felt [sic] like going to BEAM but then you supported me and I got accepted. Now I feel like BEAM is a family to me. Thank you."  Daniel is a student at Young Oak Kim Academy.

"At first, I didn't felt [sic] like going to BEAM but then you supported me and I got accepted. Now I feel like BEAM is a family to me. Thank you."

Daniel is a student at Young Oak Kim Academy.

Welcome to BEAM’s College Prep Panel on Applying to College!

Six rising, current, and former college students from universities across the country joined BEAM's College Prep Week this August to share their experiences applying for college with BEAM rising 11th and 12th graders, currently navigating this process themselves.

Aisha BEAM '13 (Northwestern University) and Edson BEAM '13 (University of Southern California) will both start college this school year. They just recently navigated the confusing world of college applications themselves. Abdel BEAM '12 (NYU Polytechnic), Ana BEAM '12 (Barnard College), and John BEAM '12 (Fordham University) are all rising sophomores and can look back at their college application process with a whole year of college experience under their belt. Finally, Sylvia, BEAM staff and a graduate of SUNY Albany, rounds out our panel with an inside perspective on the SUNY system and the wisdom of several years of work experience.

The panel had a lot to say about their college application process, and answered many important questions: the how’s and the what’s, the in’s and the out’s, the up’s and the downs of getting into college. Our panelists talked about topics like choosing schools and time management skills. If you are applying for college or just want some advice, here are some of the questions and answers of our College Prep Panel!

 From left to right: Abdel, Sylvia, Aisha, Edson, John, and Ana address rising 11th and 12th graders during College Prep Week.

From left to right: Abdel, Sylvia, Aisha, Edson, John, and Ana address rising 11th and 12th graders during College Prep Week.

How did you choose which colleges to apply to? What kind of things went into that? 

  • Aisha: I was looking for schools that were well-rounded. And schools that I could switch majors, because I knew I was coming in undecided. And schools that had good financial aid.

  • Abdel: I looked at three things. Money. Location. Major. Location: my parents wanted me to stay close to home. So in the city. In state you get more money, especially since NYU has a HEOP program that covers a lot of costs. In terms of major, engineering.

  • Ana: High school affected a lot. I wanted the opposite of my high school experience [at Brooklyn Tech]. Fewer men. Farther from home.

Can you explain a little bit about the common application? 

 Sylvia is a Program Assistant at BEAM and one of her major roles is shepherding the current 12th graders through the college process.

Sylvia is a Program Assistant at BEAM and one of her major roles is shepherding the current 12th graders through the college process.

  • Sylvia: It is like a portal, where you can submit all your applications through this one website.

  • John: So it is very convenient.

In your later years of high school, say 11th and 12 grade, how do you split up your time? 

  • Aisha: It all depends on what your situation is like. For me I kinda figure out how to split up time in November [of twelfth grade]. It all depended on my schedule; if something was due for school I would just get it out of way right then and there because I needed to use all of my time for applications.

  • Sylvia: Something that I prioritized was taking care of myself too. It is important to take care of myself too. Having a planner is important so you can schedule around [taking care of yourself].

  • Ana: Time management is definitely important. That is something that I am still learning to do. It is something that I didn't know how to do in high school so I wasn't taking care of myself. So like keeping a planner I can't stress it enough.

Do you use a paper planner? What do you use? 

  • Sylvia: I had a paper planner that was really helpful for me. Now, at work, I use an app called Evernote.

  • Aisha: I use the reminder app on my phone. Because I procrastinate, I would make a fake deadline that is earlier.

  • Ana: I use a paper planner. I think writing down kinda speaks it into existence. If I don't write it down it's not getting done.

A note from BEAM: rising 11th graders who attend Saturday BEAM Next classes get some swanky planners, donated to us by Passion Planner. We may have extra planners for those not going to Saturday classes and 11th and 12th graders can request those!

How early should you start working on things and what should you focus on? 

  • Abdel: Start asking for recommendation letters. I'd say recommendation letters should be the first on your list to do. Personal statement. Start thinking about what you are going to write the summer before.

  • Sylvia: Just start thinking about your essay in your mind. They have the prompts on common app beforehand. So you can start getting ideas.

