XCaliberMath on Math Competitions

Feb 5, 2009 by

Today’s guest blogger is Paul Ancka, a middle school / high school teacher from Pasadena, California.

I teach at a very small nonprofit private school (50 kids), grades 6-12. I have been using Saxon Math for the past 3 years with good results but the repetition and constant review it is sometimes a bit of a drag, and the kids tend to get bored.

I wanted to challenge them, so I brought in the American Math Competitions and I have created a blog called XCaliberMath for this purpose. I have been posting challenging math problems from previous competitions and few of the kids have become completely immersed in it. To give you an idea of it’s popularity with the students, 30 kids hit the blog over 1700 times in less than two months. My conclusion…. KIDS LOVE THE CHALLENGE ! They are excited to meet kids from other schools and to compete in math.


I’ve also started a Math Circle and they love it. Usually a fifth of the kids are involved every Friday. They also are looking on the web for math problems to bring up. So Exciting!


I, myself was a Math Olympian while at school in Romania (IMO started in Romania in 1958), I still remember the exciting times I spent with coaches and my teammates. Richard Rusyzk’s ArtofProblemSolving website introduced me to the American Math Competitions. Thank God for Technology!


On AoPS, they have a piece of software that’s just amazing called the New Online Adaptive Learning System (ALCUMUS) and an online multiplayer math game called AoPS For the Win. This includes a “Countdown” game, modeled after MATHCOUNTS National Countdown rounds. An interesting sidenote is that in Greek mythology, Alcumus (or Álkimos, or Ankhíalos) of Ithaca was the father of Mentor (also sometimes called Mentês) – pretty cool!

Also, MathCounts has an Online Problem Library and Extraction Tool (Oplet, not free) that contains thousands of MathCounts problems.

One more thing I have done for my math students is LARPing and D&D adapted for math. My students build their Battle Stages and their Armies, travel through time, learn not only about ancient history and math but also focus on specific regions of the world. In these games they can use their imagination to travel to or build other worlds, traveling through worm holes, StarGates (here’s the bridge with science), teleportation, etc. When they are creating their characters, they are applying Psychology, English and other subjects too.

I have tried to make my Math classes into a bridge across all subjects. It is a lot of work for me, but I just simply LOVE IT. And even better, I am Learning with them! They get to teach me so much … 4 FREE! LOL … OMG I have so much FUN.

Who says math cannot be Fun? I no longer hear my students say “I Hate Math”.

Thanks Paul for the post! 

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