BEAM 6 Los Angeles: Week 1

Here’s our amazing staff, on our very first day of training:

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Here’s a programming class taught by Lee-kai, a friend of mine from MIT:

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One of the new innovations this year is the “100 Problem Challenge.” I’m especially proud of this one: a hundred problems I selected to challenge the students mathematically and bring them just to the edge of mathematical proof. (Those who continue will learn proof in BEAM 7 next year.) There’s a big board with 100 spaces for the 100 problems, and we write in the names of students who’ve completed problems. Here’s the status as of a couple days ago:

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(Here are some of the problems they’ve solved if you’re curious!)

One of the interesting effects of the 100 Problem Challenge is just how motivated everyone is to do problems. Two hours of our day are dedicated to “Open Math Time” when students can set and pursue their own mathematical goals. I’m swarmed with students bringing up solutions for the full two hours, and some have even asked, during their activities (time off!) if they can work on these problems. “Aren’t you supposed to be watching the World Cup?” I asked as a couple of kids came in with answers on Thursday.

Seriously, I can’t express just how much mathematical joy there is at the program. They love it, sometimes too much! (I think they’re skipping some classwork to do these problems, something we’re working to address.) During Open Math Time, they crowd around in the hallways to work. Here are some of them right under the board:

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And down the hall:

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And here’s Samantha, who eventually solved the problem she’s working on at the board:

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Here’s a student bringing me a solution, probably while others wait with theirs!

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By the way, you might notice Mathcamp’s logo on that shirt, the impossible triangle. One student accused me of being in the Illuminati because of that… and said that he wouldn’t tell anyone if I gave him the answers to the 100 problems!

Sometimes we can get the students to take time off…

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(The one on the left is the one who said I was in the Illuminati!)

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My week has been crazy, and amazing, and deeply rewarding. Let me leave you with a few comments from the kids about their experiences this summer. These are from our anonymous week 1 surveys. I’ve been doing this since the beginning, and the week 1 surveys are just amazingly enthusiastic. Lives are being changed, yo!

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But maybe we can’t get everything right:

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So yeah… it’s going pretty well. :)

In a week, I fly back to NYC, and I’m excited to get going with my BEAM 6 site there, since we’re expanding in NYC as well. But I will miss the LA program that I’m already so invested in.

Author: danzaharopol

I am a math geek. I love doing math, learning math, and teaching math. Nothing excites me more than working with young people who are discovering new and amazing things. Professionally, I founded Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM), a program that makes it possible for low-income and underserved students to become scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and programmers. That's where I spend most of my time geeking out about math these days. Prior to BEAM, I was a math graduate student (studying algebraic topology) and taught math in places all around the country. I also co-founded and served as the founding CEO of Learning Unlimited, an organization that mentors college students to create enrichment programs for local middle and high school students. In my non-existent free time, I love board games, great plays, frisbee, and reading.

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