  • John: Making a spread sheet about yourself, everything you have done. Also... BEAM does give you a calendar of when things should be done. The earliest we started was January of 11th grade, drafting our essays. That is something you can start on just choosing which days, days you are going to thing about college applications, days you are going to study for SAT.

 John starts early! Here he is at BEAM College Prep Week 2016 along with Zereena, also BEAM '12, who attends SUNY Binghamton. They're both working on their essays!

John starts early! Here he is at BEAM College Prep Week 2016 along with Zereena, also BEAM '12, who attends SUNY Binghamton. They're both working on their essays!

Did any of you let average grades discourage you? 

  • Edson: I didn't let it discourage me. Mostly because I am a very optimistic. Even if you are doing good, keep shooting to do better. Because what colleges care about is growth.

  • Aisha: I realized after all the college stuff was done and people started getting acceptances, I realized that grades are important but that isn't all they look at. They aren't just looking for a good grade, they are looking for someone who can bring something extra to their school as a person.

Someone mentioned something about being well-rounded? What if you don't have the time? 

  • Sylvia: There were small clubs that I was part of, and you know being on a club doesn't have to take too much time. So I think it is about finding your own niche, what you can do, what you enjoy and what your school offers.

  • John: Basketball. Cross country. Dancing. You can also list taking care of brothers and sisters at home as an activity.

  • Abdel: Volunteering. Working. It's not just sports.

How do you figure out how many schools to apply to? 

  • Aisha: I applied to too many schools that had a lot of requirements. My case was that 14 of my schools involved writing supplemental essays, sending extra stuff, it was also really expensive.

  • Abdel: There are three types of schools that you can apply too. Safety, reach and target. I would just say balance it out and make sure you are not overdoing it.

  • Sylvia: I think another way to narrow down your list is actually talking to people who went to the school.

What was something that you don't like about your school that you wished you looked at? 

  • Sylvia: How expensive it was.

  • Edson: The diversity of the school. USC is still a great school, but the diversity is kinda unbalanced. I wish I would have looked into it.

  • Ana: I kinda knew what I was getting myself into as far as the student body looked like and even the social life looks like. One thing that I wish I had known was how economically segregated it is.

How did you brainstorm your ideas for your essay? 

  • Aisha: For me, my high school they had for incoming seniors it was mandatory you needed to write two essays about things that you might want to. I didn't want to write about being undecided. But then I heard this song. And it was an awesome song. So I decided to write about being undecided. Because that song was about being undecided. I wrote two sentences and gave it to my teacher and she didn't like it because it was about being undecided. But I liked it so I wrote about that.

  • Edson: My teacher said think of something that is really personal to you. I was like I will write about tacos as a joke. Imagine a donut, a jelly donut, the way to structure your essay is to get down to the jelly. Like why you really want to get an education. So I wrote about how tacos are really personal to me. How such a simple food can be a luxury for people who don't have a lot of money.

Final words of wisdom? 

  • John: I think the thing that helped me the most was, I play a lot of basketball and I met upperclassmen through basketball. Meet people through whatever activities interest you.

  • Aisha: Don't psyche yourself out too much about certain statistics. If you really want to apply for a school then just go for it. For my school, I didn't look at the acceptance rate, and if I had I wouldn't have applied in the first place. And I am really glad that I did.

  • Abdel: Try new stuff.

 From left to right: Abdel, Ana, John, Aisha, and Edson, each wearing college gear!

From left to right: Abdel, Ana, John, Aisha, and Edson, each wearing college gear!

Aisha's Off to Northwestern!

 BEAM 7 back in 2013; Aisha is standing in a pink t-shirt about one-third of the way from the left. 

BEAM 7 back in 2013; Aisha is standing in a pink t-shirt about one-third of the way from the left. 

Five years ago, 39 seventh graders had just completed their first summer at BEAM. For some of them, it was their first time out of the city, or their first time away from their family. All of them were going to spend three weeks now living away from home and learning advanced math.

