It took me a long time to realize that I had a passion for math. From elementary school to high school, I was always a top math student, but I didn’t always enjoy it. Classroom math is boring; plugging numbers into formulas just isn’t very interesting. I did competition math as well, but I didn’t always find that enjoyable either.
In Florida, there’s a high school math competition called MAO. It’s the premier math competition in Florida, so most of the kids who enjoy doing math competitively compete.
But MAO sucks. The focus is on rote memorization and drilling. Most of the time, the problems are solved by using one trick that was memorized from a formula sheet. It’s okay that there’s no understanding of the problem, just apply the formula. It’s also hugely relient on speed. There are 30 questions and just 60 minutes to do them. There’s no time to think about how to solve problems, there’s just finding answers. In this kind of competition, there’s no creativity, there’s no room for play. To be good, kids have to just sit and memorize solution methods. Continue reading