A few months ago I started profiling unsung community heroes. This morning I interviewed Noah Zamdmer on my WVOX radio program (airs Fridays on 1460 AM from 10 AM to 11 AM). Noah began a free biweekly workshop at the Warner Library on Broadway in Tarrytown for middle school students that draws upon the eastern European tradition of the math circle: students meet with teachers to tackle math problems outside the school curriculum. Noah, a graduate of MIT and an employee at IBMs semiconductor factory, resides in Tarrytown and is giving back to the community. His class meets every other Thursday from 7:45 PM to 9 PM. The next session is this Thursday, January 30th. One doesn’t have to pre-register to take advantage of the program—just show up! However, if you want to contact him in advance e mail Noah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students don’t have to reside in Tarrytown to take advantage of this program. If you have a child who is in middle school and loves math this program could provide your son or daughter with a great opportunity to excel and learn.
Noah Zamdmer is an unsung hero in our town—someone who is giving back and helping young people get an incredible opportunity to get hooked on math, to learn how to solve good math problems and for ambitious kids to enrich the extracurricular math opportunities.
The following article about Noah appeared in the Hudson Independent (www.thehudsonindependent.com).
Noah Zamdmer, math workshop creator. Noah Zamdmer, math workshop creator.
One Tarrytown parent aims to reverse what he calls a “zero push for math after eighth grade.”
“I’m not an activist, and I’m not saying that our kids are lacking,” Noah Zamdmer clarified. “Fundamentally, I love math, and its power to exercise young minds. In this Internet age, information is more accessible, the kinds of math problems are more complex, and communities that network are passionate about this stuff.”
The Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and father of two Sleepy Hollow Middle School students, analyzes electrical data from transistors at IBM’s semiconductor factory in East Fishkill, and became increasingly fascinated with math during the past two years.
In September, he began “The Math Workout: A Math Workshop for Middle Schoolers,” a free, biweekly workshop at Warner Library that draws upon the Eastern European tradition of the math circle: students meet with experienced students or teachers to tackle math problems outside the school curriculum.
Preparation for each workshop starts at http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/, where he chooses a math problem for kids who show up that night. Another website, http://brilliant.org/, offers competitive problems with a “find your level” kind of learning, he said. Seven students, including two from Cortlandt, were at the first session; three, including his 12-year-old son, Sammy, attended the December 19 workshop.
Although Zamdmer helps his son with English more than with math, the seventh-grader has it covered. “There are many math practice areas available in Tarrytown,” Sammy Zamdmer said, citing Kumon (Math and Reading Center of Tarrytown) and the Math Club in school.
“Mathematics has a long way to grow in popularity in the Tarrytown public schools,” Zamdmer reflected, citing his website, Sleepy Hollow Math, on the district’s website, http://www.tufsd.org/. “Perhaps we’ll look forward to the Math Olympiad contests each November, much as we anticipate the homecoming game, and the winter concerts and plays.”
Together with Math Department Chair Jennifer Walsh, Zamdmer applied for, and won, a grant from the Foundation for the Tarrytown Schools for $600 for a set of middle school and high school-level math problem-solving textbooks.
“Here, it will take me one minute to show you how beautiful math is. Just listen to this problem,” he said. “What is the probability that three points chosen at random on a circle will form an acute triangle? The problem brings together two branches of math not usually seen together: probability and geometry.”
Fog surrounding Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) and school reform boils down to the state administration jumping the gun “in testing to a curriculum that isn’t even taught,” he maintained.
While they agreed to Common Core three years ago, courses didn’t change until last year, “and tests were centralized although curriculum was decentralized,” he said. “Common Core math seems to be puzzles, and puzzles are good; given the rise of non-rote Common Core. Maybe the Math Olympiad, offered in grades 6 and 7, will get more attention.”
Each February, the Mathematical Association of America’s volunteer contest (AMC) attracts students nationwide; all district students in grades 3 through 12 are eligible to enter. As incentive, Zamdmer offers a $100 prize to any students who perform well enough to qualify for the American Invitational Mathematics Exam (a three-hour integer answer contest).
Last year, three district students competed in the pre-qualifying AMC 10 and AMC 12 math competitions, which can lead to additional competitions and scholarships. “A tiny number of students volunteer to take the international math contests after seventh grade,” he said. “Extracurricular sports references dwarf references to extracurricular math and science in our local and school websites and publications.”
Vowing to continue to help increase participation in extracurricular math, he mused, “With all the math resources that are now in place in the Tarrytowns, it will be exciting to see what happens over the next few years.”
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