This summer, those same students graduated high school (including three with an Associate's Degree) and are just now starting college. Meanwhile, 370 students completed their own first summer at BEAM. It’s a time for looking backward and looking forward, so we asked one of our rising college goers, Aisha, to reflect on the last five years, from the start of BEAM 7 to her journey to college this fall. 

 Aisha and Shikya learn to solder, July 2013

Aisha and Shikya learn to solder, July 2013

In spring 2013, Aisha decided to attend BEAM because she really loved math, especially geometry puzzles. The program also promised a chance to get away from home, make new friends, and have fun. She figured she would learn some new skills, but other than that she wasn’t sure what to expect. 

At BEAM, Aisha took courses on Proofs, Circuit Design, Statistics, and Math Team Strategies. Her instructor in Math Team Strategies described her as “intent on understanding and solving problems.” She loved the math, which she found to be different and more challenging than what she saw in school, but it wasn’t just the math that altered her trajectory. When asked how she had changed during the summer, she wrote, “I have changed because now I don’t give up. I used to give up a lot, so for me to keep going even when I get frustrated is different.” 

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We asked all our students what BEAM could do to support them after that summer, and Aisha responded: “I would like to stay in contact because I think I might need help and this camp helped me understand a lot of things I was confused with.”

 Aisha, June 2018

Aisha, June 2018

And stay in touch she did! In 8th grade, we helped her pick a high school, Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics. In 9th grade, long before BEAM offered such comprehensive support, we encouraged her to apply to a mentoring program, Minds Matter, where she spent her summers and Saturdays for the next three years. In 11th and 12th grade, when her high school guidance counselor didn’t have the time to give her personal attention, Aisha turned to BEAM to be her college adviser. After being admitted to Northwestern University on a full scholarship, she turned to BEAM again to evaluate her financial aid package and get advice on applying for a summer bridge program to work on her writing skills. This summer, she will be working at BEAM 6 as a Junior Counselor, teaching and inspiring the next generation of BEAM students. 

We asked Aisha to look back and reflect. Here’s what she wrote:

From the summer of 2013 until now, BEAM has been a constant factor in my life. The staff at BEAM have supported me and been there for me during my achievements as well as during my failures. They have aided me in so many ways, enriching my ability and my personality. They helped me find a high school that best fit me and they presented me with opportunities for next steps, preparing me for college and the professional world. 

Most importantly, throughout the entire college process, BEAM has helped me in more ways than I could have imagined. The college process was one of the most difficult and draining times during my high school experience. However, what made it better was BEAM. When I had to change my college list at the last minute or when I was struggling to write essays, or when I cried because things were too expensive and I couldn’t handle the stress, BEAM helped me any way they could. I particularly appreciate the last-minute grant from BEAM’s Last Dollar Fund to cover $132 in SAT score reports that I needed to send in December 2017, just days before my Common Application was due. 

I am grateful to be part of BEAM. I know without them I could never have reached the position I am in today. BEAM has done so much for me. I love being part of this BEAM family. 

Now we’d like to turn around and share our appreciation with the entire community of BEAM supporters. Over the five years that Aisha has been part of BEAM, we have grown both the number of students we serve and the services we offer. When Aisha started BEAM, we didn’t even have an office; our two staff members each worked from home. Today, we have offices on both coasts. At the time, we had little high school support and no college support. Today, we not only offer college admissions advising to a core group of students, we are also adding advising through college to ensure that students like Aisha will graduate with STEM degrees. Aisha will get support from BEAM on how to choose classes, how to build relationships with professors, how to declare a major, and how to land an internship, along with regular reminders for all the logistics like filing her FAFSA. Already, at our 12th grade graduation party, Aisha sat down to discuss how an undecided student selects courses for her first semester. We feel confident that in four short years, we will be announcing her college graduation and exciting next plans. 

 Aisha (right) discusses college plans with Ayinde, BEAM's College Support Coordinator.

Aisha (right) discusses college plans with Ayinde, BEAM's College Support Coordinator.

Thank you to each and every BEAM donor, summer staff members, family member, peer, and cheerleader. Your support of BEAM allows us to turn around and support Aisha in ways both large and small. Aisha says she wouldn’t be here without BEAM; BEAM would not be here without your support. 

PS: Where are the other BEAM students headed?

