Miscellaneous Information

Figure This! Math Challenge Launched in December


Figure this--how many adults know what challenging mathematics problems for middle-grade students really should look like? With a new public-awareness campaign called Figure This! to be launched in December, many families as well as the general public will gain a greater appreciation for the complex mathematics middle school students should be learning--as well as the real-world contexts for using such math.

The Figure This! campaign will include sets of problems that will be promoted widely--in print and online. The problems, which include complete solutions, are designed for students and their families to work on at home. The goal is to show families the challenging mathematics middle school students should be learning and to emphasize the importance of a high-quality mathematics education for all.

"We can't emphasize enough the importance of mathematics in our children's future--and thus our country's future," says Hyman Field, NSF's Senior Advisor for Public Understanding of Science. "Every adult with a child in his or her life needs to join us in conveying this message about the usefulness and importance of learning mathematics."

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Education are providing funding for the campaign. NCTM, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), and the Widmeyer-Baker Group were awarded grants to develop this exciting public-engagement campaign.

Figure This! revolves around individual mathematics challenges. Over the next two years, the campaign will release 80 challenging mathematics problems, developed by NCTM's team of 12 volunteer writers. Johnny Lott, a University of Montana professor of mathematics education and former NCTM Board member, is serving as project leader and Gail Burrill, the executive director of the Mathematical Sciences Education Board and NCTM past president, is overseeing the grant.

The challenges will show the excitement, energy, and true problem-solving nature of mathematics--all in real-world contexts. For example, one challenge asks, "How long do you have to stand in line?" if you buy a concert ticket beginning at a certain place in the line. Each challenge will include a problem, description of the mathematics needed, and where those skills are needed in other aspects of real life. Then the challenge will feature a tip to get you started, the complete solution, and an extension of the initial problem called "Try This." Furthermore, each challenge includes an additional, related problem and answer as well as some questions to think about. Finally, students will find fun facts related to the problem and some resources for further exploration.

Part of the fun will be the colorful characters designed to go with the campaign. For instance, students will get to know characters named Polygon, Tessellation, Exponent, Tangent, and Axis.

Teachers are encouraged to promote the campaign, particularly with their middle school students and their parents. Since the activities are designed to be done at home, teachers can download the activities from the Web and send them home with their students. Contact and request information is below. After the campaign has gotten under way and parents have become familiar with it, middle school teachers can use it as a way to talk about the exciting mathematics taking place in their classrooms. Teachers at other levels can refer to the campaign to support the need for challenging mathematics all across the grades.

Family resource brochures are also being developed. These brochures include sample questions to ask of teachers and administrators about the child's mathematics education, helpful information on how to prepare students for education after high school, and encouraging suggestions to help families work with their children on math homework.

For Figure This! Information Online. The mathematics challenges and all related information will be available to download from the Figure This! Web site at www.figurethis.org. The Web site will provide an interactive opportunity for families to solve exciting mathematics challenges.

By Telephone. A toll-free number, (888) GO-SOLVE, will be available for orders and to furnish additional information. Because of limited quantities and the expected high demand, only one copy of the challenges will be provided each person.

Reprinted from the NCTM News Bulletin, December 1999

High School Mathematics Competition Held

November 23, 1999


On November 23, 1999, 237 high school math students, from 24 South Carolina and Georgia schools, participated in a Mathematics Competition co-sponsored by the USC Aiken Department of Mathematical Sciences, the CSRA Hub and the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center.

Activities included an Individual Written Test and Quick Answer Team Competitions.

Individual Competition Winners were:

1st Place: Andy Scukanec-Evans High School

2nd Place: Gene Schuman-Byrnes High School

3rd Place: Michael Mueller-Summerville High School

Team Competition Winners were:

1st Place: Aiken High School Team A

Jason Phillips, Cassel Sloan, Thomas Groomes, and Matthew Botsch.

2nd Place: Spring Valley High School Team A

Xia Liu, Molly Peeples, Fozail Alvi, and Tim Lee

3rd Place: Lakeside High School Team A

Chetna Khosla, Justin Friel, Kenny Kay, and Nadeem Fatteh

4th Place: Evans High School Team A

Mansoor Kazi, Jesse Scherer, Andy Scukanec, and Stacy Suchko

Congratulations to all of the students who participated in this event. We enjoyed having you.

Family Night Under the Stars a Huge Success

The Augusta Astronomy Club and the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center hosted their annual Fall Family Night Under the Stars on November 13, 1999. Around 350 people showed up to experience astronomy first hand. The astronomy club members set up telescopes outside the RPSEC and trained the scopes on planets and other stellar marvels. Observers were impressed with the magnification capabilities and many inquired about how to purchase just the right telescope as a Christmas present for a loved one. Many people were treated to informative lectures on astronomy presented by Dr. Stelios Kapranidis of USCA . The Dupont Planetarium presented, "More than Meets the Eye" and prompted words of praise and amazement from the guests who viewed the show.

Visitors were treated to some wonderful views of the cosmos beginning at about 6:00 PM. The first quarter moon was clearly visible and provided a stunning view through the telescopes. Also visible was Jupiter with its four moons. Saturn with its rings and orbiting moon, Titan, completed the collection of our solar system neighbors that were visible on that night. The next star party will be in April or May. Keep a look out for more information on other upcoming planetarium activities.

Traveling Science and Mathematics Demonstrations Program Changes

Notice the name change! We have changed our name to reflect the many mathematics kits we have available in the program. Please visit our web site at: http://rpsec.usca.sc.edu/TravelingScience/ for up-to-date information.

Thank You to our

Traveling Science and Mathematics Demonstrations Program Volunteers!

On October 28, 1999, a thank you reception for our dedicated volunteers was held at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Volunteers were recognized and presented certificates and thank you gifts from Westinghouse Savannah River Company and the RPSEC. Mr. Joe Buggy, level one managers from WSRC and Dr. Robert Alexander, Chancellor, USCA, were there to facilitate this time of appreciation. Without these volunteers we would be unable to provide this much needed instruction, real world connection and role models in the classroom. Thank you again, volunteers!

December '99 Newsletter Index

RPSEC Newsletter Index

Copyright © 1999 by the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.

URL: http://rpsec.usca.edu/newsletter/Dec99/index.html (December, 1999)

Ruth Patrick Science Education Center
Center of Excellence in Educational Technology
University of South Carolina Aiken
471 University Parkway
Aiken, SC 29801