RJ was an IMACS student from kindergarten through 12th grade and took every class IMACS offered, including all levels of Math Enrichment, Computer Enrichment, Hi-Tech Summer Camp, University-Level Computer Science, AP Computer Science: Java Programming, and University-Level Logic for Mathematics.
With a 5.9 GPA and 2360 on the SAT, RJ graduated as co-valedictorian and was honored as a US Presidential Scholar candidate, National AP Scholar and National Merit Scholar. He and his teammates were also four-time Science Olympiad state champions.
RJ was accepted to Caltech, Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Florida. He chose Caltech where he took junior-level Computer Science classes as a freshman and served as a Teaching Assistant for those classes as a sophomore. RJ conducted summer research in computer vision and was selected for an internship at Northrup Grumman. He will graduate with a double major in Computer Science and Philosophy and plans to attend graduate school to specialize in Machine Learning.
“IMACS taught me an organic approach to problem-solving, a way of thinking that demonstrates the necessary rigor required to solve genuinely challenging problems. The introduction to proofs and logic that I got at IMACS was absolutely critical to my success at Caltech.”
As a young child, Mason excelled in IMACS Math Enrichment classes and, in subsequent years, attended several weeks of IMACS summer camps. He later completed IMACS’ university-level courses in Computer Science and Logic for Mathematics. Mason was honored by the College Board’s National Hispanic Recognition Program for his achievement on the PSAT/NMSQT, and his high school mathematical modeling team was recognized by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications. Mason graduated high school with a perfect 4.0 GPA and 34 on the ACT.
A natural at sharing knowledge, Mason enjoys tutoring students in science and math at a local homeschool co-op, co-taught a robotics class for two years, and was a Teaching Assistant for an Honors Calculus seminar. He accomplished this and more while being an all-county varsity and travel soccer player and a dual-enrolled student at a regional 4-year university.
Mason chose Rice University where, at 16 years old, he was accepted early decision into the George R. Brown School of Engineering. He plans to major in Materials Science and NanoEngineering.
“My early exposure to IMACS provided me with a unique foundation in logic and mathematics that helped me succeed in advanced STEM classes at a very early age. I understand numbers intuitively and am able to solve complex problems in my head thanks to my IMACS training.”
Snow began IMACS in 1st grade and completed all levels of IMACS Math Enrichment. She returned during high school to complete the IMACS University Computer Science track. Snow’s talents and keen interest in programming, civics, and service propelled her to 1st place finishes at FIU’s Google Startup Competition, Ft. Lauderdale’s Code for America Civic Hackathon, JusticeHack Miami, and Yale’s Bulldog Invitational Mock Trial Competition.
In addition to being selected as a National Merit Finalist, Snow was named Cadet of the Year by the Florida Wing of the Civil Air Patrol and won 1st Place at the National Cadet Special Acts Competition. Snow credits IMACS for the way she thinks and approaches every aspect of her life.
With a 5.5 GPA, 1580 out of 1600 on the SAT, and 800 on the SAT Math II exam, Snow was accepted at Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, NYU, Vanderbilt, Wellesley, and the University of Miami. She chose Dartmouth where she plans to double major in Computer Science and Economics and eventually pursue a career in cyberlaw or cybersecurity.
“IMACS is the one place that doesn’t teach you steps to get to a specific solution but rather how to use logical and creative thinking to develop your own solution. It is the embodiment of everything learning should be.”
Zac began taking IMACS classes in first grade. Nine years later, he had completed all of IMACS Mathematics Enrichment and Computer Enrichment and IMACS University-Level Computer Science. Zac graduated valedictorian of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, but not before being founder and captain of the Robotics Club and the Programming Team, earning the rank of Eagle Scout, and being named a National Merit Scholar Finalist and National AP Scholar.
Having scored 2350 on the SAT, 800 on the SAT Math II Subject Test and 5’s on the AP Calculus AB, AP Computer Science, AP Calculus BC, and AP Statistics exams, Zac was accepted at Stanford, Cornell, UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, Rice, and RPI. He chose Stanford where he plans to major in computer science.
Zac directly credits IMACS for preparing him to master the concept-based materials of his rigorous, freshman-year courses at Stanford.
“Being able to think both analytically and creatively is why Stanford students are at the forefront of technological innovation. My IMACS background taught me HOW to think, allowing me to stand out among my classmates. Because of this, I was able to easily understand the concepts taught in the accelerated freshman courses in programming, multivariable calculus, and differential equations.”
