Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Math Counts

Hi, all:

Regardless of whether or not your kid is involved in the middle school Math Counts competition, I hope you might take a moment to drop Math Counts program coordinator Chris Bright a note. Indications are that the Math Counts board is reviewing their rules for next year.

Prior to this year, homeschool teams were allowed to compete as both individuals and in the team competition. Math Counts then made a ruling banning all homeschool teams from the team portion of the competition. After great outcry and some HSLDA involvement, they partially rescinded that ruling. They grandfathered in teams in existence prior to 2010-2011 and banned only new homeschool teams. After that, pressure on the Math Counts organization greatly decreased as the older teams were happy and stopped calling and writing letters.

The time is now, I believe, to once again ask Math Counts to fully rescind their discriminatory ruling and allow all homeschool teams back in to team competition. Interestingly, there are some parallels in the rationale that MathCounts gave for their ruling and the rationale we saw from Senator Maloney for his IL homeschool registration efforts. Both parties brought up those who were not really home schoolers masquerading as such and causing problems. Obviously, the solution is not to punish/regulate the true home schoolers.

Even if you don't have a pony in this race, please consider writing a letter. This type of thinking is spreading--my sister reports similar rationale now being used by the Science Olympiad competition in NC to attempt to ban homeschool teams there.

My letter and Chris Bright's email address is below. I am not certain whether Chris is a man or a woman, which is why I used the first name.


To: chris@mathcounts.org
Subject: Homeschool MathCounts Teams
Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2011 19:58:47 +0000

Dear Chris:

Richard S, our IL chapter coordinator, passed along to you my concern about banning new homeschool teams from MathCounts team competition. You may remember I also wrote to you about this issue this past summer/fall.
You indicated to Richard that the policy is still under review for next year.

As Richard told you, our team posed no administrative challenge or headache to him. He said MathCounts told him this was the reason for banning new homeschool teams. I told him that the original reason we were given was a concern over homeschool teams forming super teams from a wide geographic area. MathCounts allows science & math magnets and private gifted schools to compete, although these are by nature super teams pulling from a wide geographic area.

By contrast, our new team was formed purely within the spirit of MathCounts' intent--to encourage more kids to love math. Our "parent team" moved further north and our new team formed several suburbs and an hour's drive away. We knew this would make both teams less competitive, but we felt it would offer more home educated kids the chance to get involved in a club close to their neighborhood. Indeed, all of our kids live within a mile east-west radius and within an 18 block north-south radius. Our geographic pull this year was much more narrow than the local middle school team that advanced to states.

Our team won the team portion of the competition and finished second overall. Unfortunately, our team was the only ones who knew that because our scores had to be "unofficial" and hence, unannounced.

May I ask you to put yourself in the place of our students for a moment? They worked just as hard as any other team, meeting once weekly for two hours faithfully since the previous September. They applauded politely for every other announced team and individual award.

Does MathCounts really think that is a fair way to treat students based solely on how they receive their primary math education? I think it is entirely the wrong message to be sending to a group of youngsters--that no matter how well you do, you will be discriminated against because of the type of school you attend and you will be overlooked.

I urge MathCounts to rescind this practice that denigrates the efforts of home educated students and to return to the pre-2010 rule of allowing homeschool teams to compete as both individuals and as teams. It is the right thing to do.

Holly R

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