Isabella Yeung completed the EMF Math program during grades 6-8 through her public school district. She wrote the following guest blog post to share her memories of the program and advice for current and future EMF students.
EMF truly is an amazing program. (No, I’m not saying this just because …; I mean it with all my heart.) Looking back at the last three years, I am grateful for the opportunity to have participated in EMF. Unquestionably, I have grown from when I was a 6th grader just starting EMF. This rigorous program has expanded my knowledge about the world of mathematics, stimulated my brain cells, boosted my confidence level, and let me grow as a student.
In fact, because of EMF and the support of my teachers and EMF professors, I scored 100% on the University of Florida Dual Enrollment math placement exam on my first try. Thanks to my score, I will be taking UF’s Calculus 1 and Analytical Geometry course as a 9th grader.
EMF has played a crucial role in my academic life and in my social life as well; I have created numerous everlasting memories with my best friend who was also in EMF at the same school. (As EMF students, we sat in classrooms with non-EMF students doing the usual accelerated math.) My friend and I gave each other encouragement when EMF exercises were difficult, and we amused each other with our imaginations during the regular classroom lessons.
There is definitely a noticeable difference between EMF students and those who don’t take EMF. My math teachers certainly noticed it. Whenever teachers would give my best friend and me a math test along with the rest of their class, we would score the highest in the class even though we didn’t pay much attention to the regular lessons and barely studied for these tests.
In 7th grade when my friend and I were in the Algebra 2 Honors classroom, we would finish our EMF work and then quietly make up crazy stories and comics to keep from getting bored by the regular lesson. We both got the top scores of our class on the end-of-course exam because of EMF. He got a near-perfect score, while I got a perfect score. The experience in 8th grade was similar. When the teacher would warn us about a Geometry quiz happening the next day, my friend and I would usually just skim through the regular textbook chapter for 10 minutes that night and obtain the highest marks in the class, either a 100% or just one question off.
Thus, if you stay on schedule with EMF, the content definitely prepares you for school math finals or state math exams. But mostly, it’s the way of critical thinking and logic skills that EMF instilled in me that has ensured my success on the tests and exams.
Let me be frank; this course is not for the faint of heart. Sure, you might find it challenging, frustrating, and downright annoying at times, but this is all part of the growing and learning process. This is a program that forces you to look at concepts from multiple perspectives and drives you to think outside the box. It seriously takes your processing and logic skills to the next level! Because of this, my analytical skills have definitely been refined to a sharp point.
The three most important traits you need to possess in order to succeed in EMF are resolve, perseverance, and dedication. If you have these three things, you will undoubtedly make it through the program and earn the title of "EMF Graduate." No matter how puzzling and infuriating a problem might seem, you must not give up until you have solved it. The satisfaction you get when you have accurately unraveled a seemingly impossible exercise is unparalleled. EMF requires that you work diligently and prepares you mentally for most, if not all, obstacles you will face in high school and beyond. If you do end up procrastinating on EMF, you will have to work very hard to catch up. (I know this from experience, having spent some of my school holidays to get back on track.)
As a word of advice to future and current EMF students: Know that there are no shortcuts in EMF. Work hard. In the end, the rewards you reap will surely be worth it. I have not and absolutely will not ever regret partaking in EMF. It has paved a plethora of new roads, ones that I will readily embark upon. I encourage you all to march on and face EMF head-on. Best of luck to all!
Nik attended IMACS from 1st through 12th grade and completed Math Enrichment, Computer Enrichment, Hi-Tech Summer Camp, and university-level courses in Computer Science and Logic for Mathematics. He earned straight A’s in high school, scored 790 on the math section of the SAT, and was named a National AP Scholar after scoring 5’s on 13 AP exams. He also happens to be a virtuoso pianist.
Nik chose the University of Florida’s Honors Program where he was selected as a Stamps Scholar in recognition of his exceptional success in leadership, service, and academics. As an undergraduate in UF’s Biomedical Engineering program, he completed research in both biomedical engineering and gastroenterology while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.
Nik was accepted into the UF College of Medicine’s highly selective Medical Honors Program. In only his first year of medical school, he served as the Operations Coordinator for Gainesville’s Equal Access Clinic, the largest free clinic in the country run entirely by medical students. Nik will earn both his B.S. and M.D. degrees in seven years after which he plans to complete his residency in internal medicine and then specialize in cardiology.