 Aisha in Spain, during her 2017 summer program where she interned at a maker space. 

Aisha in Spain, during her 2017 summer program where she interned at a maker space. 

 Aisha (center) rehearses for the BEAM 7 talent show back in 2013. 

Aisha (center) rehearses for the BEAM 7 talent show back in 2013. 

 Zanahya, a rising 7th grader, learns to solder at BEAM 6 in 2018. Aisha, who learned to solder at BEAM 7 five years earlier was the teaching assistant for this course. 

Zanahya, a rising 7th grader, learns to solder at BEAM 6 in 2018. Aisha, who learned to solder at BEAM 7 five years earlier was the teaching assistant for this course. 

 BEAM students announce their college plans at College Decision Day at the Apollo Theater, May 2018.  Back row: Elijah (Howard), Henry (UMass Amherst), Tanasia (Rochester), Ariel (Brandeis)  Front row: Vielka (SUNY ESF), Aishat (Yale), Will (Haverford), Aisha (Northwestern), Malachi (SUNY Binghamton)

BEAM students announce their college plans at College Decision Day at the Apollo Theater, May 2018.

Back row: Elijah (Howard), Henry (UMass Amherst), Tanasia (Rochester), Ariel (Brandeis)

Front row: Vielka (SUNY ESF), Aishat (Yale), Will (Haverford), Aisha (Northwestern), Malachi (SUNY Binghamton)

 Aisha graduates from Manhattan Center School for Science and Mathematics, June 2018. 

Aisha graduates from Manhattan Center School for Science and Mathematics, June 2018. 

 Aisha, front, second from left, sits on a panel of BEAM staff and alums providing college application advice to rising 11th and 12th graders, August 2018. 

Aisha, front, second from left, sits on a panel of BEAM staff and alums providing college application advice to rising 11th and 12th graders, August 2018. 

4 for 15: An hour of class at BEAM 6 Uptown

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This month, we're welcoming three new full-time staff to BEAM! One of them, Alyssa Loving Jung, is BEAM's new Development and Communications Coordinator. She spent her first week at BEAM visiting BEAM 6 and wrote this blog post about her experience. Welcome to the team, Alyssa!

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My goal is to sit in on four of BEAM 6 Uptownʻs math classes in a single hour. While I may have an advanced degree in mathematics (a Master's to be precise), it is an ambitious plan. I am eager to see what mathematics the BEAM 6 students will be tackling today. 

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To start off, I get to join the very beginning of a class that appears to be about exponents… or maybe number theory? I am not quite sure. On the board there is a question that immediately catches my eye. 

What is the ones digit of 569,423^22?

I can't help it. I immediately start scribbling work in my notebook trying to solve the question. But as discussion swirls around me, I am pulled away from my attempts to solve the problem, curious as to what the students are coming up with. Students wonder out loud how to deal with a problem like this without doing a dizzying degree of multiplication. The instructor, Juan, offers a friendly warning that such an approach would take much more time than they have in class. Returning to my page of notes, I gather from my own work that the key to the problem lies in spotting a pattern and not getting lost in the cumbersome calculations. 

 Emily works during class. 

Emily works during class. 

Around me, I can hear students closing in on the pattern, and it is such fun that I must force myself to remember that I only have 15 minutes at most with them before I have to head to the next class. 

Even before my time is up, one of the students is up at the board presenting an idea.  

Collaborative mathematics, the courage to expose a budding solution, a still green idea, to an entire class of peers, is a crucial element of pursuing advanced mathematics. I am delighted that BEAM students are engaging with each other and their faculty like this. But glancing at the clock, I must tear myself away and head to the next class. 

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Here there is a very different sort of picture on the board. 

There are intersecting circles drawn and numbers scattered about. A student is at the board placing a number with care. While the numbers seem haphazardly distributed at first, the thoughtfulness of the student is the first clue that something more is going on. Then I notice the labels: factors of 6, multiples of 6, primes. 

They are exploring logic. The strange picture on the board I recognize as a Venn Diagram, a way to visualize the overlap and interplay between different sets. 

