Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Do you have a child interested in math? They might enjoy Math Kangaroo Challenge next year.
Math Kangaroo

What Is Math Kangaroo?

I want to win a math contest! That’s what my 8 year old told me in the beginning of the third grade. She has high aptitude for math, and, after working ahead with Khan Academy last year she developed a lot of confidence in her math skills. I did some research of math contests opened to any participant and stumbled upon Math Kangaroo. Math Kangaroo is an international math competition opened to any student (provided that there is a testing center nearby). The goal of Math Kangaroo is to encourage students to master their mathematical knowledge and to give them confidence in their ability to comprehend mathematics. Participation fee in US is reasonable $20 and covers the contest itself as well as access to Math Kangaroo website where Media Library has videos with problems and solutions from years past.

Math Kangaroo Test Day

Math_Kangaroo Math Kangaroo test happens once a year in March. We registered for this contest rather late, but we could still find one location within 25 miles from us that accepted anyone wishing to participate – AMD campus in Sunnyvale. Smarty was super excited about the test, but also got quite nervous when she arrived and was seated in a room full of unfamiliar kids. Luckily, her nervousness disappeared when 75 min test started, and she emerged after about 40 min saying that she did her best and that she answered all 24 questions. Every student got participation awards – a cool T-Shirt, a participation certificate, and a pen. They were also allowed to take their test papers home.

Was the Test Hard?

I have a lot of personal experience with math Olympiads after having spent all my school years in a school for mathematically gifted kids. I was really pleased with the level of this test. It was definitely a test for ability to reason deeply and to apply math concepts to more complex problems. However, the test didn't require more math knowledge than is taught in school in the third grade, which really equalizes the playing field for public school and private school participants. The test gets progressively harder – 8 relatively easy questions for 3 points each, 8 medium strength questions for 4 points, and 8 hard ones for 5 points. A lot of questions required 3D thinking, which is not Smarty’s (or mine) strength, but some questions required logic, and those were the ones where she did rather well. Both my husband and I did the test for fun at home, and I am embarrassed to say that I missed 3 (one easy for sloppiness, one medium, again for sloppiness, and one hard). My husband missed one hard one, so neither of us would be able to win a math contest for the third grade :) What’s more important is that Smarty learned quite a few things from this experience.

What Did We Learn?

  • Smarty learned that she does enjoy academic competitions, and she already asked to participate again next year.
  • Leaving early is silly. Smarty would have done better if she had rechecked some of her work or given more thoughts to the problems where she was trying to guess the answer based on multiple choice answers given.
  • It does help to draw the problem sometimes. Smarty is reluctant to do that – either she can solve it right away (or through her “intuitive algebra” approach) or she deems it too hard. I showed her later how I solved one of the harder problems by drawing it.
  • Math is just like any other gift – it requires practice to hone it and grow it. Smarty was pretty much refusing to practice for this test, but now she seems to be more open to the idea of “Russian School of Math”. We have this program in our area, but I joked to her that she has no need to go to yet another after school class – Russian (and German) School of Math is available right here in her house 24x7 :) We just need to work out some time in our schedule for practicing those harder math programs at least twice a week, and perhaps next time our daughter can improve her current score.
What’s her current score? We don’t really know yet – it will take a few weeks to get the results, but she missed enough problems not to be on the “award list” which requires at least 73 points out of 96. Still, I think she did reasonably well for coming completely unprepared to this competition, and the good news is that it made her want to improve. This desire to improve, unfortunately, doesn’t come from her school environment where she is by far the strongest in her grade. I am thinking of talking to school about hosting Math Kangaroo contest on our site next year for entire school district.

More Math for Kids?

Math Kangaroo contest and its benefits From this blog:
Follow my Math Pinterest board.
Follow Natalie Planet Smarty Pants's board Math on Pinterest.

Your Turn

Do your kids take part in academic competitions? Which ones?

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2 comments:

Ticia said...

I wonder how my kids would do with something like that. I really need to work on some logic problems or some such like that.

So many things to work on, so much to do, so little time.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

We have not, but I could see Johnny especially enjoying this.