“Logical reasoning and critical thinking are applicable both within and outside of mathematics. As a medical student, I use these skills every day to efficiently diagnose and effectively treat patients. I credit my many years at IMACS for growing these skills to their fullest potential.”
Shuli started taking IMACS courses in 6th grade after winning a scholarship to University Computer Science I through a coding camp for girls. She went on to complete University Computer Science II, AP Computer Science: Java Programming, and Logic for Mathematics. Shuli graduated high school with a near-perfect average of 98 and was named a National Merit Finalist. She scored a 5 on the AP Computer Science A exam and 1560 on the SAT, including 800 on the math section.
Shuli is a true Renaissance woman who competes in a wide variety of academic competitions. She and her teammates dominate the Canadian high school quizbowl circuit, most recently winning the prestigious Reach for the Top National Championship. At the annual Ontario Student Classics Conference, Shuli was named the Top Academic Pentathlete in each of her four years of high school and Top Academic Student in her senior year.
Shuli was accepted to MIT, Harvard, and Stanford. She chose MIT where she plans to major in Mechanical Engineering or Computer Science and minor in Classics.
“IMACS gave me such an early understanding of computer programming and logic that today, complex programming concepts are simply part of the way I think. This now-innate ability helps me succeed in all of my STEM classes and is something I would not have been able to learn anywhere else.”
Ty started taking IMACS Math Enrichment classes in 5th grade and went on to complete IMACS’ university-level courses in Computer Science and Logic for Mathematics. He is a National AP Scholar who earned 5’s on the Calculus AB and BC, Computer Science A and Physics 1 exams. Ty scored 1580 on the SAT, including 800 on math section, as well as 800 on the SAT II subject tests in Math and Physics.
As a student-athlete, Ty was a leader in the classroom and on the field. He and his teammates won the Technion’s 2017 Rube Goldberg Machine Challenge, an international competition, for which they were awarded one-year full scholarships. Ty’s pioneering performance in an independent course on Multivariable Calculus led his high school to establish a program allowing highly advanced students to study this challenging subject. A varsity soccer player for four years, Ty won MVP honors in 11th and 12th grade and was named a captain of the team in his senior year.
Ty was accepted early decision to Princeton University where he will major in Operations Research and Financial Engineering after taking a gap year to study abroad.
“IMACS taught me to simultaneously think critically and creatively, imbuing me with skills that assisted me throughout high school and played a fundamental role in my decision to pursue data analysis at Princeton University.”
Ricky first attended IMACS in 2nd grade. Over the next 10 years he completed all levels of Math Enrichment and Computer Enrichment, Electronics, and university-level classes in Computer Science and Logic for Mathematics. Having scored 1580 on the SAT, 35 on the ACT, 800 on the SAT II subject tests in Math and Chemistry, and 5’s on AP exams in Calculus AB, Calculus BC and Chemistry, Ricky was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar.
During high school, Ricky channeled his talents and sharp focus through both academic and athletic endeavors. He qualified for the prestigious American Invitational Mathematics Examination, and he and his teammates competed in the Barry University Olympiad tournaments, earning 1st place team wins in Math and Chemistry. Ricky also works on developing ways to use computer programming to enhance research, as well as striving to improve his personal best times in track and cross-country.
Ricky was accepted at Rice University, University of Florida, University of Miami with a Singer Scholarship, and University of Southern California with a Presidential Scholarship. He chose Rice where he will major in Computational and Applied Mathematics followed by a Ph.D. and career in research.
“Taking IMACS classes from a young age gave me a clear advantage in math and computer science, but it also helped me excel in all other fields. I am able to approach complex problems with confidence because of what I learned at IMACS.”
The International History Olympiad (IHO) is a biennial, week-long celebration of history attended by some of the best young history students from around the world, featuring numerous individual and team based competitions.
At the recently concluded 3rd International History Olympiad (IHO) held in Berlin, Germany from July 14-22, 2018, EMF and eIMACS student, Shiva Oswal, won 5 Golds, 4 Silvers, and 2 Bronze medals, including the title of Overall Middle School Olympiad Champion.
The 2018 International History Olympiad was attended by over 200 History students with more than 30 global affiliations. Oswal was part of Team California that was the 2018 Medal Table Champion securing an impressive overall count of 40 medals. Oswal contributed over 25% to Team California's overall medal tally. Team India placed 2nd and Team Canada came in 3rd with 23 medals each.
The 2018 IHO closing ceremony was held at the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, Germany. "It was great to see Shiva proudly hold the California flag on more than ten occasions," said his dad, Vikas.
The Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science (IMACS) is thrilled to announce that the Elements of Mathematics: Foundations (EMF) online program for talented middle school students is now complete with the release of the 18th and final EMF course, Precalculus Coda.
Precalculus Coda brings together topics from earlier EMF courses and expands on them with an extensive study of vectors in the real number plane and space, linear transformations (including orthogonal mappings), and matrices and their application in solving systems of equations.
Upon successful completion of the EMF program, students will have covered all national and state math standards for pre-algebra through precalculus but from an entirely modern mathematical approach. In addition, they will have enjoyed thorough introductions to college-level topics such as Abstract Algebra, Logic, Set Theory, Number Theory and Topology, and be well-prepared to excel in a college-level Calculus course.
Why Modern Mathematics
Mathematically talented students typically master school math with little effort. As a result, they tend to become bored with and disengaged from math if limited to traditional curriclum. They may also fail to develop the mental resiliency and study skills that come with having to work hard at math problems designed for their ability level.
The EMF curriculum is designed specifically to engage young, gifted thinkers in ways typically reserved for university math majors. It is useful to distinguish the two ways in which EMF is college-level: (1) the sophisticated use of logic and reasoning via proofs, and (2) the introduction of modern areas of mathematics such as Topology.
EMF incorporates all the concepts from a traditional curriculum but uses a logic and proof-based approach not usually entrusted to students until college. Talented middle school students who are intellectually mature and motivated can benefit from this more sophisticated approach; it fosters the development of creative thinking skills that are not easily replaced by computer processing power as algebraic manipulation skills already have. In other words, EMF prepares students with skills for the future, not skills of the past.
EMF's incorporation of exciting topics in modern mathematics—topics ignored by traditional school math—makes it far more interesting and intellectually engaging. These topics represent areas of active research as opposed to traditional school math subjects that were understood completely by the late 17th century. The idea of cutting off a child’s education in literature, history or science at the 17th century is ludicrous. The same applies to mathematics.
For children in many parts of the US and around the world, EMF now fulfills the promise of opening up access to a comprehensive, unified, proof-based approach to modern mathematics. IMACS certainly believes in the value of talented and dedicated teachers, but we also believe that lack of access to such teachers has unfairly limited for too many bright students the right to be challenged at their ability level on the way to achieving their full potential in mathematics. We aim to change that with EMF.
Course 1 < $20
In celebration of EMF's completion, tuition for the first course has been dropped to $19.95 (regularly $59.95) for a limited time. Through August 31, 2018, new families save 67% on the first EMF course or 25% on a bundle of all 18 courses. Visit EMFmath.com to learn more and enroll.
EMF in Schools
Did you know that numerous districts, schools and after-school programs license EMF? In fact, the first cohort of EMF students in Broward County Public Schools, Florida completed the program last year. As a result, many of them will be enrolling in Calculus as 9th graders this fall. If you would like to see EMF offered in your school, share the EMFmath.com/schools website with the relevant decision-makers in your district.
Terry Kaufman, President of the Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science (IMACS), co-founded IMACS in 1993 to provide talented students with an outlet for reaching their highest potential in math, computer science and logical reasoning. Over the past 25 years, IMACS has grown steadily from just 37 students in Plantation to over 1,000 students across South Florida and more than 3,500 students online.
Terry is most proud of the fact that IMACS regularly produces graduates who go on to leading universities such as Stanford, Harvard and MIT. Having graduated with a masters degrees in Mathematics from Johns Hopkins University followed by a successful high-tech career, including 10 years in software development and management at IBM, Terry is well aware of the creative thinking and problem-solving skills that top universities and cutting-edge companies look for and strives to develop these skills in every IMACS student.
The following is an excerpt from Geometry: Incidence and Transformations, the first of three Geometry courses in the self-paced Elements of Mathematics: Foundations (EMF) series. EMF covers Pre-Algebra through Precalculus, plus several university-level topics, with the depth and sophisitication needed to challenge and mathematically talented children. Limited Time Offer: The first EMF course is available at 25% off regular tuition for students who enroll on or before October 31, 2017. Learn more at www.EMFmath.com.
In this course and the next our main focus is on Euclidean geometry. As you have undoubtedly noticed, in the preceding courses we have quite frequently talked about, considered, and even worked with a wide variety of geometrical concepts. But we have been relying on common knowledge and your intuitive understanding of such things; we have only rarely hinted at the formal underpinnings of this very important and pervasive area of mathematics.