—Keith Devlin, Professor of Mathematics, Stanford University
Several of our Math Enrichment parents have asked why IMACS wasn’t mentioned in The Atlantic’s recent article entitled "The Math Revolution". Well, we’re the first to admit that we’re not sexy! To journalists, that is. Or rather what we do isn’t sexy, especially when compared to the panache of producing math competition winners. But we believe in what we do, which is more than just math. IMACS prepares children to be better thinkers for life. And after twenty-three years of seeing our approach succeed, we wouldn’t change for all the media coverage in the world.
For readers unfamiliar with IMACS, we specialize in mathematics and computer science for bright, talented and gifted K-12 students. The core of our program is our Mathematics Enrichment curriculum for elementary school students, which is taught at 29 locations throughout the US. IMACS Math Enrichment is unique in that it is intentionally designed to be completely different from school math. One might say it’s "mathematician" math because it teaches even our youngest students about beautiful and powerful mathematical structures studied by professional mathematicians and typically not introduced until college.
Why do we take this approach instead of starting with what kids have already seen and expanding on it? (It sure would be a lot easier on us to market curriculum that parents recognize and that journalists think they can write about!) This goes back to the overarching purpose of everything we do — making better thinkers for life. We’re not just about turning good math students into even better ones, although we do that. We’re not just about providing gifted students with an outlet for their creative mathematical thinking, although we do that a lot. We’re not just about teaching problem-solving skills, although we certainly do that. IMACS is about teaching children how to think in creative, logical and flexible ways that will benefit them throughout their lives, whether within or outside the mathematical arena. We equip them so that, long after they have left our classrooms and entered into the "real world", they will be able to react intelligently and constructively to problems and situations that no one alive today has even imagined.
How do you learn to face those kinds of novel situations? Not by working on problems that look familiar. As IMACS alumnus Zachary Kaufman put it, "Graduate school at Stanford was so much easier with the logical thinking skills I learned at IMACS. While classmates tried to memorize each type of problem, I was able to strongly grasp core concepts and use them to solve any problem, even if it was different from those I had seen." Zachary is a better thinker for life. Or alumna Rachel Cuozzo: "An MIT degree says to the world that you are capable of complex problem solving and abstract thinking. IMACS gave me a jumpstart on my MIT education, as it taught me to exercise the same parts of my mind that I use now on a daily basis." Rachel is a better thinker for life. This is what IMACS is about. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always make good copy in an article about math whizzes.
Furthermore, IMACS has never been only for kids who already excel at math or families seeking a challenging math education for their gifted children. Of course, the majority of our students are very mathematically talented, and they happily attend our Math Enrichment classes or take our online math courses. But IMACS also nurtures bright students with untapped abilities whose prior negative experiences turned them away from math. Usually, they have been misled into thinking that being good at math means calculating quickly, scoring high on standardized math tests, or enjoying math competitions. For many talented students, none of those apply. IMACS is able to take those kids — who often have natural talent for math expressed in other ways, such as a love for games, puzzles and patterns — and show them (1) what it means to be genuinely good at math and (2) how incredibly good at math they truly are. IMACS makes them, too, better thinkers for life.
So if you are a current IMACS parent wondering if you’re missing out on something, or if you are a prospective parent considering IMACS, we encourage you to confirm that the math enrichment providers you are considering actually live up to their claims. Some will tell you that they go beyond what schools do. Some will tell you that they don’t do "drill and kill". Verify for yourself. Ask to observe a class and to see samples of the curriculum. Does it look familiar? Is it largely similar to what schools already teach? That will tell you a lot about whether your child’s mind is going to be expanded as much and in ways that you’re hoping for and quite possibly paying for.
You might recognize twin sisters Hadley and Delaney Robertson from their cooking show for kids, Twice as Good, that airs on PBS stations across the country. We at IMACS also have the pleasure of knowing them as two intelligent and delightful students who have been attending our Math Enrichment classes since they were in kindergarten. "IMACS has provided Hadley and Delaney with such an amazing mathematical foundation," their father, Johnathan, recently shared with us. And we are beyond thrilled to share that these talented girls were just named grand prize winners in the 2015 MOONBOTS Challenge!
