The Real World Applications of Explore Horizon’s Young Mathematicians’ Award

September 26, 2017

Every teacher wants to give their students the tools to succeed, both in the present at their current grade level and in the future when they enter the real world. This can be difficult in a world where the pressures of standardized and state testing are spotlighted as the main measures for success, leaving little room for creative problem-solving.

Our 2017 Young Mathematicians’ Awards (YMA) celebrate just that; creative problem-solving. In partnership with Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, we developed a challenging competition series designed to test students’ ability to problem-solve in a team setting while stretching their abstract reasoning processes. Students from all over the Dallas/Fort Worth area compete in regional contests leading up to a Grand Final in December. The competition targets math thinkers in grades 4-6 in both public and private school settings, and is provided at no cost to schools or families.

What makes these challenges unique?

Group work can be a challenge for even the most talented students. That’s why the challenges presented in our YMA competition prepare kids with the transferable skills that will help them succeed in their future careers.   The ability to work within a team and delegate tasks is a fundamental part of the competition.  A whole team is responsible for whether or not they move on, and even the brightest students learn to work within the diversity of their team if they want the prize!

Verbal communication goes hand in hand with working in groups.  Fearless learners must communicate with each other to work around difficult problems and restrictive scenarios. Groups who communicate best will perform best, highlighting another critical skill for growth beyond mathematical knowledge.

Creative problem-solving is one of the most valuable skills students will learn during this competition series. Each activity is designed to be a low-entry, high-ceiling problem, to enable students of all abilities to access the problem on some level.  For the most gifted minds, they have the opportunity to think outside the box and take the problem in whichever direction they would like.  Sometimes it’s not the teams that get to the right answer quickest who will win the contest.  Often those that can demonstrate trial and improvement, a systematic approach, effective recording, and explanation of their journey are the ones who take the top spot.  We believe that rote, isolated problems don’t truly mirror real-world complexities, so the Young Mathematicians’ Awards spotlight those teams who can go beyond standard classroom routine.

How can I get my students involved?

It’s very easy to get your class involved with Explore Horizons and the Young Mathematicians’ Award. All you have to do is visit our YMA page to begin the process of selecting the team of 4 bright students that will represent your school regionally and then Metroplex-wide. The selection process begins with a complimentary workshop that puts classroom teams into the engaging, immersive type of problems they may see if selected to represent the school on a regional level. Based on this workshop teachers select their fearless team of four. The Regional contest (November 15th) is at an Explore Horizons center near your school and is the first step of competition against other schools locally. Finally, the Grand Final (December 6th) takes the highest performing teams and sets them against each other to declare the winning DFW team!

The real-world applications of the Young Mathematicians’ Award are endless. This competition is the perfect way to get students practicing creativity in math and developing skills that will help them for the rest of their lives, and to shine a positive spotlight on the amazing math programs of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex!

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