students

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.

Move-In Day

Day 0: Welcome to BEAM! Our seventh graders moved into Union College’s Richmond dormitory last Sunday, July 8. The day was jam-packed with fun activities as the kids unpacked and got to know each other.

We first met up with them at Bryant Park. The counselors and staff members took small groups to lunch. We began to get to know the kids as they ate and socialized with each other and us.

Staff at Bryant Park. 

Staff at Bryant Park. 

After lunch, we boarded the bus to drive up to Schenectady. The ride was long, but many of us talked the whole way back. You could feel the excitement on board!

We arrived on campus around 4:00. We unpacked and toured the dorms and the campus itself. After a nice dinner in the cafeteria, the counselors and kids met to go over a few rules before the kids got ready for bed before their 10:45 lights-out time.

Here are all 40 of our students upon arrival to campus!  We're sure this is going to be an amazing summer. 

BEAM Faculty Doing Great Things: Ben Blum-Smith on Math and Democracy

Ben with students at Ted
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Our summer staff do amazing things! Recently, Ben Blum-Smith was named to the Spring 2018 class of TED Residents, which is a chance for big thinkers to workshop and share their big ideas with others. 

As the culminating experience of the residency, Ben and his fellow residents each gave a TED talk (not online yet!). Ben invited three BEAM students to the talks, both his and the fellow residents, and they had this to say about the experience:

Attending this talk impacted me on a philosophical, emotional, and most importantly educational level. I met an urban planner, that was cool. I’m into math and politics, so that was cool. And revolutionizing data collection is awesome. I’m very excited about this opportunity. It was awesome.
— Abrahan, 12th grade
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Representation matters a tremendous amount to me and seeing people like me, as well as people from diverse backgrounds, was inspiring. I heard ideas on topics that matter to me, like an imbalance of resources to people of lower income as well as other amazing ideas that I haven’t thought much about.
The entire show, I visualized myself on stage. I imagined one day being able to give a TED talk myself. This experience has been so inspiring.
— Camila, 8th grade
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The best way to learn something new is to simply do more of it. Last summer, [at BEAM 7 at Union College,] I went to lecture on voting which was really interesting. Now, I’ve been to both of Ben’s talks on gerrymandering [at TED and at the Museum of Mathematics]. The thing that has helped me get better and be more interested in math is seeing the bigger things that I could do in math or physics once I learn the practical parts. These things can be fun and interesting, and last a long time in my mind.
— Porter, 8th grade
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Ben: keep up the incredible work! Thanks so much for inviting BEAM students along for the ride. 

PS: Keep an eye on the Museum of Mathematics' YouTube page for a link to Ben's longer Math Encounters. 

Ben Blum-Smith is a teacher and mathematician who is exploring the interface between math and democracy. He also works to broaden access to the field, through organizations such as the Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics and the Bard Prison Initiative.

Fatimatou speaks about her high school/college experience

Fatimatou attended BEAM 7 in the summer of 2011, as part of BEAM's very first cohort. Six years later she's a sophomore at Manhattan College with a Dean's scholarship, planning on attending medical school. On Saturday, December 2, she came to speak to BEAM's current 9th and 10th grade students about her experience in high school and college.

Fatimatou, Diamond, and Ilearys at BEAM in the summer of 2011

Fatimatou, Diamond, and Ilearys at BEAM in the summer of 2011

Fatimatou attended the Bronx Academy of Health Careers for high school, and says that it did not prepare her for college. "Since I had taken Algebra I before high school, I started with geometry. But once I finished Algebra II, I was taking the same math class every year because they didn't have anything more."

Since her high school offered limited classes, Fatimatou took advantage of every extra-curricular she could, including College Now and a summer program in math at Texas State University.

Starting college was a difficult transition, even with her extracurricular work. "In high school, I would start assignments the day they were due, or the day before, and get a good grade. In college, that doesn't work." Her advice? "Write down your assignments in a calendar, and give yourself early deadlines. Always know something about the topic before you go to class, even if that's from watching a YouTube video. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Go to your professor's office hours."

Fatimatou speaking to BEAM's students on Dec. 2, 2017

Fatimatou speaking to BEAM's students on Dec. 2, 2017

BEAM's high school students had questions about balancing work and a social life, paying for school, and college admissions. Fatimatou's perspective was extremely helpful, because of all the challenges she faced. BEAM hopes the Saturday program helps our current 9th and 10th grade students have an even smoother transition to college!

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Annual Slightly Mathy Trivia Night!

Each year, BEAM supporters, students, and staff get together for a night of slightly mathy-trivia, upscale pizza, beer, wine, and fun!  

Our volunteer trivia host, Andy, designed a night of quirky and challenging questions!  Here's a sample question from each round: (answers at the bottom of the post!)

  • Round 1 was a potpourri of challenging questions.  Here's a mathy one: "What is the smallest possible value for |a - b|, if a + b = 2017, a only contains even digits, and b only contains odd digits?"
  • Round 2 featured a matching game.  Given a single sentence about a game in one of 20 languages, can you figure out which language you're reading and what sport is being described?  Here's an example: "In what game does one of the rules translate to 'Carduri trainer reprezintă Articole, Suporterii și Stadioane de un Antrenor poate utiliza în luptă'?"
  • Round 3 was all NYC, with questions about the boroughs, high schools, bridges, and more about our city. For example,  "Which high school, which is one of the westernmost schools in Manhattan, is named after a former director-general of New Netherland?"

Teams, comprised of a mix of students, staff, and supporters worked together and got to know each other over the course of 36 challenging questions! 

Between Rounds 2 and 3, we took a break to ask all the students present about their experiences with BEAM.  The 8th-12th graders answered serious questions, and joked around, about math, high school, college, and more. 