The international MOONBOTS competition, also known as the "Google Lunar XPRIZE for Kids," is designed to encourage the next generation of space explorers and innovators. Kids ages 8-17 are invited to design, create and program their own lunar rover, based on a legend or theory that inspires them about the moon. This year 235 teams from 29 countries entered the competition, and the Linked Lunas team comprised of Hadley and Delaney won! As grand prize winners, they will travel to Japan to meet the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams that are competing to land a privately funded robot on the moon.
Hadley and Delaney have long been fascinated by the moon. When they were younger, their grandfather would regale them with a story of how the Earth once had two moons, which the sisters imagined were twins like themselves. They later discovered that planetary scientist Professor Erik Ausphaug theorized that the Earth, indeed, used to have two moons that eventually collided and merged to form the moon that we see today. This mythical tale and scientific theory inspired in Hadley and Delaney a deep interest in the moon and thoughts on how the same moon appears differently depending on one’s perspective. They share their inspiration in this clever entry video:
With a captivating presentation like that, it's no wonder that Linked Lunas was one of only 30 teams to move on to the technically challenging second phase of the competition. During the second round, Hadley and Delaney put their engineering, programming, and creative problem-solving skills to work in designing and building a lunar landscape, building and programming a sophisticated robot, and developing a game for their robot to rove the lunar landscape. Not bad for a pair of 9-year-olds! You can’t help but be impressed by their masterful moon mission in this next video:
The MOONBOTS Challenge, however, isn't only about individual achievement. An important component of the competition is how teams use their innovative projects to inspire members of their community through public outreach. Team Linked Lunas was able to secure donations of robotics kits and $5,000 for after-school robotics instruction at a local, underserved middle school. In this last video, Hadley and Delaney give a demonstration of their robot to students from that school and announce the exciting news of the donations to their school:
Everyone at IMACS is so proud of these remarkable girls. There is no doubt that Hadley and Delaney have a talent for math and science and love inspiring others to learn. The cooking show Twice as Good has produced 20 fun videos that explain how cooking can teach kids about nutrition as well as science, math, and geography. Share these with your children and maybe they, too, will be encouraged to shoot for the moon!
Rachel began attending IMACS as a first grader. Homeschooled since third grade, she has always made time for IMACS in a busy schedule that revolved around competitive chess. While rising to the rank of #1 player in the US and #15 player in the world among girls under 14 and later attaining the title of Woman FIDE Master at just 16 years old, Rachel completed IMACS’ Advanced Math Enrichment and university-level courses in Computer Science and Logic for Mathematics.
As a high school student, Rachel earned A’s in multiple undergraduate math, science and computer science courses taken at Carnegie Mellon. She also scored a perfect 2400 on the SAT on her first attempt and earned 5’s on all of her Advanced Placement exams, including Computer Science A, Calculus BC, Statistics and Physics C.
Rachel chose Harvard, where she plans to major in Computer Science and Mathematics. She credits IMACS for motivating her to choose Computer Science as a major.
“IMACS fostered precisely the clear, logical thought processes necessary to succeed in advanced math and computer science classes. It is very important, both in math and computer science, to be able to think in an abstract manner, and I am grateful that IMACS prepared me very well.”
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—Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education, Stanford
The above quote comes from a recent article by Stanford professor Jo Boaler. Professor Boaler, through her Youcubed organization, advocates for valuing depth and creative problem-solving over computational speed and memorization in K-12 math education. She further argues that classroom emphasis on the latter is partly to blame for the poor understanding and dislike of math in the US and the unfortunate belief by some students that they are not "math people."
How did the US get to a place where so many people think that math achievement is indicated by a limited and limiting set of skills? Would you really measure achievement in literature or composition by how well and quickly a student spells and punctuates? Of course not! Language arts subjects are accepted as a form of art with all of the associated depth, creativity, and multifaceted approaches to thinking. Although genuine mathematics shares these characteristics, for decades school math has typically skimmed the surface of math knowledge, allowed little room for creative thinking, and focused on the "right" way to get the answer.
While math assignments are constructed and graded rather narrowly, language arts assignments are regularly assessed for creativity and style in addition to technical proficiency. But did you know that professional mathematicians also place a high value on creativity and style when it comes to reviewing each other’s work? Clever and elegant proofs are admired far more because they unveil and illuminate the inherent beauty in mathematics in ways that technically correct but unwieldy proofs cannot.
At the K-12 level, an educator skilled in mathematical thinking can teach even the youngest students the kind of rich mathematics that inspires creative problem-solving and a genuine love of learning. It is these skills, not computational speed and memorization, that will better prepare students for success in the modern world.
