November 17, 2010

We have a Mathelete

We have known for a long time that our kid was brilliant. All parents think that, right? We knew it at about the age of 20 months or so when he would memorize and give us correct directions to and from a certain place. Like the commissary to home in HI where I would turn the wrong way every.single.time. We knew it when he was 2 1/2 and was adding up the beans on his plate and stacking the canned food in a certain order. Before he was 3, he had started memorizing books and in Sunbeams (a Sunday School class for 3 year olds) was able to memorize at least half of the Articles of Faith. We knew it in kindergarten when he started doing 6 square Sudoku and by first grade when his times on regular Sudoku were better than his Dad's. Several teachers told us right away that he was different and people commented all of the time on how bright he was. We knew he had a different perspective on the world and that numbers were almost magical to him.
   Today in school he competed for the first time in the Math Olympiads. In our district it's a program for 4-6th grade students to expand their problem solving skills through math. The questions are hard. Really hard. Some of them come directly off of the PSAT tests. The object isn't necessarily to get all of the problems correct, but to figure out how math could help you solve the problem at hand. It's encouraged to look at a problem differently than someone else and you get points for coming up with the right solution using different approaches. A big part of the competition comes after the test, when you get a chance to stand up and show everyone how you came to the answer you came to. It gives the kids a chance to use math vocabulary in a relate-able way, to teach others, to stand up for their own answers and be encouraged by maybe doing things a little differently. I have to say it's a pretty amazing program.
     His current teacher has told me she thinks he is gifted and that in 17 years of teaching she hasn't seen a kid who has a mind that works like that. She encouraged me to look for opportunities to further his obsession (um, talent.) I am not sure the local Rec Center has what we are looking for though. Does anyone have any ideas on how to go about finding the right thing for him? Are there community math groups and do they admit almost 10 year old boys? I am proud of my big kid, who can do hard things. I know there are harder things to come. I hope this little experience in Math club will help teach him some great problems solving skills. I hope it re-enforces his love for math and motivates him to work harder. I hope all of the work will eventually earn him great scholarships and open doors for him all through his life. Having a Mathelete is awesome.

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