Saturday, November 8, 2014

Why you should advise a math club (Mu Alpha Theta) , Math Department Halloween Costumes, Monkey Bread Recipe


I cannot begin to describe the buzz of excitement that occurs in my classroom Thursday afternoons as students prepare for the Interstellar Competition. Every seat is taken in my room as well as in my colleague's across the way. The countdown begins, "3-2-1", and then the room silences. For 30 minutes, students take a 7 to 9 question competition against another school in a bracket known as "math madness." Afterward, kids discuss the problems, which they missed and how they solved them. It is not uncommon for me to find pictures such as these on my board at the end of the day.

One of our favorite competitions is the FAMAT Interschool Test. We have a week to compete on tough math problems, logic problems, codes, and random questions, such as anagramming the initials of famous artists to discover a famous painting, or figuring out which great works of literature allude to each was a work in progress to that one below:

The most fun, however, is when we actually go to regional competitions. Usually about 50 students in Mu Alpha Theta attend these competitions. There are individual rounds and team rounds, and of course, an Interschool test which we often place at because of the tenacity of the team (and their advisors!) One of our favorite questions? "What's the longest sentence with one word." Click here for the answer. 

While tests are being graded, we take students somewhere fun to burn off some steam. I think the most fun was when we went paddleboarding for an hour, but we also go bowling, ice skating, or just to the mall depending on the location of the competition. Then we head back for the awards ceremony, where electricity fills the room as we wait with bated breath to see if one of ours has one something. If one of us wins, the whole team wins is how we see it, and the cheering for our own is so exciting! 

The group has grown so much since our start 4 years ago. We started with about 20 kids, and we now have 80, and have grown to be the biggest club in the school! We now have a math teacher advisor for each course. They motivate me, these kids who enjoy doing math with each other and finding others "like them." Last year's president wrote her college letter about the club, and it brought tears to my eyes. At the end of the day, I feel so nourished and enriched--and cannot wait for the next day to watch them actively participating, laughing, and just having a good time with each other. 

Sometimes there are challenges for the advisors...two of my students sent me a picture of themselves with thumbs up and "you will kill it!" written across as I was heading into competition. How could I not love my job?

If you want to start your club, go to and then you will also need to join your local Mu Alpha Theta chapter. We require members to tutor 5 hours a semester, and will start making video tutorials next week. 


I couldn't ask for a better department. Here were our "pi" themed Halloween costumes! Can you guess them all?


Monkey Bread is always requested in my house. This pull-apart doughy cinnamon and sugar goodness is perfect for dessert, but it is also a big hit at brunch. Here is a recipe that I use, but I definitely double everything but the dough. I also use the honey butter store-bought dough, and I use one big bundt pan. I put it in the oven for about 28 minutes.


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