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MIST Academy classes are aimed at students in grades 3 through 12 who are already doing well in their current school math curriculum. MIST Academy reserves the right to test and turn away students who do not fit the program.
The MIST Academy curriculum is a broader, more in-depth, more modern curriculum that emphasizes the kinds of problem solving challenges that help students succeed in a world of rapidly developing mathematical applications. We hold classes year round at a variety of levels. To learn more, take a look at our class progression chart. Explorers classes cover a variety of topics, but starting at the Introductory level, we tend to focus on an area of mathematics more intensely for one class at a time, while leaving room to exercise the brain in other areas at different times of the year.
Our Birmingham school is located at 1401 Montgomery Highway, Suite 121 in the heart of Vestavia Hills.
Please contact the MIST Academy staff with any questions you might have.
Please note that suggested grade levels are not set in stone.
However, all classes are already aimed at avid and advanced learners.
MIST Academy will place students in classes where we believe students will thrive the most, subject to evaluation by an instructor.
Also, additional classes may be scheduled for the purposes of further differentiating student abilities. MIST Academy opened its doors in 2007.
Just over a year later we moved into our own school location at 1401 Montgomery Hwy, Suite 121 in the heart of Vestavia Hills (35216).
A basic description of course offerings is as follows:
- Math Explorers (grades 3-5).
Gifted math students will learn problem solving skills primarily through a combination of working
Math Olympiads for Elementary Schools (MOEMS) problems and playing games based in math and logic.
Here is a
sample of the kinds of problems Math Explorers students will work on during class.
- Introductory Problem Solving (grades 5-8).
Students will learn the basics of algebra, counting techniques, geometry, number theory, and probability.
Much of the curriculum will be taken from the AMC, MOEMS, and MATHCOUNTS programs.
Here is a sample of the kinds of
problems that will be covered in this course.
In order to meet the needs of every motivated student, MIST Academy currently holds three distinct levels of class for
Introductory Problem Solving students (A, B, C).
- Intermediate Problem Solving (grades 7-10). Students with a complete algebra I background will study algebra, counting techniques, geometry, number theory, and probability on the level of the AMC 10, AMC 12, Mandelbrot Competition, and Mu Alpha Theta. Here is a sample of the kinds of problems that will be covered in this course.
- Advanced Problem Solving (grades 9-12). The curriculum gets more advanced, with much of the material taken from the AIME, ARML, and similarly difficult competitions. Some class time will be devoted to learning rigor in mathematics, including basic proof writing. Here is a sample of the kinds of problems that will be covered in this course.
- Olympiad Problem Solving (grades 9-12). This course certainly isn't for the weak of heart. Students will focus on the harder problems from competitions such as the AMC 12, AIME, ARML, the Mandelbrot Competition, and various Olympiads such as the USA Mathematical Olympiad. About a third of class time will be spent learning how to write rigorous proofs. This course is not currently offered. It will be offered as current students work their way up to this level of curriculum.
- The MIST Academy Summer Institute (upcoming grades 3-12) is a half-day summer camp featuring many courses at the levels described above and possibly more.
- Robotics (grades 6-10) (currently no classes planned). These highly enjoyable courses teach students basic engineering and computer skills using Lego Mindstorms NXT kits. We plan to pursue the establishment of a FIRST Robotics competition in Birmingham.
Debate (grades 6-10) classes vary in format,
but MIST Academy instructs students in the major schools of debate in which students compete at the high school level.
Middle school classes are designed to help students learn the basics of research and argumentation.
No Speech and Debate classes are currently being planned, but we may continue these programs in the future.
Each class will bring together some of the brightest young minds in the Birmingham area for two hours, once a week, to explore new concepts and solve interesting problems. (The MASI Summer classes run three hours per day, five days a week.)
A typical class might be broken into three parts:
- 40 minutes of discussion about the day's topics. The discussions are directed to facilitate student discovery of important mathematical principles.
- 40 minutes of working on problems that reinforce the day's topics.
- 40 minutes of a team-oriented game where students explain their solutions to the day's problems in an effort to win points for their team.
Not every class will revolve around that game format, but this format has proven exciting and valuable to the students.
MIST Academy students are sorted into classes not by age, but by ability. This allows MIST Academy instructors to constantly challenge each student at his or her own level.
MIST Academy students in middle and high school will build up the foundations of mathematics as much as possible through their own efforts. This constructionist approach is only possible with entire groups of high ability students.
The MIST Academy program is very different from most classes, so it is important that parents read this FAQ.
- In which class should I enroll my child?
Most of the time, the MIST Academy staff can judge which class is best for a student according to that student's academic background. This may include math tournament results if they are old enough. MIST Academy will administer a diagnostic test to some students to help best place them in a class. Please contact us.
- How do we know these classes are effective?
Please read our testimonials page, and about our professional instructors. The MIST Academy curriculum is derived from the experience of educating hundreds of top students throughout the U.S. and worldwide. MIST Academy students are already recording major accomplishments, many of which are being tracked in Mathew Crawford's blog.
We highly encourage you to speak with parents of other MIST Academy students. To find some of those parents, just ask around at a math team event.
- My child says they can't solve many of the class problems, are they failing?!
No! If your child is not grasping much new material, we simply suggest moving them into a different class that is at their level of challenge. MIST Academy endeavors to work with students as close to their level of need as possible.
If your child can work all the class problems, that is the bigger problem. Let us know and we will move them to a more advanced class. The MIST Academy philosophy is to challenge students with some problems that teach mechanics and some problems that aim for depth of concepts. Students often struggle with the latter, and that is good for them. They should always have something more to think about.
Concepts are often repeated in the MIST Academy classroom, with the goal of gradually increasing the depth of each student. Some students get many concepts right away, but even gifted learners sometimes struggle the first time around.
- My child has never been challenged in math class, but I don't know which class is best for him/her. How can I know?
Every student coming through our door is unique, and a sufficient history of achievement is not always available.
In these cases MIST Academy is happy to consult with each family and administer diagnostic tests in order to place each student in the class that best meets their needs.
Please contact us for additional details.
- My child comes home from class very happy and describes the classes as easy. Are they working hard?
We would call this question a "soft ball", except that many parents ask this question. MIST Academy aims to make math and science more interesting, enjoyable, and accessible to students in order to foster a culture of achievement. Games are often the best tool for helping to inspire young minds to solve difficult problems and develop key concepts.
Sometimes students do find even difficult concepts relatively easy after a well designed class. If a student describes some classes as easy, but does not test well on deeper concepts or harder problems, then the student may still be working at an appropriate level.
We do expect students to work hard. But our goal is to provide an environment that encourages work ethic fueled by curiosity or even a competitive nature. We like to think that we are cultivating good attitudes about education as opposed to teaching students fear and frustration.
- Does MIST Academy give grades?
No, but we do track the progress of students through testing and other methods. This way we can promote students who demonstrate knowledge and success at each level. But things change. MIST Academy is an evolving institution always rearranging its priorities and looking for ways to best serve its students.
We feel strongly that our time working directly with students and crafting materials to meet their needs is more important than tracking and developing grades. This does not mean that we will never develop a grading system, but that we currently have higher priorities.