Friday, February 25, 2011


Got the stats on MATHCOUNTS Chapter competition participation and score from Chapter co-coordinator today. This may not make much sense to those unfamiliar with the the MATHCOUNTS competitions, so let me give a backgrounder and summaries some of the results.

MATHCOUNTS coaches hold school competitions to select 4 winners to participate in chapter competitions. These winners make a team and represent the school in chapter competition. Chapters send winning teams to state level and the states send their winning teams to national competition. The actual number of teams selected at each level depends on the size of the school, chapter or the sate.

The school where I coach is part of the Silicon Valley Chapter.

Coming back to stats:

  • The number of boys participating in Silicon Valley Chapter (my school's chapter) is more than twice the number of boys and this ratio has been fairly constant over the years. National level report stopped reporting this ratio after 2007.
  • Average scores of Silicon Valley Chapter is way better than the average national score for Sprint Target and Team rounds. This is also consistent over the years.
  • The ratio of sixth graders participating in the contest is much more in the Silicon Valley Chapter than at the national level.

None of these are surprising, but still seeing the actual numbers is kind of a revelation.

Waiting For Superman

Watched the Waiting For Superman Netflix CD yesterday -- well made documentary with lots of stats and cogent arguments on current state of public schools in US. Much more convincing than the rival, and somewhat antithetical Race To Nowhere.

Waiting for Superman makes following points:
  • The current state of public schools is not good -- decades of increased spending per student (inflation adjusted) hasn't caused average scores to move up in any significant way. A large number of public schools are failing in their basic job of preparing students for college.
  • The primary reason for this state is the current structure of the school system and the teachers union. There are no systemic incentives for teachers to improve themselves or work harder.
  • The causal relationship between rich neighborhoods and better performing schools is overrated. Some of the charter schools have demonstrated consistently good results in poor neighborhoods.
  • The single most important factor in quality of education is the quality of teachers.
  • Longer school hours (or more time with academics) improves results.
Of course, this is just a few of the points I recall from an hour and half documentary.