• Mathew Crawford Mathew Crawford is an Education Engineer, textbook author, and CEO of MIST Academy, a school for gifted students in Birmingham, Alabama.
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    Preliminary results from the Alabama State Written Examination have been emailed out.  Congratulations to these highest scoring teams in Alabama, listed strictly in scoring order regardless of division:

    Comprehensive Division

    1st place — Vestavia Hills High School (938 points)
    2nd place — Hoover High School (855 points)
    3rd place — Oak Mountain High School (767 points)
    4th place — Albertville High School (755 points)
    5th place — Cullman High School (734 points)

    Algebra II/Trig Divsion

    1st place –  Alabama School of Fine Arts (888 points)
    2nd place — Grissom High School (760 points)
    3rd place — Vestavia Hills High School (718 points)
    4th place — Hoover High School (613 points)
    5th place — Spain Park High School (606 points)

    Geometry Division

    1st place — Vestavia Hills High School (731 points)
    2nd place — Spain Park High School (685 points)
    3rd place — Hoover High School (655 points)
    4th place — Homewood High School (602 points)
    5th place — Grissom High School (571 points)

    Later I will post some of the high scoring individuals.

    Each year I judge what I’m doing here at MIST Academy partially by the AMC statistics.  The 2011 statistics for the AMC 10 and 12 A & B exams have been released.  I pay more attention to the AMC 10 than the AMC 12 because only a few of my students are yet old enough to be taking the AMC 12, though I suspect I would find mildly favorable results.  Instead I focus my analysis on the AMC 10 exams that scores of my students take each year.

    2010:
    1.72% of total test takers qualified for the AIME.
    0.93% of Alabama test takers qualified for the AIME.
    The Alabama/Total qualification rate ratio was about .538.

    2011:
    4.94% of total test takers qualified for the AIME.
    3.29% of test takers in Alabama qualified for the AIME.
    The Alabama/Total qualification rate ratio was about .666.

    Note that these statistics include test takers in other countries that often include a selection bias.

    The increase in the relative rate is 23.8%, which is substantial for a single year.  I believe that next year will show an additional jump that may be just as large due to a very strong 9th grade class and an exceptionally deep 8th grade class.

    Of the 21 qualifying scores on the AMC 10 exams in Alabama, at least 13 were by MIST Academy students and some others used materials written by MIST Academy instructors to study, though I don’t yet know some of those results — the 13 number is a lower bound.

    There are a lot of reasons to be confident about Alabama’s state team this year.

    First is the competition they faced.  Just three years ago it took 27 points to make the state team.  There were something like 13 students in Alabama who scored at least that high this year.  This year’s state test was tougher than last year’s (I’ve got substantial data for many students for comparison at this point) and it took 38 points to make the team (just as it did last year).

    Great competition pushes us to higher peaks.

    But I don’t think that tells the story.  I believe these students will perform relatively better at the national competition where the problems are harder.  I could say this opinion is based partially on the fourth place student scoring 6 on the recent AIME, but I would have said that anyway.  Each of this year’s team members has a passion for mathematics and problem solving.

    During a recent practice session I noticed each of the students offering ideas to help with different problems.  They clearly have different strengths, and they are fully capable of teaching each other as they learn themselves.  These different strengths also raise their potential on a hard Team Round.

    I hope the Team Round is very hard this year.  With four strong team members, I believe a hard Team Round would favor this Alabama team.

    But here’s the reason I believe they will perform well: because they all seem to enjoy working hard on the problems.  They’re a very good team already, but they’ll be substantially better by May.

