Ideas for a High School Math Club

  1. thrill3rnit3

    thrill3rnit3 712
    Gold Member

    I'm a current high school student. I (with the help of a moderator) just recently created a math club in my high school, and would like to ask for ideas about club activities.

    I was thinking of doing either combinatorics, graph theory, or number theory along with other kids. We decided that we are also going to do preparation for competitions, olympiads, etc.

    My school isn't exactly math-y so I'd like the activities to be fun and a learning experience as well.

    Any suggestions?
  2. jcsd
  3. Weekly talks by club members with a prize for best talk of the semester. Also, get guest speakers from the nearby university. Erm... maths treasure hunt?
  4. If you do any sort of competitions (in your school), and especially if you invite other to Wolfram, Mathworks, Maplesoft, etc. about giving away a prize. Just try to get one that allows the person who wins to actually use it! (I once received a student edition of Mathematica as a prize at a regional conference...though I had just graduated, and couldn't register it.)
  5. jhae2.718

    jhae2.718 1,160
    Gold Member

    I would definitely go to any math and engineering competitions nearby. Put together a team and compete in various competitions. Try to hold your own competitions: put out various problem sets for people to solve with prizes, etc. Find interesting problems and explore them.

    Try to invite speakers on various topics from local higher education, and mathematicians/engineers in industry.

    See if there are any local organizations that promote STEM education...they may be able to help in many ways. Many in the profession would love to help, I am sure.
  6. thrill3rnit3

    thrill3rnit3 712
    Gold Member

    I was thinking of making an official math team...but like I said some students just aren't as adept as others...any suggestions on the preparation? Give problem sets every meeting I guess...
  7. jhae2.718

    jhae2.718 1,160
    Gold Member

    You may also consider helping those who aren't so adept...maybe have your member who are good at math give seminars on various topics for them...who ever is voted as the best presenter gets a prize.

    For preparation for competitions, the best method is taking old tests/whatever the competition is about. Study the fundamentals of math; when you have those down completely branch out into the more complex and interesting subjects. See what the competitions stress and practice, practice, practice.

    Getting members will be your hardest part--that's why my attempt at a math club failed. But, then again, what do you expect from a school where half the calculus class doesn't know long division of polynomials.

    It's good that you want to have a math club, but it will require a lot of work on your part as the founder to make it a success.

    Have you considered what you want to do? How you are going to generate interest (competitions? tutoring?)? Will you have dues?

    A google search on starting a high school math club yields
  8. thrill3rnit3

    thrill3rnit3 712
    Gold Member

    I'm probably going to talk to the moderator (teacher) to make it a Mu Alpha Theta charter at my school and so we can do some of the contests/competitions sponsored by MAT, also some AMC 10s and 12s.

    I'm just worried that too much contest preparation will bore some of the students, especially the ones who aren't as bright, and that might cause them to leave.

    I don't think I'll need THAT big of a group, probably around 8-10 kids would be good enough IMO.
  9. jhae2.718

    jhae2.718 1,160
    Gold Member

    That's true, so you alternate: do some preparation, then some fun stuff. As the date of the competition approaches, intensify the preparation.

    Do you have any kind of funding to offer prizes, etc., or a system to give members in school rewards (for that you'll have to work with your HS's school administration)? If so, after the competition have a party, and/or give prizes to those who place. It doesn't have to be anything big; a little recognition goes a long way.
  10. thrill3rnit3

    thrill3rnit3 712
    Gold Member

    yeah thanks for the advice

    any ideas on that "fun stuff"? something related to math as well...
  11. jhae2.718

    jhae2.718 1,160
    Gold Member

    Use math to design something; try mathematical cryptography...brain teasers, etc.

    Mock proofs are always fun...

    Mathematical games, logic puzzles, etc. (I am a puzzle fanatic)
  12. High school competition teams? Google art of problem solving, it's a site/forum that offers problems/books specifically designed for that type of thing.
  13. thrill3rnit3

    thrill3rnit3 712
    Gold Member

    Yeah I have a full collection of AoPS books. Those can be a good source of information and problems.
  14. thrill3rnit3

    thrill3rnit3 712
    Gold Member

    we're probably going to meet around 2-3 times a month. how do you think i should divide the time between fun stuff and competition preparation?
  15. jhae2.718

    jhae2.718 1,160
    Gold Member

    How long are you going to meet? Maybe start each meeting with a few (<=3) practice problems; every other meeting, or every two meetings spent all the time working on problems. As you near competitions, practice more rigorously.
  16. Well this post started out as a collection of ideas for your math club but turned out to be an outline for the entire club so here it is.