This month’s IMACS Blog features Shiva Oswal, one of the top performers in our Elements of Mathematics: Foundations (EMF) self-paced, online program for talented secondary school students. Shiva has been enrolled in EMF since the beginning when IMACS introduced the first course of the series in late 2012. As his mom told us, “[O]ur son is an avid user of online educational resources. I recently asked him to pick his favorite online course. He answered, ‘most definitely EMF, by a wide margin’.”
Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you enjoy doing.
I’ll be turning 11 soon, and I love the EMF courses! As a history buff, I really enjoy reading about decisive battles in world history. I also like playing board games and computer games. Right now my favorite board game is Robo Rally, and my favorite computer game is Castle Empire. On the weekends, I participate in Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) events. Soccer is another activity I enjoy. My favorite position is goalie.
You’ve done some amazing things already at a young age. Tell us about the accomplishments of which you are most proud.
This year, I scored 24 out of 25 to earn a gold pin in the Mathematical Olympiads for Elementary and Middle Schools (MOEMS), and was named MOEMS “Mathlete of the Year” for my geographic region. I also invented a new board game called “Minetrap”. I am currently working on publishing my game. If you would like updates, email me at shivarasul [at] gmail [dot] com. Finally, I completed the first seven EMF courses and am almost finished with the eighth course. I am excited to start the ninth course, Number Theory soon.
How did you become interested in mathematics?
When I was in preschool, I was doing multiplication. When math in regular school became too easy, I decided to homeschool so I could work on challenging math problems and concepts.
How did you become interested in taking EMF courses?
My mom encouraged me to try the EMF courses, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
What are the things you enjoy most about EMF?
I like the way concepts are explained. The format of EMF courses, reading followed by exercises, helps check my understanding. The interactive tools such as The String Game make learning math fun. Also the point system (i.e., ability to level up based on mastery of material) makes EMF addictive.
What are some ways in which your EMF experience has had a positive effect on your academic and non-academic pursuits?
When I did my first EMF course, Operational Systems, I was very new to the field. I learned a great deal about operational systems and modular arithmetic after I completed this course. I have grown by leaps and bounds as an analytical thinker as EMF courses force me to think. The program has also helped me improve my skills at strategy games like chess.
What kinds of things do you see yourself doing in the future?
First and foremost, I would like to complete all 15 EMF courses. I hope to get to Calculus before I’m 13 years old. I am also working on becoming a professional soccer player.
Thank you, Shiva, for sharing your story and congratulations on your amazing accomplishments!
Half Price Holiday Sale: Try the first course, Operational Systems, at 50% off the regular price when you enroll on or before December 20, 2014.
Bundled Savings: Save 25% on EMF Course Pack 9, which includes the first nine courses, when you enroll on or before December 20, 2014.
Tomorrow is Halloween! Whether it’s watching a horror movie or jumping out from behind a door, many people find it fun to be scared or scary on this holiday. It’s also a good time to revisit what parents can do to keep their children from becoming afraid of math. Math anxiety is unnecessarily common in the United States. As a country we have focused intentily on promoting foundational literacy skills, but numeracy skills can also be fostered from an early age. At home, don’t just read to your toddler and pre-schooler; “math” to them also. Get down on the floor with your kids and some blocks to show them what “more” and “less” and different numbers actually mean. Make patterns out of just about anything age-safe such as different color socks or whole fruits and vegetables. When your kids are around 5-6 years old, playing with coins (counting and adding pennies, exchanging coins, etc.) on the floor is another fun activity.
Math outdoors is fun too! Go to the park and arrange rocks or wood chips into rows and columns. Draw shapes in the sandbox. Are there shapes that look the same no matter where you stand? Which shapes look like they’ve flipped or turned? Make shapes out of sticks. Compare the sticks. Which is longer? Which is shorter? Add sticks to go from a triangle to a rectangle to a pentagon and so on. If you keep adding sticks, what does your shape start to look like? (Don’t freak out, but you just did a little Calculus.)
Good old-fashioned floor time or outdoor time are excellent ways of cementing learning with positive memories. As your kids get older, make sure they are exposed regularly throughout their childhood and adolecense to adults who explain math well and enjoy it, especially if you don’t. And if you have math anxiety yourself, make that your best-kept secret. Math doesn’t have to be scary.
Now, what do you get when you take the circumference of a jack-o-lantern divided by its diameter? Answer: A pumpkin π. Happy Halloween from IMACS!
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