    Yesterday I went to help out with grading during the 2011 Alabama MATHCOUNTS competition in Huntsville.  This was probably the most competitive MATHCOUNTS event in Alabama in two decades.  Maybe ever.  The teams and competitors were simply amazing.  When the dust cleared, the breakdown was as follows:

    Top Teams:

    1st place — Pizitz Middle School
    2nd place — Baldwin Arts and Academic Magnet
    3rd place — Randolph School

    Top Individuals:

    1st place — Rickie Jang (Baldwin)
    2nd place — Charles Li (Pizitz)
    3rd place — Sunny Chennupati (Liberty Middle School)
    4th place — Sabrina Chen (Randolph)
    5th place — Linlin Pan (Pizitz)
    6th place — Peter Qiu (Pizitz)
    7th place — Ruchir Rastogi (Baldwin)
    8th place — Jaker Yang (Liberty)
    9th place — Ankit Bansal (Pizitz)
    10th place — Philip Wang (Pizitz)

    7 of these 10 students are MIST Academy students, and we are very proud of them!

    Special congratulations are in order to the four students who will travel to Washington D.C. in May to represent Alabama at the National MATHCOUNTS Competition: Rickie Jang, Charles Li, Sunny Chennupati, and Sabrina Chen.  They will be coached by Pizitz Middle School math team coach Vicki Cato.

    You have worked hard learning the essential problem solving skills and various fields of mathematics.  Together in class we’ve cleverly unraveled puzzles and built models to help focus our creative thoughts.  I haven’t pushed any of you very hard to prepare for MATHCOUNTS.  We’ve worked together and I let you decide how much of yourself you wanted to commit to any given activity.  On a few occasions I’ve opened the door to the school for practice sessions, but it was you who showed up and worked the problems.  The problems you motivated yourself to work at home are a testament to ability, passion, and your own drive.  So your achievements at Alabama MATHCOUNTS tomorrow are your own.

    I might tell you good luck.  But instead my hope is that you enjoy the problems.  May you learn something wonderful while you do your best to reach the top of a truly exceptional group of problem solvers.

    The other day I discovered Garrett Lisi‘s TED Talk.  My second favorite thing about the talk is seeing how Lisi’s imagination works.  The theory is very imaginative.  My favorite thing about the talk is that it gives insight into a particular motivation for his explorations into the fundamental physics of the universe: he assumes that the universe must be beautiful.  I think this is much of the reason I would bet on his theory over string theory.  Aside from that point, I think motivated modeling is one of the most precious lessons in math and science. Enjoy.

    This year the ARML Power Contest provided an extremely young and rapidly improving Alabama ARML team a chance to cut its teeth on some team solution writing events.

    Round 1 was a great confidence booster for the team, which finished with 33/40 points — just outside the top teams in the country, even though one of the easy problems was misread and unchecked due to the small size of the team.  The result was impressive for a group of students that included just one senior and no juniors (if I recall correctly).  It’s almost hard to believe that Alabama ARML scored 12/40 on the first round for the two previous years.

    The second round was more interesting in many ways.  The lone senior and team captain, Xinke Guo-Xue, was unable to participate due to the flu.  That left a team of mostly 8th, 9th, and 10th graders (and just two juniors) to contend with a problem that required a lot of mathematical maturity without their team leader.  They managed 24/40 points.  They scored 22/26 through the first 7 problems.  While their team captain almost surely would have propelled the team to one of the top scores in the country (it was a great topic for Xinke), it was great to see so many young students throwing a tremendous amount of energy at a new set of concepts.  Their result is even more impressive given how many of them had little or no experience with analytic geometric (much less non-Euclidean geometry!).

    Fortunately two students from Huntsville made it to Birmingham for the second round, though the Grissom students did not compete with us this time.  I may hold the contests on weekends next year and try to gather a larger group.  I would also like to see Montgomery students start to join us.  Alabama ARML is on its way to becoming a very competitive team.

    I was happy to find out today that four students I had the good fortune to work with from 2008 to 2010 when I taught in Huntsville were the highest scoring team in their division (Rock Division) on National Assessment & Testing’s Four-by-Four competition.  Cool stuff!

