"This class has provided my daughter with the confidence to approach new mathematical concepts and a strong skill set to determine the best way to solve problems. Problem solving - especially with unknown topics and concepts - is an extremely important skill to foster. Ken's instruction is a perfect balance between supporting and encouraging exploration and setting expectations - all while maintaining a shared love of math." - Fall '11 Parent

Math Contest Prep FAQ

This blog post is also relevant.

What is Math Contest Prep? Math Contest Prep is a new course offering from Girls' Angle. In this course, students will develop problem solving skills and master mathematical content typically used in math competitions.

What will I learn? Solving math contest problems can be a fun way to learn math. Contest problems utilize many important topics, such as complex numbers, combinatorics, trigonometry, and modular arithmetic. We have catalogued thousands of contest problems and know the relative importance of various math topics in contests. At the same time, because of our math research background, we know what math topics are most important for the working mathematician. This course will focus on important mathematics that lies in the intersection of contest math and the fundamentals needed for mathematical research. At a more fundamental level, we will aim to teach you how to teach yourself to improve your contest skills.

What else will I learn? We will also teach you problem solving strategies, techniques for learning, contest psychology, and a healthy attitude that is most conducive to achieving depth of understanding.

How will I learn? We will use a variety of techniques including standard lectures, guest lectures, problem solving sessions, and some new methods that were developed at the Girls' Angle club and elsewhere that foster an active understanding of the material. We'll seek to find a maximal mix of fun and rewarding.

How is this different from joining the Girls' Angle club? To understand the difference, one must understand the particular nature of contest problems. Contest problems are designed to be solvable within the constraints of a competition. Solving contest problems, therefore, requires more specialized skills than doing math in general. At the club, our primary goal is to help girls develop into independent, skilled, and confident thinkers who can tackle the yet unsolved. By contrast, the math contest prep course will be focused on the specific theory, skills, and techniques that are important in math competitions. You can always attend both and club members receive a discount on the contest prep course fee.

Who may attend? This course is for girls who enjoy working out math contest problems such as those found at ARML, HMMT, or the AMC/AIME/USAMO. The Summer 2012 session of Math Contest Prep will be pitched toward girls in grade 7-9. During the academic year, Math Contest Prep is pitched toward high school girls. Exceptions are possible; please inquire. You do not have to score well on math contests to attend...after all, the whole point of attending is to get better. But you should enjoy working on contest problems. That is, unlike the club, this course will not contain a component that aims to develop motivation; you have to already be self-motivated.

Will there be homework? Yes. To learn these kinds of skills, it is critical to actively solve problems. Each week, there will be a small amount of required homework, but students will be encouraged to do more on their own.

Do I have to take an admissions test to attend? No. If you enjoy solving contest problems and want to improve your problem solving skills, it doesn't matter how well you perform on contests when you arrive. We will help you get better.

Why just for girls? To properly answer this question would require a book. The brief answer is that we believe that many girls benefit from learning math in an all-girl environment. There are already many places where boys can go to learn more math, and although these places are mostly co-educational, the dynamics of a co-ed math class often leave girls with the short end of the stick. This is not true for all girls, and we do not maintain that girls should avoid boys when learning math. However, we do think that there is a need for an all-girl environment and so we provide one.

Because it is for girls only, will the material be watered down? First of all, why is this question here? It's here because we get asked this question frequently. In fact, sometimes it doesn't come to us as a question but an assertion! The answer is no.

Who is the main instructor? The main instructor will be Ken Fan, the president and founder of Girls' Angle. Ken has a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT. Before founding Girls' Angle, he was a Benjamin Pierce assistant professor of mathematics at Harvard, a member at the Institute for Advanced Study, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow, and has published original research in journals such as the Journal of the American Mathematical Society.

Why Math Contest Prep? Math contests can introduce students to beautiful mathematics not covered in the standard curriculum. Math contests can also be a way for students to meet and befriend others who also enjoy puzzling out math problems. However, contests also introduce an element of competition that many find unpleasant. Math contests can create an unhealthy focus on scores and rankings which can negatively interfere with one's growth and development in mathematics. With Math Contest Prep, we can provide the best of what contests offer while avoiding the negative aspects. At Math Contest Prep, we will encourage collaboration and urge participants to share in each others' success and help each other to grasp difficult concepts. To get far in math, one must also learn to generate natural questions that lead one on a path to deeper and deeper understanding. Math contests emphasize only the answer side of the equation. Even more, in Math Contest Prep, we will explain the glue that holds math together and explain which math contest problems rest upon beautiful theory and are worth dwelling upon and which are contrived and not worth thinking about.

When and where will the class meet? We will meet at the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge from 4-6 pm on the following Sundays:

Summer 2012
June 3, 10, 17, 24
July 8, 15, 22, 29

Summer 2012 Math Contest Prep registration is closed. Please check back again for next summer!

Fall 2012 Spring 2013
September 16, 23, 30 January 27
October 7, 14, 21, 28 February 3, 10, 24
November 4, 18 March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
December 2 April 7

How do I register? Registration is now closed.

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