I switched to point-based problem sets

It's not uncommon for technical books to include an admonition from the author that readers must do the exercises and problems. I always feel a little peculiar when I read such warnings. Will something bad happen to me if I don't do the exercises and problems? Of course not. I'll gain some time, but at… Continue reading I switched to point-based problem sets

An apology for HMMT 2016

Median Putnam contestants, willing to devote one of the last Saturdays before final exams to a math test, are likely to receive an advanced degree in the sciences. It is counterproductive on many levels to leave them feeling like total idiots. --- Bruce Reznick, "Some Thoughts on Writing for the Putnam" Last February I made… Continue reading An apology for HMMT 2016

Lessons from math olympiads

In a previous post I tried to make the point that math olympiads should not be judged by their relevance to research mathematics. In doing so I failed to actually explain why I think math olympiads are a valuable experience for high schoolers, so I want to make amends here. 1. Summary In high school… Continue reading Lessons from math olympiads

Some Thoughts on Olympiad Material Design

(This is a bit of a follow-up to the solution reading post last month. Spoiler warnings: USAMO 2014/6, USAMO 2012/2, TSTST 2016/4, and hints for ELMO 2013/1, IMO 2016/2.) I want to say a little about the process which I use to design my olympiad handouts and classes these days (and thus by extension the… Continue reading Some Thoughts on Olympiad Material Design

On Reading Solutions

(Ed Note: This was earlier posted under the incorrect title "On Designing Olympiad Training". How I managed to mess that up is a long story involving some incompetence with Python scripts, but this is fixed now.) Spoiler warnings: USAMO 2014/1, and hints for Putnam 2014 A4 and B2. You may want to work on these… Continue reading On Reading Solutions

Against the “Research vs. Olympiads” Mantra

There's a Mantra that you often hear in math contest discussions: "math olympiads are very different from math research". (For known instances, see O'Neil, Tao, and more. More neutral stances: Monks, Xu.) It's true. And I wish people would stop saying it. Every time I've heard the Mantra, it set off a little red siren… Continue reading Against the “Research vs. Olympiads” Mantra

Against Perfect Scores

One of the pieces of advice I constantly give to young students preparing for math contests is that they should probably do harder problems. But perhaps I don't preach this zealously enough for them to listen, so here's a concrete reason (with actual math!) why I give this advice. 1. The AIME and USAMO In… Continue reading Against Perfect Scores

Stop Paying Me Per Hour

Occasionally I am approached by parents who ask me if I am available to teach their child in olympiad math. This is flattering enough that I've even said yes a few times, but I'm always confused why the question is "can you tutor my child?" instead of "do you think tutoring would help, and if… Continue reading Stop Paying Me Per Hour

Some Advice for Olympiad Geometry

I know some friends who are fantastic at synthetic geometry. I can give them any problem and they'll come up with an incredibly impressive synthetic solution. I also have some friends who are very bad at synthetic geometry, but have such good fortitude at computations that they can get away with using Cartesian coordinates for… Continue reading Some Advice for Olympiad Geometry

Rant: Matrices Are Not Arrays of Numbers

The following is an excerpt from a current work of mine. I thought I'd share it here, as some people have told me they enjoyed it. As I'll stress repeatedly, a matrix represents a linear map between two vector spaces. Writing it in the form of an $latex {m \times n}&fg=000000$ matrix is merely a… Continue reading Rant: Matrices Are Not Arrays of Numbers