    Have as many incentives to participate as you can think of such as having a point system where you earn points for doing better on competitions. You could see if math teachers would give extra credit for doing math team but at the very least get the support of all the math teachers to advertise the club. To recruit students you could pose a problem of the month/week or post teaser problems in your school newspaper that will be answered in upcoming lectures.

    Definitely hold competitions for the club on a regular basis. Most people on the team won't want to practice regularly if it isn't preparing for an up coming competition. Experiment with the format of the competition, but some commonly used formats for competitions include [for individual competitors:] "countdown" where you have to answer as fast as possible, and just a regular timed test where the people with more correct score higher and [for teams] "GUTS" where a team is given one or more problems at a time, they pass the problem in when they're done and receive a new problem but can't go back to old problems and "relay" where each person answers questions on their own and the answer to one problem is passed off as the value of as a number needed for the next problem (for example, the first problem is to solve for x in 4x+2=4 and the next problem is to compute the length of a diagonal in a square with a side length of ? where the ? is the value of x in the previous problem). You won't have to write the questions yourself, you can get them on the internet and in problem books.

    Participate in local competitions as well even if they are relatively low quality just because it's a fun way to get the team together for a "real deal" competition. Competitions like ARML, PUMAC and HMMT will probably be out of reach for most members of the team at first but you might want to eventually send a team to these competitions because traveling is fun (you can carpool). Do the contests that can be done without leaving schoolt too like AMC, mandelbrot and maybe mu alpha theta. Another good contest is USAMTS which is an online proof-based contest.

    You might consider splitting up the team into two tiers -- one for younger students and one for older students -- in order to ensure that the material isn't too hard or easy for anyone (don't actually have two different clubs unless your school is large enough to support that). You could hold a competition for middle schoolers nearby. This way you can have the entire club participate in the writing of questions (they can't write the questions for a competition that they participate in!) which is a great way to understand how the problems on competitions should be approached especially for freshmen whose problem solving ability might be just above that of most middle schoolers.

    Use meeting time effectively. You could have optional meetings during lunch to collaborate on solving problems but don't spend too much time solving problems at the main meetings because students can do that at home and will probably want more out of the meeting than collaboration, such as presentations and mini-competitions. You could go over the solution to posed problems and have some warm-up problems. Don't make the meetings seem too much like a math class because that will turn off most people (even if the material they are learning is challenging and fun). The meetings should overlap as few other extracurricular activities as possible and ideally should be held directly after school so kids don't have to be motivated to drive all the way to school to participate. Above all have food at the meetings.

    You could set up a website to post problem sets to, but try to involve the students by, for example, offering points for correct solutions otherwise few will do the problems. You might also consider allowing students to post problems to challenge other students; wordpress with LaTeX works well and solutions could be posted as comments. The reason that I don't say to use a forum is because without a lot of experienced members to regulate content, it might turn into a collection of nearly-impossible problems that kids post just to come up with the hardest problem. To prevent this require the students to submit to submit a solution along with the problem.

    I wouldn't suggest trying to do all the things in this post at once when you're starting the club because it would too much. Start out slow and see how people respond to new ideas because most of the things you do at a math club depends entirely on the group of kids who joins the club.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2009
  17. thrill3rnit3

    thrill3rnit3 712
    Gold Member

    2-3 times a month about 1 hr-1:30 (still unsure) meeting would be the most likely setting

    thanks for the wonderful advice. i know this has been like the entire outline for the club. sorry but i have no idea whatsoever on how to manage one so i'll probably need as much advice as i can get obviously i don't want this thing to fail.
  18. Yeah, dunno how well it works in high school but in college offering food pretty much guarantees double the amount of people to show up haha...
  19. Yeah I think that rule is universal
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