Computational math...Illinois and elsewhere

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Computational math...Illinois and elsewhere

Post by suds1000 » Wed Aug 17, 2005 6:18 pm

I think there have been computational math threads in the past, but they don't address some of the issues I bring up here.

When I was in high school long ago in Michigan, there was a small amount of computational math at the tournaments we attended, and my team always got most of it. Of course, we played what you might call more "enlightened" formats like NAQT and Academic Initiative which use pyramidal, non-hose, longer-than-two-line questions. But even the math that was used was *very* limited, so when I got to college and discovered that it had been eliminated completely, I had no problem with it.

But I've seen instances of players (especially in Illinois, as those are the only high school players I've seen recently) that are exclusively math players. Some Illinois teams that have come to our Earlybird tournament in the past have complained that the 1/1 computational math distribution (which I'm debating intensely about putting in, given the feedback from some of my team members) wasn't nearly enough.

So I have a few questions:

1. How much computational math do different formats (IHSA, OAC, and other high school formats) have in each packet? If it's not distributed evenly in packets, what percentage of a total tournament does computational math generally comprise in your format?

2. What level is most computational math for varsity tournaments? I'd assume there's algebra, geometry, algebra II, and trigonometry, but I've also encountered computational calculus questions (generally just asking to use the power and chain rules, but still hard for a lot of players who hadn't learned it yet).

3. Is there computational science anywhere? Does anyone like computational science? I've only seen it a few times, and it was all physics and Newton's Laws. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear about a Hardy-Weinberg question or maybe a simple pH question.

4. How do you coaches feel about having computational math as a legitimate test of knowledge, aside from whether or not it helps your team win? We don't use it in college because there are a lot more math things that are asked about (theorems, equation formulations, topology, and others).

5. For the high school players out there, how much computational math do you think there should be? Try to evaluate fairly the importance of math in the high school curriculum, and give what you think the proper distribution of math questions would be in a normal packet with 20/20 (20 tossups and 20 bonuses).

Address one or more of these questions as well as you can. I'd like to hear any and all responses, but I'm particularly interested in hearing from current and former Illinois teams and players since I'm in the process of writing and editing a tournament that will theoretically feature many of them.

Thanks in advance for your opinions.

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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:52 pm

There's a lot of computational math and science in Illinois. I didn't play straight-up IHSA; I played in a local league under IHSA rules but with different questions (the Metro North League, if anyone's heard of it). Computational Math was just as important as Science, History, or Literature. Equal in the distribution, I think. And a lot of science was computational, most of it physics or pH.

The math was almost always calculus at the Varsity (11th and 12th grade) level. Before that, I assume it was easier math.

Computational math was rarely a test of knowledge, because teams were smart enough to each have a guy who was in advanced calculus. So it was a race between the math guys on each team to see who could finish first.

Personally, I despised computational math and thought it should be stricken from Scho-Bowl. But that's because I was never any good at math. I've gotten three math tossups in my life, and I still remember the answers: similar, cone, and -1. I also once got a 5-point bonus question, the answer to which was also -1. It was in the same game as the "cone" tossup. That was one of the best games of my life.
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Post by Deviant Insider » Wed Aug 17, 2005 10:17 pm

IHSA is 20% math. Matches are 30/30, of which 6 and 6 are math (though they are not the same 6, so you could answer a history tossup and get a math bonus or vice versa). Technology questions count as math questions, so it ends up being more like 5 and 5 that are actually math. The rules recently changed from a maximum of 6 calculation tossups per round to a maximum of 8. Some of the math does not involve calculations, though most of it does. Some of the science does involve calculations, though most of it does not. (Science is also 6 and 6.) Time limits on computational questions are 30 seconds; time limits on other questions are 10 seconds. (However, if it's your tournament, then you don't have to follow that rule strictly. That's the way it is almost all the time in Illinois.)

Most tournaments in Illinois stay pretty close to the standard IHSA distribution, though matches are usually 20/20 or 16/16. When teams from Illinois show up at a tournament, they expect that there will be three or four calculation questions per match. That being said, I have no problem with tournaments that do otherwise, though they should warn teams that Illinois norms will not be followed.

One thing that most question writers get right is that math tossups, like any other tossups, should have some variety. There should be some calculus, but most math tossups should not involve calculus--just because it is the focus of the AP Test does not mean it should be the focus of everything.