    I haven’t heard back from most MIST Academy students who took the AMC exams with their school, but I am beginning to put together a list of qualifiers for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME).  Qualifying for the AIME is a more significant honor than ever before as so many students recognize the significance of the achievement and strive to get there.  I will update this list as more students report scores.  A few of these scores are self-reported and unofficial, but likely accurate:

    Xinke Guo-Xue (Hoover, 12): 124.5 (AMC 12 A)

    Eugene Wu (Hoover, 12): 115.5 (AMC 12 A)

    Wesley Chow (Hoover, 11): 108 (AMC 12 A)

    Chase Harrison (Grissom, 12): 100.5

    Sid Nanda (Grissom, 11): 96 (AMC 12 A)

    Sina Monfared (9): 96: (AMC 12 A)

    Andy Tang (JCIB, 11): 93 (AMC 12 A)

    Jimmy Liu (Vestavia, 9): 136.5 (AMC 10 A)

    Animesh Mahapatra  (Grissom, 9): 132 (AMC 10 A)

    Asutosh Nanda (Grissom, 9): 126 (AMC 10 A)

    Bill Caraway (Grissom, 9): 126 (AMC 10 A)

    Botong Ma (Vestavia, 10): 126 (AMC 10 A)

    Nick Sparkman (Grissom, 10): 120/126 (AMC 10 A/B)

    Charles Li (Pizitz, 8): 121.5 (AMC 10 A)

    Leigh Marie Braswell (ASFA, 9): 120 (AMC 10 A)

    Abhay Thottassery (Bumpus, 8): 118.5 (AMC 10 A)

    Sabrina Chen (Randolph, 8): 117 (AMC 10 A)

    Silin Li (Vestavia, 9): 117 (AMC 10A)

    The American Mathematics Competitions who run the AMC exams also acknowledge exceptional scorers in grade 8 and below through the Achievement Roll.  We are very fortunate to have many students on this year’s Achievement Roll:

    Charles Li (Pizitz, 8): 121.5 (AMC 10 A)

    Abhay Thottassery (Bumpus, 8): 118.5 (AMC 10 A)

    Sabrina Chen (Randolph, 8): 117 (AMC 10 A)

    Linlin Pan (Pizitz, 8): 97.5/112.5 (AMC 10 A/B)

    Marshall Strickland (Bumpus , 8): 106.5 (AMC 10 A)

    Ankit Bansal (Pizitz, 8): 100.5/105 (AMC 10 A/B)

    Jason Liu (Pizitz, 8): 91.5/103.5 (AMC 10 A/B)

    Kai He (Pizitz, 8): 103.5 (AMC 10 A)

    Yunchao Zhang (Pizitz, 6): 99/102 (AMC 10 A/B)

    Afra Ashraf (Pizitz, 6): 99 (AMC 10 A)

    Philip Wang (Pizitz, 8): 91.5/96 (AMC 10 A/B)

    Xiaolan You (Pizitz, 7): 94.5 (AMC 10 A)

    Congratulations to all these students for their fine performances!

    Most people think about dollars first when they think about what they earn when they produce.  Most people will also then consider the work they do at home knowing that this work adds value to their lives.  Some people will then begin to consider all the work they do make their computer and gadgets entertain them.  That’s value.  And values that aren’t expressed in dollars may have become a substantial portion of economic growth — perhaps even the majority (I am not claiming to know).  In particular, the internet brings us tremendous quantities of asymptotically free goods and services.

    Though I do feel concern over whether a good or service is free when it comes with the controls of people who track us, advertise to us, and do what they can to manipulate us.  We pay.  We just don’t have the best sense of what we pay.

    In some sense this should give us greater confidence in the recovery of our economy.  However, it also means that we should see some wages retreat or grow much more slowly, but wages are sticky (it’s hard to make them go down).  With government salaries going up so much more quickly than those in the private sector, will we see proportional job losses in the private sector so that total dollar wages (for my lack of an economics term) grows continually at a snail’s pace?

    To some degree this question highlights the current battles over teacher salaries/benefits.  If everyone else is struggling to learn this new economy of asymptotically free goods, shouldn’t we assume that teachers are/must learn how to handle it also?

    Somehow I don’t expect that union bosses are going to think too hard on this point.

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