Math Team: Ideas Needed

I am one of the four math team coaches for my school1. We have a coach for each level. We’re part of NSML and we also compete in the ICTM Regional Contest. Our “season” runs from the first week of school through March. Unless we qualify for state, in which case we’re on until the end of April (21 students going to state this year – yay!)

As two of our coaches aren’t returning next year2, we’re thinking of restructuring. Some of the issues we’re facing are:

  • Recruiting. We aren’t getting our strongest math students. Our numbers seem to be dropping every year.
  • Attendance at practice. Let’s face it, these kids are involved in multiple activities. Trying to find a time when everyone can meet makes for an interesting problem in and of itself.
  • Structuring practice.

8th grade activities night is next Monday. We’ll be there encouraging kids to join. Next year, I think I’m going to have a few of the more outgoing seniors go into each freshman honors math class to recruit.

I’d love to hear what others are doing with their math teams. How do you get students to participate? When do you practice? How do you structure your practices? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

1 We split the stipend.

2 They’re great and we’re sad to loose lose3 them. They are going part time. Anyone want to help coach next year?

3 Oy. I need to edit before I post. Then again, I didn’t catch it, my trusty aide did. Thanks Andy!

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5 Responses to Math Team: Ideas Needed

  1. Kate says:

    Congratulations on having so many students qualify for your state meet. It sounds like you are doing very well already!

    We have a very large and successful math team at our high school – we field 10-12 teams per meet, and our top team always places 1st or 2nd in the county. (The competition to make our first (and sometimes second) team is also intense every year.) I’m not sure the reasons behind the good participation, but one thing that is standing out is that we don’t have practices. We give the kids a handout of practice problems a week ahead of time and another one to work on on the bus on the way to the meets. But the only time commitment we ask is that they attend the meets. It might encourage more of your top math students to participate. Also, I find you get a better response (to anything, really) if you personally invite specific students. Check out who got the highest scores on your 8th grade assessment, and maybe send them and their parents a letter at the end of summer. Sell it as an opportunity to shine in academics and set themselves apart on college applications. It seems to work better than a general announcement in math class.

  2. Jackie says:

    Kate thanks for the idea of the letter, I’m going to talk to the other coaches about that one.

    I’m curious, are you limited in the number of students who can compete? We’re allowed 5 contestants at each level (freshman, sophomore…) and 5 alternates. When and how do you determine who makes your first team?

    Thanks again!

  3. Sarah says:

    I don’t have a team/haven’t coached/anything.

    But personal invitations are what convinced me to do SAT team in high school, so Kate’s idea makes sense.

    The invitation I received was less of a letter and more of a card. I think that made it feel more special. Kind of a, “This is so special that we don’t even need to explain it all to you.” But maybe that was just me.

  4. Kate says:

    Sorry it took me so long to respond!

    We’re not limited as to numbers of students. We just need to provide enough coaches (teachers) to score and supervise. Also our meets aren’t broken down by level. All the kids attempt all of the problems. There are three rounds organized differently (individual, team, and relay).

    Usually it’s clear from the previous year’s performances who will be on our first team. These students have already spent 2-3 years on our lower JV type teams, so we have a good idea of their abilities. It is usually 4-6 AP Calc students and 2-4 Precalc students (a full team has 8 students). Also there is an expectation that these students will be able to attend all of the meets and go on the trip to the state meet, so sometimes kids step aside for others when they know their schedule won’t allow the committment. There have been a few instances of parents getting upset, but we go back to previous years’ attendance and scores to back up our decisions.

  5. Jackie says:

    Kate, Thanks for the information. It sounds like our competitions are structured a bit differently than yours.

    I’ve gotten some great ideas for next year and we just found our two new coaches. I’m excited to see what positive changes we can bring about.

    Thanks again!

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