There is some computational science, and this is a good thing. There are plenty of computational questions that can be asked, and variety is good.

I think that computational math belongs in Quiz Bowl. You may decide from my avatar that I am biased. So be it. There are a lot of different academic competitions at the high school level. There are few that test all academic areas. I am glad that quiz bowl tests everything in the high school curriculum.

That being said, bad questions are bad questions. There are plenty of bad computational questions that get asked. There are bad questions in other topics too, but math may get more than its share because many question writers are just stronger in other areas. It is possible to write good questions, and my guess is that a bunch of students at U of I can do it. Actually, in terms of IHSA questions the last few years, the computation questions have generally been a little better than some of the others.

In terms of advice, I would like to see 3/3 or 4/4 computational at a 20/20 tournament at U of I. It is by no means necessary--I would much rather have good questions without math than bad questions with math--but it would fit my tastes as well as the expectations of most Illinois teams.

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Post by BuzzerZen » Wed Aug 17, 2005 10:39 pm

I've heard a fair amount of computational science in my two years of competing, actually. Mainly physics, Hardy-Weinberg, and maybe some chem stuff. I think NAQT also warns for pencil and paper before punnet square-oriented questions. So far as math questions go, I've identified three or four distinct varieties:

1. Ridiculous math questions - Do way, way, too much multiplication, addition, and other simple arithmetic that satisfies some insipid situation with your pencil in very little time.
2. Impossible math questions - I haven't heard many of these, I don't think, but one 30 point all or nothing bonus involving Jeopardy comes to mind...
3. Acceptable math questions - The kind NAQT and most of the tossup-bonus world seem to write. Tossups set up the problem, say something like "This would be difficult, but Wheeler realizes...", tell your math person how to do the problem in about 5 seconds if they haven't figured it out yet, then reveal what they're looking for.

Math is, of course, an important part of the high school curriculum, but quiz bowl math is definitely not the place to ask lots of math questions. The format doesn't really allow for a true test of math skill. It does, of course, allow for a test of quiz bowl math skill, which usually involves getting used to the five or six different math questions asked in quiz bowl. 1/1 math calc per round is fine, as far as I'm concerned. No team really has more than one person who can actually parse a quiz bowl math question. I certainly can't do it. I guess my contention is that math calculation doesn't really deserve the distribution per round recieved by science, lit, and history, because it's not possible to write that many interesting, non-distressing math calculation tossups. That's why the math people on our team also both do math team -- actual math competitions have actual good math in them.
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Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh » Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:27 am

You've got IHSA's facts already, so I'll spare rehashing those. My opinions, however, might help.

The amount of math in IHSA works well, in my opinion, being equal to the rest of the categories, but I, too, am biased. I'd actually rather see it go down to 4/4 out of 30 if the big 3 are weighted more (7/7, and minus 1 misc.) with better quality questions.

The quality of math questions would be helped by a 4 quarter format, if you think about it. You could have all difficulty levels in a single game, ranging from algebra (and how every math tossup I played at ACE camp was equations of lines) to trigonometry to calculus in 3 questions (which would be good quantity for NAQT, etc., at the high school level).

If math were given a distribution based on hs curriculum, I'd go 8/8 per 20. (Sadly,) the quiz bowl canon is not judged by curriculum. (If it were, we'd have home econom...oh, wait.) A good distribution would be, like I said, 3/3 per 20 questions, 1/1 from each of three difficulty levels: Easy (Algebra, Probablity) Medium (Geometry, Trigonometry) and Esoteric (Calculus, Statistics [good stats, not mean/median/mode middle school garbage], Math History). Derivatives are in Trig, not Calc, and Analytical Geometry is bunched in with Geometry. This 3/3 covers both comp/non comp, and Comp should be given 4 or 5 per 6 appearances.

Also, on comp. sci, it's good, but Chemistry comps are usually terrible (gas laws are simply formula calc'ing, and anything about atomic mass should be thrown out of the canon immediately. There should be no computational chemistry until organic chem gets its share of tossups.) and Physics comps are overdone. I have a list of 10 formulas or so to memorize for the season that got us 85% or so of the Physics points last year.

