In recent years, the Toga Math Club has expanded to include not only high school members, but also interested middle school students as well. Beginning the school year 2009-10, about a dozen high school students began teaching middle school students in an organized way. These coaches volunteer their time to design the curriculum, create lesson plans and placement tests, and teach the classes.
Parent volunteers mainly responsible for the logistics of running the program through LGS Recreation.
Redwood students are placed into different teams based on their math experience:
- White Group is for beginners who are interested in contest math but still have a lot to learn.
- Blue Group consists of intermediate students who have some past experience with math contests.
- Black Group is for advanced students who are adept at solving even high school contest-level problems.
Mathcounts Team and Individual Qualification
Highest scoring mathletes, regardless of their grouping, will be chosen to represent Redwood Middle School either as Team Member or as Individuals . If there are tie scores, I will be using the following as a tie-breaker: results from the initial placement test, subsequent selection tests, other contests, and other factors such as ability to work as a team. Feedbacks from HS coaches will be taken into consideration.
All decisions regarding placement of students and curriculum of Redwood Math Club math club is strictly made by the high school coaches and ultimately okayed by the club advisor. Parents play no role in making this kind of decisions for the reasons that should be obvious.
We take the initial placement test to group students. We usually find the natural break in the scoring distribution to place the students into Black Group. For the first few weeks, Blue Group is about the size that will remain throughout the year and Green Group is much larger compared to the final grouping. We use the subsequent placement tests to identify students for possible move. The formula would essentially look like CUMULATIVE SCORE=initial placement test + (weight1*normalizing factor*blackselection#1 + weight2*normalizing factor*blueselection1 + weight 3*normalizing factor*greenselection3) + (weight4*normalizing factor*blackselection#2 + weight 5*normalizing factor*blueselection2 + weight 6*normalizing factor*greenselection2) + ... . If a student has demonstrated a clear superiority in selection tests, then the move is made. In cases where difference are not crystal clear, but are probable (in the bubble or in gray area), we use other factors to help us make the decision to move.
In very few occasions, we do use our judgement for students in the gray area. In these cases, all coaches are given the names of the student that are in the bubble so that they can pay particular attention for students' behavior, constructive role, and other intangibles in the class. Some students in the bubble can be promoted based on an individual coach's recommendation followed by confirmation from remaining coaches who had the chance to observe the said student in comparison to the rest of the students in the bubble and the entire classroom. Once the agreement is reached, I give the final okay only after I feel comfortable with the reasons for promotion.
Classroom learning behavior, constructive participation, and the results outside contests (Mathleague, Berkeley Mini Math Tournament (BmMT), Mandelbrot Regional, and others) are used as an extra data points in making the decision. While I encourage all students to participate in the weekend off-campus math contests, not all do. Because these are voluntary contest that not all students take, the results from the outside voluntary contests will NOT be used directly to rank students. Once again, cumulative scores are used to identify the possible candidates for movement between the group. High school coaches and I use these information as extra data points to help us in making an informed decision, but are not used directly in the cumulative score.
Transparency vs Privacy
While some may wish for us to publish the full results of individual scores, this will not happen as I need to balance the privacy of individual students.One of my priorities is to see that all students are treated fairly and are given the equal opportunity for learning. Secondly, I want to exposed my high school math club students to have an opportunity to organize and to contribute to the community. If the community cannot trust me or the students to be neutral, I am more than happy to remove myself from the voluntary position that I've been doing.