College Prep

Lately I’ve been finding myself sending a one link to many parents who want to learn more about math education in the US.  So I thought I’d share it here as well.
This is a talk Richard Rusczyk gave at the Math Prize for Girls a few years ago.  It’s very long, but the link should take you to 6:41, and the most interesting slide in the presentation.

Richard Rusczyk Talk

But if you want to save more time, I’ve actually transcribed that portion of the talk, just because I think it’s so important.

“Right after I started Art of Problem Solving I received an email from someone who attended Princeton right around the time I did:”

“I want you think for a minute what this student’s middle school and high school teachers thought when he went off to Princeton.  They thought, “We succeeded. He went off to Princeton; we’re awesome.” They never saw this.  I’m sure he didn’t go back to his middle school teachers and say, “Yeah what’s up?!?  You didn’t prepare me for this.”

“So they didn’t get this feedback, and this happens a lot.  I saw this a lot at Princeton, this happens a lot now. Kids go through school, some very good schools, they get perfect scores on everything, and then they come to place like MIT, a place like Princeton, they walk into that first year math class, and they see something they’ve never seen before: problems they don’t know how to solve.  And they completely freak out. And that’s a bad time to have these first experiences. Having to overcome initial failure.”

I think some parents are so focused on getting in to some famous college, that they miss the more important goal of a college prep curriculum:  actually preparing our students for college level work.  The great thing about focusing on building skills, rather than building an impressive resume, is that at whatever college your students ends up, famous or not so famous,  they will be more likely to succeed and excel.

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