Scholastic bowl math should be easier than Scholastic bowl history, etc. compared to how much of it is learned in an average school. Math hits a brick wall in difficulty at high school, so a defined canon is created. Buzzer races should be left to only a minimal percentage of the game, say, the math questions and one or so in each category. With decent questions, it can be left to only the math. If you want hard math questions, join a math team. Scholastic bowl isn't conducive to the good hard math questions.

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Post by ASimPerson » Thu Aug 18, 2005 4:17 am

When I played in Alabama, computational math was rarely, if ever, calculus, and if it was it was almost certainly a derivative. (And of course we all knew the "trick" before we knew how to really do a derivative.) In HS, I didn't like computational math, but I was the only person on my starting squad senior year who wasn't more than decent at doing math. (We were probably beaten to math questions less than 10 times during my HS career.) Since most of it was based on calculation speed, I definitely did not have a chance against our guys. (Luckily, they were good at things other than math.)

After I left, though, I would guess the situation changed a bit since ASCA (thankfully) switched question providers. At least with a new provider we wouldn't be able to get math questions based off having heard it several times in a packet from 1998 (thanks, Patrick's Press!).

(And for those who are wondering, the computational math distrubtion will be 0/0 at our HS tournament. This may be par for the course in Georgia, but I can't say that I'd know.)
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Post by quizbowllee » Thu Aug 18, 2005 10:10 am

ASimPerson wrote: (And for those who are wondering, the computational math distrubtion will be 0/0 at our HS tournament. This may be par for the course in Georgia, but I can't say that I'd know.)
Amen! We're gonna try REALLY hard to get to that tournament.

As for math in quiz bowl, I think I've made my views known before, but I just don't think it belongs at all. It's been said a few times already that there is math team for those who want to compete in math.

I think that computation math alienates too many students in quiz bowl. For example: if calculus is part of the distribution, then you are alienating almost everyone who is not a senior. IE - not very many 9th and 10th graders are able to take calculus. Perhaps if the quiz bowl coach is also a math teacher, then that coach can teach underclassmen how to do the calculus, but I'd say that most quiz bowl coaches are NOT math teachers.

Also, as a question writer, I have written dozens of tournaments in Illinois... But I have decided NOT to accept any more jobs from there unless they either lessen the math distribution or get someone else to write the math questions. I simply cannot write a 15 round tournament with 6-8 math tossups and 4-part bonuses in anything resembling a timely manner. It's not worth the money to have to do that.

Finally, I just want to reiterate that I think that computation should be completely removed from quiz bowl. It's not just because my kids are bad at it (they're actually getting pretty good), it's just because I don't think that it lends itself to the spirit of quiz bowl. Ask all you want to about mathematicians or math history - that's the kind of knowledge that quiz bowl should test. But, please leave the computation to math team.
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Post by bigtrain » Thu Aug 18, 2005 11:57 am

For example: if calculus is part of the distribution, then you are alienating almost everyone who is not a senior.
This year, our entire A team has already taken AP Calculus and was very active during calc questions this past year.

Nevertheless, I don't think computational math questions have a place in quiz bowl. I don't see the distinction between asking a computational math question and asking a team to find a gramatical error in a sentence or solving a physics/chemistry problem.
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Post by AKKOLADE » Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:05 pm

bigtrain wrote:Nevertheless, I don't think computational math questions have a place in quiz bowl. I don't see the distinction between asking a computational math question and asking a team to find a gramatical error in a sentence or solving a physics/chemistry problem.
That's my point of view exactly, and math was one of my strong points when I played in high school. I would like to see most computational questions be converted to normal format questions, if that makes any sense.

Also, this is just personal opinion, but I absolutely despise NAQT math questions. I'd just as soon have a math question spout out the word problem at hand than immediately state afterwards, to somehow establish pyramidally-formed questions, how to find the answer. Also, they all too often seem to be based around "hey, if you add the individual digits in the answer together, they'll equal (insert number between 1 and 9 here)."

Sorry to rant about NAQT computational q's, but in general I just dislike them.
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Post by Tegan » Thu Aug 18, 2005 1:45 pm

I think Sudheer poses some legit questions. I for one think you've got to have some computation. There is the argument that "if you want math, go join math team", by that extension, grop science because you can do science bowl, and there's Latin Bowl and Geography Bowl ..... pretty soon we don't have much left.