The history of the study of geometry is very long and honorable, springing out of humanity’s attempts to describe mathematically the forms, shapes, and patterns seen in the real world.
Roughly speaking, our intended plan of study in this course is as follows: Each of us has a store of experiences with real objects, their forms, and their shapes. These experiences will be refined as we draw pictures of objects, observe specially constructed models of objects, and think about experiments that could be performed with these objects. As we sharpen our experiences with physical objects, we will describe corresponding geometric objects (such as points, lines, and planes), and decide what properties these geometric objects should have if they are to be mathematical replicas of the real objects. Of course, geometric objects, like all other mathematical objects, are abstractions, so the only role that can be played by our drawings and experiments with physical points, lines, and planes is that of serving as a guide to the properties that should be ascribed to their abstract geometric counterparts.
The properties we ascribe to the geometric objects will be called agreements. That is, we will agree to accept a certain property about geometric points and lines, say, because our experience strongly suggests that physical points and lines have that property. Of course, agreements in geometry, as in real life, have consequences. This then is the activity of geometry: to find out what the consequences of the basic agreements are.
In other words, we shall agree that the geometric objects we wish to study have certain basic properties. We shall then deduce that geometric objects with these properties must also have certain other properties. We will discover these new properties, not by looking at the objects (remember, geometric objects are abstractions!) but by thinking about them. We will express our thoughts in arguments of the following general form: Since we have accepted our basic agreements, then we must also accept that such and such is the case. But then we are constrained to accept that thus and so, etc. Finally we examine these new properties in order to decide whether they too are compatible with our experience of physical objects. In this way, Euclidean geometry becomes the mathematics of the shapes and forms of the world around us.
The IMACS Blog reconnects with alumnus Mark Engelberg who recently released three new coding games through ThinkFun and Target. (Win an autographed copy of one of Mark's new games!) Mark's passion for computer science, math and logic led him to an award-winning career in puzzle and game design. He is also an active speaker in the Clojure programming language community. In this post, Mark talks with IMACS about what it was like to be a homeschool dad to two amazingly talented children who are now accomplished young adults in their own right.
First, tell us about your new ThinkFun games.
Two years ago, I invented a programming puzzle game for ThinkFun called Code Master. Code Master was a commercial and award-winning success, so ThinkFun asked me to develop a new line of puzzle games, where each game would highlight a specific underlying principle of computer science. The new line of games is called the //CODE Programming Game Series. To design the games, I started from a list of concepts I wanted players to encounter, and kept trying out ideas and tinkering with the rules until I felt I had a combination of mechanisms that covered those concepts and was fun to play.
The first game in the series, On the Brink, is an introduction to procedural abstraction — the idea that we're not just writing programs to solve a one-off task, we're building components that solve multiple instances of an underlying problem, and then using those components to build higher-level components, and so on. The second game, Rover Control, focuses on the essential skill of stepping through programs in your head and visualizing the outcome, particularly with flow control constructs like if-then-else statements, while loops and for loops. The third game, Robot Repair, is all about Boolean logic. When developing Robot Repair, I leaned heavily on the material that I learned as a child in IMACS' Advanced Mathematical Logic courses. I think students in your Logic courses are really going to enjoy Robot Repair. Like their predecessor, Code Master, all three of the new games are "unplugged" computer science board games that come with a book of puzzles for solo or cooperative gameplay.
You are also a parent of two gifted children who are now ages 19 and 17. About how old were Alex and Molly when you first suspected that they were gifted? What were the signs?
I was a stay-at-home dad, and when Alex and Molly were toddlers, I taught them to read and write and gave them daily math lessons. Honestly, I mostly did those things to keep myself from getting bored; it was fun for me to feed their intellectual curiosity. My wife did the same with the kids when she was home from work. That was just our parenting style. We wanted the kids to have the opportunity to learn these core skills as soon as they were capable, and the easiest way to achieve that was to throw a lot of educational activities at them early, just to see what would stick. As it turned out, more of it stuck than we expected!
I didn't really have much to compare their development to until the day I went to Alex's kindergarten orientation. As the teacher explained what the students would be doing in the coming year, it dawned on me that my kids had already done those things. I realized that I had inadvertently given my kids a big jumpstart, and what I had been doing was working, so I might as well keep doing it. And that's how I ended up deciding to homeschool my kids.
Because I homeschooled my kids, the label "gifted" didn't really come into play. I never needed to get them tested, or prove anything to a school official. But it was clear to me that they had the capacity to learn faster than what our school system provides, so I set out to do my best to keep them challenged and allow them to fully develop their individual talents.
