Sunday, February 15, 2015

Alex At The 2015 A-Star Math Tournament

Song:  Amie

Group:  Pure Prairie League

(I picked this song not for its lyrics...but for its steady rhythm.  
By the time we got back...
I had been up for almost 23 hours without sleep.
I was in endurance mode...I had to keep a long and steady rhythm)

This A-Star Math Tournament was put together in 2 days to give all of the competitors
a chance to test themselves as they would have been able to at the cancelled 
Stanford University Math Tournament.

I wouldn't learn of the reason for the last minute cancellation of the SMT...
until our drive back home.

President Obama had given a speech at Stanford University the day prior to the competition.

I am sure all of the campus was on lockdown for a while before and after
(Information and movement).

This last minute cancellation of the SMT had a team from Beijing, China in the air
on the way here before they had received the news  :(

Also, a speaker from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania...
Professor Po-Shen Loh had come out
(more on this highly impressive man later in the article).

Professor Po-Shen Loh had helped to put together this last minute math tournament
at a charter high school in Santa Clara, California (my childhood hometown)...
at Magnolia Science Academy
(it was a converted elementary school.
It is one of the top producers
of math and science high school students).

We had arrived early and had waited for a while before others started to arrive.

Competitors started arriving by cars, vans...

and by travel coaches (buses on the street).

Some of the early arrivals.

The young man in the antlered T-shirt was the Davidson Academy Math Team Leader.

The Davidson Academy / NNV Math Team was 10 strong for the competition.

More of the competitors awaiting the start of the competition...
whereupon they will go to their assigned testing rooms.

I am pretty sure the white / red uniformed group is the math team from Beijing, China.

They had done well in the competition.

(picture of Swapnil Garg - 2014 Mathcounts National Champion)

the top individual for the advanced math portion of this competition
was last year's Mathcounts National Champion...Swapnil Garg
(he is from the San Francisco Bay Area).

This young mathematical phenom continues to impress.

Alex after the competition.

Professor Po-Shen Loh giving a lecture and interactive demonstration
on Probabilities using coin tosses and using his laptop to explain the formulas used...
which was sent by WiFi to the audience's electronic devices...
as he had to set up an impromptu classroom outside as there were 
hundreds of competitors.

He was originally supposed to speak at Stanford University in an auditorium.
He had flown in from almost the other side of the nation.

He conducted himself admirably under the impromptu conditions.

This is a man who has such passion for his life's work...
he had helped to make this event happen in a matter of 2 days...
 he had given it his all...and all the while...he had done it with a smile.

The Professor using members of the audience to help demonstrate multiple coin toss probabilities.

Alex and I listening to Professor Po-Shen Loh's explanations.
(yes, I have a winter is much cooler in the hills of Reno, NV  :)

I had to get a picture of Professor Po-Shen Loh with Alex.

He is not only a highly impressive mathematician...
he is highly energetic, very friendly and personable, and a great teacher
(even I had understood the logic of his explanations of multiple Coin Toss Probabilities :)

Po-Shen Loh wins NSF CAREER AwardPo-Shen Loh, an assistant professor of Mathematical Sciences, received an NSF CAREER Award. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Professor Loh's research lies at the intersection of combinatorics and probability theory. He uses randomness as a component in the construction of discrete mathematical objects and also introduces randomness as a proof technique to solve problems about purely deterministic systems. Some of Professor Loh's work is motivated by problems from computer science. He is affiliated with Carnegie Mellon's interdisciplinary PhD program in Algorithms, Combinatorics and Optimization and has developed an innovative problem-solving seminar series for undergraduate students, inspired by the annual Putnam exam. 

Po-Shen Loh appointed National Lead Coach for the USA International Mathematical Olympiad TeamThe International Mathematical Olympiad is the premier math competition for high school students worldwide, and is the oldest of the International Science Olympiads. Since its inception in 1959, the Olympiad has developed a rich legacy, facilitating early talent identification and cultivation on nationwide scales. Each country independently organizes its own Olympiad program, and Po-Shen Loh, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and CMU's Putnam organizer, has been appointed to the national lead coach position ("Team Leader") for the United States of America. In addition to directing national team selection and training activities, Po-Shen is building upon the Olympiad platform to bridge the worlds of high school and research mathematics, as well as to broaden interest in mathematics on the national level.

Alex with his team members after the Professor's demonstration.

The Davidson Academy / NNV Math team resting on the grass while awaiting
 the top 10 award ceremony.

Before they had finished giving out the top 10 had gotten dark
(we still had to wait for quite a while after this picture was taken).

The team hadn't placed in the top 10...
but there is no shame in not having placed.

The San Francisco Bay Area has the top young mathematicians in the nation...
and they had some of Beijing, China's best in the competition as well.

They will get their results in a week or so by e-mail.

We finally arrived in Reno, NV at around 11 PM
(we are at a gas station a few miles from our home up in the hills).

I had been up for almost 23 hours at this point
(the drive was 4 hours each way).

We showered and went to bed shortly after our arrival.

Alex will, once again, be participating in the UC Berkeley Math Competition next month...
and he is looking forward to attending the Stanford University Math Competition next year...
so long as President Obama doesn't decide to give a speech there again  :)


  1. A shame that the original tournament had to be cancelled just because the president was in the area, but how wonderful that Professor Po-Shen Loh organized a replacement tournament in such a short amount of time. Glad that the kids got to experience this after all.

  2. I especially felt bad for the team from China. They had come all this way to compete at Stanford University.
    The professor had just an incredible amount of enthusiasm and energy. However, I am still amazed at how quickly they had organized the event. It had actually flowed quite smoothly. Alex had a good time.


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