Couldn't make it this year?  Sign up for BEAM's mailing list in the footer of this page to here when ticket sales start for next year.  Our staff and students can't wait to meet you!

Curious? Here are the answers:

  • 245 (a=886 and b=1131)
  • Pokémon (the language is Romanian)
  • Stuyvesant (where one BEAM student is in 10th grade!)

Getting on track for 8th grade: High School Information Session

This Saturday, 45 8th graders and their families joined BEAM to hear about high schools, how to apply, and also to hear the perspectives of BEAM students now in high school.  At the end of the event, students went home with personalized recommendations for which high schools to apply to as well as a calendar of next steps. 

High School Information Session

Missed the event?  Here's some information and advice from our high school BEAM students. 

BEAM suggested that I apply to NEST+m because I was studying for the SHSAT and the exams are similar. I ended up not getting into any specialized schools, but I did get into NEST+m. I have just finished two weeks there and I like it. Everyone is friendly. You can go up to an 11th grader and ask a question and they will help you.
— Adrianne, 9th grade, NEST+m
Adrianne
I first studied for the SHSAT during my summer at BEAM. I ended up being accepted into Bronx Science and Bard High School Early College and chose Bronx Science. There was some culture shock when I first arrived, but it’s absolutely the right school for me.
— Andy, 11th grade, Bronx Science
Andy
BEAM exposed me to high schools I had never heard of. I went to visit Bard High School Early College (BHSEC) with BEAM. In the end, I got into both Brooklyn Tech and BHSEC. BEAM helped me make a decision and I went with BHSEC, which is the best choice I ever made.
— Lennin, 10th grade, BHSEC
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I went to the Citywide High School Fair with BEAM. They taught me how to shake hands and introduce myself. While there, I talked with the Assistant Principal of the Academy for Software Engineering (AFSE). I really liked her and the school, so I went to an Open House to learn more. I ended up ranking it first and got in. I like the school because of its community environment.
— Mona, 11th grade, AFSE
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You can read more about each of their high schools on InsideSchools:

8th graders?  Interested in attending one of these schools?

  • Next step for Academy for Software Engineering: sign up for their mailing list; then, attend an Open House
  • Next step for Bard High School Early College: come to the essay writing workshop on October 1; then, take the admissions assessment with us on October 25
  • Next step for Bronx Science: keep studying for the SHSAT and ask BEAM for help with that
  • Next step for NEST+m: sign up for the entrance exam; we recommend the October 29 date, as it's exactly one week after the SHSAT

BEAM is here to help with high school!  Please reach out if you have any questions. 

"Not all math be solved in 5 minutes or less.": What BEAM's students said about the summer

Are you on BEAM's mailing list?  Every quarter, we recap recent news and upcoming events for our followers.  The most recent newsletter featured information about our programs for 6th, 7th, 10th, and 11th graders, as well as an invitation to join us for our annual upscale pizza and math trivia night on Tuesday, November 15, 2016.

To read the full newsletter, click here.  Sign up for future BEAM announcements at the bottom of this page. 

What did students gain from BEAM 6?

This summer, for the first time, students from half of BEAM's partner schools were invited to the new BEAM 6 program for the summer after 6th grade.  With support from great teachers, college students, and even past BEAM alumni who returned as junior counselors, the students learned advanced math in areas such as logical reasoning, math team strategies, and afternoon math circles.

Hosted at the Urban Assembly Maker Academy, this was BEAM's first-ever non-residential program.  With an intentional focus on building community, our students made friendships that will last a lifetime and help guide them through their paths from here on out.

Math is like a friend that was also [there] in the good and bad times. My favorite part of BEAM is when we have math circles.
— Yarely, 12, Ridgewood
Yarely (right)

Yarely (right)

Math is something everyone should learn. It’s amazing and I hope I can keep on learning more math. I want to get a PhD in math.
— David, 12, Allerton (Bronx)
David

David

Math is like a whole different world to me and I love it. When I do math I get lost in the world. It’s amazing. [At BEAM,] I learned how to work with others, share my ideas, and also hear other people’s ideas.
— Vicky, 12, Washington Heights
Vicky

Vicky

Math is a way to express yourself to the world. My favorite part of BEAM is being able to work in a community that is just as passionate about math as me and being [able] to work with these people to expand my knowledge.
— Anthony, 12, Melrose (Bronx)
Anthony

Anthony

[Math] allows me to explore what I haven’t before and to challenge my brain’s limits.
— Camila, 12, Mott Haven (Bronx)
Camila

Camila

Every student who attended BEAM 6 is invited to continue their studies with a free online Prealgebra course at Art of Problem Solving; free books from BEAM; and recommendations to future programs and high schools.  Forty of the students will be back next summer for BEAM 7 at Bard College! 

While still a pilot program, we are so pleased with how BEAM 6's first summer went and we look forward to expanding it to serve students from all our partner schools in summers to come.  

At the Water Park

Water park group

On Monday, July 18, the whole group (Vassar and Bard students, too!) went to Splashdown Beach for a fun water park day (even if it was shortened by the rain!).  Here are some photos of our day!

 

Weeks 1/2: Solving Big Problems

As mentioned earlier, all BEAM students study problem solving throughout the program.  Beyond Math Team Strategies, the other option is Solving Big Problems: working on the same problem for 2+ hours and really working to understand it.

In today's class, students investigated the following problem:

Which positive integers can be written as the sum of consecutive integers?

SBP

Students had a number of early conjectures, including:

  • All odd integers have this property.
  • If a given number is composed only of factors without this property, then that number also won't be possible to write as the sum of consecutive integers (so, if 4 = 1 * 2 * 2 and 1 and 2 are impossible, 4 is also impossible). 

The class was quickly able to prove the first conjecture, and then spent the next 2 hours working on the second.  Can you figure it out?