They move on from the Venn Diagram on the board to start working on a sheet of problems. A student notices ambiguity in one of the problems. The problem asks them to explore the statement "not A or B". He wonders if the instructor, Sian, means "(not A) or B" or rather "not (A or B)". 

The whole class takes time to investigate this subtlety. The process reminds me of writing math proofs during graduate school. Oftentimes the tiniest turn of phrase, the most minute missing detail, can make or break a complex mathematical argument. I am excited to see that the students are taking such care with the reading and writing of mathematics. But it is time for me to move on to my third class. 

 TA Amaya works with student Karen on a problem set during Open Math Time.

TA Amaya works with student Karen on a problem set during Open Math Time.

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 Yorlan works on an advanced geoemetry problem. 

Yorlan works on an advanced geoemetry problem. 

This class says Geometry and Logic in the corner of the chalkboard at the front. Apparently, it is another class on logic, but now there is geometry thrown into the mix. I am intrigued. 

The instructor, Xavier, is energetic and he calls each student by name as he peppers the room with questions. 

He wonders how we can figure out what c is when we know c^2=8. A student calls out that c is the square root of 8.

Xavier follows up, smiling, to see if Eduardo was just guessing, but no: 

"No, I didn’t guess..." Eduardo responds, "It's 'cause taking the square root is the opposite of squaring something." 

I am impressed that in one sentence Eduardo has gotten at the heart of what mathematicians mean by inverse equations. It is a concept that can confound even college students. But I can’t stay for more insights today. 

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I am off to my final class. As I slip into my seat, I am startled to see scrawled across the board: "Are there Aliens in the Milky Way?" 

A massive equation containing many letters is sprawled somewhere beneath it. The students are clearly in the process of grappling with the equation and what it means. The instructor, Susan, asks them to replace L = (1/10)^8 in their previous calculation, with L = (1/10)^2. Immediately, diligent pencil-scratching begins, heads bent, eyebrows furrowed with concentration. 

This is what I call the "dirty work" of mathematics. Complex computations don’t encompass what mathematicians do. Mathematicians are much more than mere human calculators after all. But such calculations do form an important aspect of the job of many mathematicians and scientists. BEAM students in this class are building the patience and the stamina to handle even very complex formulas, and learning some mind-boggling astronomy at the same time. 

 Taro, a TA, observes Jamal as he contemplates a large numbers. 

Taro, a TA, observes Jamal as he contemplates a large numbers. 

Meanwhile, I have set a new personal record for how many classes I have attended in one hour, and better yet I have had the chance to think about some really cool math. I cannot wait for what the next hour of BEAM 6 has in store!

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Curious about the classes that Alyssa visited? BEAM 6 students all take classes in our four topic areas: Math Fundamentals, Logic, Math Team Strategies, and Applied Math. Within each topic, students get to choose from a menu of classes, so they each take a class that inspires their curiosity. In the mornings, when Alyssa was visiting classes, students were in either their Math Fundamentals class, which explores the why of elementary math, or Logic class, which focuses on how to justify your reasoning. Juan and Susan were each teaching Math Fundamentals courses, while Sian and Xavier teach courses in the Logic track. 

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Here are the full course descriptions for the four classes she visited!

Exponents: The Super-Powers of Numbers! (Juan) 

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Using the power of multiplication, we will build some really, really big numbers and compare them to see which ones will turn out to be the biggest. We'll also explore a strange planet which only has 11 numbers in it!

Cryptarithms and Other Arithmetic Puzzles (Sian)

If A + B = AC, then what is A + B + C?  Cryptarithms are math puzzles where the arithmetic is simple but the "thinking part" of the puzzle is challenging.  We will start with simple problems and build up a tool chest of logic strategies for solving these problems and all math problems.

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Geometry and Logic (Xavier)

Ever look at a problem and not know where to start? This class will develop your ability to solve complex problems. We will learn how seemingly incomplete information can be combined to form complete solutions.

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Big numbers, Small numbers, and In between (Susan)

Imagine you have a very long number line, with every number you’ve discussed this year in school on the number line. A new number is introduced. Where does it go? Are you sure? In this class, we will use a variety of tools (brain power, rulers, logic, and more) to identify the big numbers, the small numbers, and the ones in between.