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Redwood MS

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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 from the 2009-2010 school year, around 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 are mainly responsible for the logistics of running the program through LGS Recreation.  

Redwood students are placed into different teams based on their math experience: 

  • Green Team is for beginners who are interested in contest math but still have a lot to learn. 
  • Blue Team consists of intermediate students who have some past experience with math contests. 
  • Black Team is for advanced students who are adept at solving even entry level high school contest problems.
Placement Test new!!
SHS Math Club prepares the Redwood Math Club Placement Test every year.  For next year (2014-15), we will modify the format of the Redwood Math Club Placement Test. In addition to the usual short answer questions, we will be adding a small number of free response questions to test student's basic skills in algebra. 

The Placement Test will also be comprised of questions of difficulty similar to that of Math Olympiad for Elementary and Middle School, MS  & HS CaML, Regional MandelbrotAMC-8 and -10, and include some questions from AIME.  You can obtain past contests of AMC-8, -10, and AIME from artofproblemsolving.com web-site.

Mathcounts Team and Individual Qualification
Highest scoring mathletes, regardless of their grouping, will be chosen to represent Redwood Middle School as either Team Members or as Individuals based off of a two part selection process. First, the top 12 individuals will be selected based purely off of their performance on the AMC 8, CAML* (the first three), Selection Exams, and the Mathcounts School round. Indexes will be created and assigned according to the following formula:

   

where
    ktest = 6, 2, 3, 6  for AMC 8, CAML, Selection Exams, and Mathcounts School round respectively,
    scoretest = the student's score for that test
    µtest = the mean black team score on that test, and
   
σtest = the standard deviation of black team scores on that test.
In other words, the higher a student is from the average, the higher their index will be, with each test being weighed equally in total.

T
he students with the highest 12 indexes will then be selected, with ties broken by the Mandelbrot Regional tests*.
These top 12 individuals must commit to practicing throughout the entirety of their Christmas vacation. If a student cannot commit, he or she must forfeit his or her spot to the next best candidate.

Throughout these practices, the top 12 individuals will be observed with no bias given towards previous scores or even the cumulative index that distinguished them. They will be divided into the four team members, six individuals, and two alternates strictly according to the adviser's discretion based off of practice performance AND teamwork capability. We reiterate that teamwork is a critical factor because a highly skilled individual lacking the ability to work cohesively with others can compromise the success of the overall team.


*HS CaML tests and Mandelbrot Regional tests will, by default, only be administered to Black and Blue team members. Ambitious Green team students that wish to be considered for the Mathcounts Team should tell their coaches so they can be given the tests for the selection process.

Making decisions

All decisions regarding placement of students and curriculum of Redwood Math Club math club are strictly made by the high school coaches and ultimately okayed by the club adviser. Parents play no role in making this kind of decisions for reasons that should be obvious.

Because we often do not know the capabilities of students at the beginning of the school year, we administer the initial placement test to stratify students into the team we think best fits their ability. 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 selection tests to identify students for possible movement. If a student has demonstrated a clear superiority in selection tests (and possibly with their index), 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.
Other Factors
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 have 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.

Outside Contests
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.
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PJ Yim,
Sep 17, 2013, 9:02 PM
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PJ Yim,
Nov 2, 2011, 9:03 PM
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Saratoga HS,
Oct 7, 2013, 3:58 PM
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