How did you feel when you knew for certain that they were gifted?
It felt like a tremendous responsibility to help them achieve their full potential, even more so because I was choosing to take on that responsibility myself rather than relying on the school system. If things didn't work out, I would have no one to blame but myself. It was a lot of pressure. I didn't really doubt my capability to teach them, but I knew it would be an enormous undertaking, one that would require the bulk of my time and attention for nearly 20 years. It was well worth it — I'm so proud of the young adults they've become — but I'm relieved to have reached the point where that responsibility is behind me rather than in front of me.
As you looked into ways to meet their educational needs, what did you discover?
One pleasant surprise was realizing that it isn't necessary to be an expert in everything in order to meet your kids' educational needs. In many cases, it's more about playing the role of an advocate, connecting them up with the right resources. I would track down private teachers, public school classes, homeschool co-op classes, other parents, books, videos, and websites for the areas I was less equipped to handle. I did my part for the homeschooling community by serving as a teacher of math and computer science for many other talented kids whose parents were not as adept at those particular subjects.
What were some of the programs, opportunities or approaches that you found helpful in making the most of their talents and interests?
One of the things that was really important to me was to make sure my kids had a strong foundation in math and computer science. Fortunately, I have the advantage that I learned the IMACS curriculum when I was in middle school and high school. This made it easy for me to teach these subjects because I'd already experienced first-hand what a top-tier math and CS education looks like. To duplicate that experience for my kids, I simply taught them using the same materials and techniques that I had learned at IMACS and in college. Those resources played a big role in giving me the confidence to homeschool.
What were some of the benefits and challenges of homeschooling? How did you deal with the challenges?
One of the biggest challenges of homeschooling is that it takes effort to find a community to be a part of. We are fortunate that here, where we live in Seattle, there is a robust homeschooling community and we were able to find a group that fit our personalities and make many dear, lifelong friends. Once we found the right community for us, those rich social interactions became one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling. Our weekly park days remain some of my most cherished memories.
Another big challenge is that, even though my kids are close together in age, they were far enough apart that I couldn't do the same lessons with them. I always felt like I was struggling to give each of them the level of individual attention I wanted to give them. My solution was to make certain parts of the day relatively structured and leave the other parts of the day flexible so that I only needed to schedule the structured parts. For example, I might be doing structured math lessons with one child while the other was doing creative writing or watching an educational video, and then switch.
What were some other challenges you faced in parenting gifted children, and how did you deal with those?
Gifted children can be wildly asymmetric in their abilities, and wildly different from one another in terms of their talents and interests. It was a constant challenge to avoid getting impatient when one of my children would struggle with a concept that came naturally to the other. I had to keep reminding myself that it was totally normal for them to have different strengths and weaknesses.
How did being a gifted adult who was once a gifted child affect your educational and non-educational parenting choices?
This was especially helpful when my kids' interests dovetailed with my own. My son, for instance, developed a keen interest in programming, and thanks to my own background, I knew exactly what to do to support him in that interest. When my kids' interests and abilities diverged from mine, it was a lot tougher, and I ended up doing what any parent would do … seeking out people and resources that could help my kids develop their talents.
What are your fondest memories of raising Alex and Molly?
Probably my fondest memories are the many times we played board games together over the years. For those moments, instead of having a parent/child relationship, or a teacher/student relationship, we were just people playing games together and enjoying each other's company. I feel like at those moments, I really gained some insight into their character, and got a glimpse of what they would be like as adults.
What are your hopes for them in the future?
My hope has always been for them to be good, caring, compassionate, independent, happy adults. The good news is … they already are. I'm done! Woohoo!
Robot Repair was inspired by Mark's study of the IMACS’ Advanced Mathematical Logic curriculum.
Residents of the continental United States are eligible for the Robot Repair Raffle. The autographed copy of Robot Repair will be shipped only to an address in the continental US. To enter the raffle, complete the following steps:
- Parents must register their child to take either the EMF Aptitude Test (ages 10-14, approximately) or the eIMACS Aptitude Test (ages 14-18, approximately).
- On the aptitude test online registration form, type "IMACS Blog" in the box for "How did you hear about us?" or "How did you hear about IMACS?".
- Have your child take the aptitude test for which he or she is registered. The test must be taken during the period October 1-30, 2017. (No minimum test score is required to qualify for the raffle.)
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