Up for some challenge in math? Try contests!

Could a nice math contest spark up some interest and motivation in your student(s)?

I really like the idea of math contests and problems of the week. When my kids get a little older, I'll probably use some problem of the week contest from the Internet.

Typically with problem of the week contests you simply do the problems at home and send the solution over the Internet. You, as the teacher, can be in control of time and additional resources used.

The contest problems are more challenging than standard textbook problems. They "stretch their brain", perhaps even strech mom's brain! But that's all for good. We must not let our students live under the impression that all word problems are solved by the method just studied in the lesson.

I've written about the need for challenging and open-ended problems before. You might want to check those posts out as well.

Some contests publish the names of those who solved it right and some simply publish the right solution. Either way, kids can feel a sense of accomplishment if they get the problem right.

Problem of the week contests are excellent for finding challenging problems and for motivation. There exist several:

Math Kangaroo

And, talking of contests, right now there is a great opportunity to take part in a math contest called Math Kangaroo. It is open for all kinds of students, homeschooled or not. Math Kangaroo is probably the most popular math contest in the world with some 3 million students participating worldwide.

This one is not handled over the Internet, though. The contest is held in dozens of locations across USA and many more around the world. The next competition is held on March 27, 2008, and registration is open at MathKangaroo.org.

All children participating in Math Kangaroo will get a certificate of participation, a Math Kangaroo in USA T-shirt and some other souvenirs. The top winners get a certificate of excellence and prizes.

So this sounds like an excellent opportunity for students to experience mathematics in a little different way. The website has past problems that you can use for practicing up for the contest — or just use them for additional challenging word problems.
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