The Art of Problem Solving: Exceptional Distance Education in Math
Over the years, the phrase ‘gifted’ has acquired legitimacy and adoption as an adjective to refer to legions of children who, simply stated, are considerably above average on various dimensions and metrics associated with the credible measure of intelligence. One popular dimension for measuring such ‘giftedness’ has come to be the academic ability, performance, and appetite of talented and motivated students.
Mainstream schools around the world have historically been woefully inadequate in catering to the needs of students with high academic ability; and given extra resources almost always opt to support the needs of the “below-average” students. As a result, private and non-profit enterprise has created an industry around the needs of gifted students – to help such students realize their potential without being forced to crawl at the pace of the others in the classroom at the middle or left of the bell curve. For the most part, such products and services have assumed the flavor of supplemental and accelerated instruction in various academic disciplines. Two programs that enjoy robust parental and student following are Stanford’s EPGY and John Hopkins University’s CTY. This editorial feature provides specific detail on a third program of considerable merit.
The Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) was founded in 2003 by a young mathematician, bond trader and Princeton graduate, Richard Rusczyk, who after tiring of the repetitive din of the trading floor at D.E. Shaw decided to return to his passion of teaching and coaching young minds in math and its wonders. Over the years, Richard achieved 3 things in tandem that are difficult enough to achieve in isolation. First, he convinced some exceptional mathematicians to dedicate their professional lives to sparking a keen interest for math in kids . Second, he and his team conceived of and created an exceptional stack of online courses in middle school and high school mathematics that reflected the virtues of holistic math instruction. Third, he and his team created an enduring stack of textbooks to go with their course stack. The books are written with a clarity and lucidity that makes them almost easy to view as self-sufficient courses in mathematics. It would require almost savage incompetence on the part of a teacher or the school system to adulterate the purity and impact of these books.
Over the years, Richard and his team have made it uber cool and entertaining for tens of thousands of young minds to plunge into math and pursue it with a degree of abandon. There are 2 enabling factors that have made this a reality. Firstly, AoPS has an agenda and operation that is completely devoid of the distractions that plague most educational institutions. Their single-point agenda is math instruction of the highest quality with complete focus on the student’s needs. Theirs is a world untrammeled by the vagaries, vicissitudes, instructional deficiencies and pontification of a traditional school system. The second factor is the almost unreal pedigree and consequent effectiveness of the AoPS faculty, each and every one of whom spends a substantive amount of time teaching. The AoPS faculty, drawn from the alumni ranks of MIT, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and other intellectual strongholds is good enough for them to make unnecessary any measure of obfuscation or opacity on the all important question for a prospective student- ‘how good are the people I am going to learn from?’. Rarely is such transparency forthcoming from administrators of other organizations. Every faculty member is a past winner of various math competitive events, and contributes actively to the authoring of AoPS’ next generation of textbooks. AoPS supplements its star faculty with teaching assistants who are drawn from similar gene pools at MIT/Princeton/Harvard/Stanford and other meccas of learning.
There are 4 knockout punches that make this the Rolls Royce of math programs.
1. The courses and books follow a relentlessly inquiry and discovery based approach to problem solving. This almost makes it incidental that the subject on tap is Math. The essential skill being taught by this remarkable team is problem solving.
2. They have learned to use, with clinical precision, online instruction without the trappings of a classroom, even without the audio component of a traditional virtual classroom. This has literally and figuratively simply cut out the noise from their classes. It also gives AoPS the latitude to hire the best from around the world; the physical location of a faculty member is irrelevant.
3. There is a rare intellectual generosity that accompanies AoPS’ offerings. AoPS provides highly affordable access to its repository of problem sets and related content through its books and classes. Their adaptive learning system Alcumus, currently freely available to any registered user, is a large repository of selected problems graded by complexity.
4. Lastly, their classes and books are both priced to be effectively less than half that of the competition. In particular, their excellent catalog of books cost less than half of the weighty and colorful math tomes that feature on Amazon and other catalogs, and are recommended by other math programs.
In addition to a stack of courses that correspond to traditional Math areas, AoPS provides focused training for Math competitive events. As such, competitive events of any kind are not for every child, but for those children seeking to match their wits and stamina with a peer group, AoPS is unmatched as a coach for such events. AoPS has a dedicated deck of courses to aid preparation for such events.
AoPS follows through on a simple but frequently ignored ingredient of business building; they have a product that is significantly better in quality and lower in price than that of the competition. Simply put, they give your child an unfair advantage in Math.
To find out more, visit -
- SmartBean Buying Guide for Art of Problem Solving (AoPS)
- Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) bookstore
- Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) online classes