It is true tat in Illinois, we have bred specilists in math to deal with it. I have always likened them to relief pitchers.....highly specialized, but you can't win (in Illinois) without at least one.

There is more computation science today than there was before. I think it is tough to ask really pertinent chem and physics questions without doing some calculation.

I thought the really intriguing question is:
"How do you coaches feel about having computational math as a legitimate test of knowledge, aside from whether or not it helps your team win?"

I think that there is nothing wrong with this. At least a percentage of our math questions deal with striaght up recall as it is, but I think it would be a good thing to start including some computation along these lines.

I notice that many of the people who post on the "con" side of computation, tend to be people who really don't do well at it (by their own admission). Is there anyone out there who tends to be good at computation, but doesn't think it really belongs? (I'm not trying to be smart allecky about this...I am genuinely interested).

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Post by AKKOLADE » Thu Aug 18, 2005 1:52 pm

Tegan wrote:I notice that many of the people who post on the "con" side of computation, tend to be people who really don't do well at it (by their own admission). Is there anyone out there who tends to be good at computation, but doesn't think it really belongs? (I'm not trying to be smart allecky about this...I am genuinely interested).
leftsaidfred wrote:... and math was one of my strong points when I played in high school.
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Post by Golden Tiger 86 » Thu Aug 18, 2005 1:53 pm

I was fairly decent at computational questions in high school, and I don't think they belong because a match shouldn't be decided on who can multiply 23 and 12 in the fastest time.
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Post by NotjustoldWASPs » Thu Aug 18, 2005 3:04 pm

There is the argument that "if you want math, go join math team", by that extension, grop science because you can do science bowl, and there's Latin Bowl and Geography Bowl ..... pretty soon we don't have much left.
right on...i believe math definitely does have a place in quiz bowl (this may be a bit biased considering Im on the math team as well...but hey, its something im good at)...i just have a problem with some of the kinds of math questions that are asked:

stupid probability questions: these come up all too often, especially in NAQT. There is just no way that a person can solve these problems in the given ten seconds and u are probably better off guessing (for example, a random nuber over thirty-six for any problem involving two dice)

easy calculus: I've taken calculus, and i get sick of being asked to do the same thing tournament after tournament (e.g: what is the derivative of f(x)= e to the x). In addition, as many people have stated so far, it's unfair for people who have yet to take the course.

giveaway questions: all too often, i hear the initial problem and start working immediately, only to be beaten by somebody who got the answer by some idiotic giveaway (often not math-related)...that can be frustrating.

Overall, though i think they are fair in that the people who take an interest in math are more likely to get them, as with almost any category. Just as if someone enjoys watching sports or listening to popular music, they'll get the obligatory tradsh question, or if someone loves nineteenth century female authors, theyre more likely to get the obligatory Bronte sisters question.

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Post by ASimPerson » Thu Aug 18, 2005 4:04 pm

Tegan wrote:I for one think you've got to have some computation. There is the argument that "if you want math, go join math team", by that extension, grop science because you can do science bowl, and there's Latin Bowl and Geography Bowl ..... pretty soon we don't have much left.
You're missing the point. Math has a place in quizbowl - questions about theories, mathmeticians, etc. do have a place. What is being argued is that computational math does not have a place in quizbowl - it rarely tests knowledge over an innate ability to add numbers the fastest.

Also, as I said, when I was in HS, we a had a couple of guys who could do computational math like the dickens. My team was never hurt by Alabama's computational math - but I would've argued then, as I do now, that it doesn't really belong.

(Also, bigtrain, at least in Alabama, taking calc senior year (if one takes it) is pretty much par for the course. The aforementioned math guys on my HS team did take it their junior years, but they really liked math. I realize in a lot of states this may be different, but c'mon, man, it's Alabama.)
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Post by Manyo2 » Thu Aug 18, 2005 5:05 pm

1. In the Kentucky state format, math is on an equal plane with SS, Lit, and Sci and the question distribution of math is roughly equal to those three.
2. I don't think that there is a ton of computational calc in KY, altho it does come up once in a while.
5. I wish KY would descrease their level of math, but that is mostly because I'm not going to answer many math questions. I think that it can be construed as a legit test of knowledge.

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Re: Computational math...Illinois and elsewhere

Post by STPickrell » Thu Aug 18, 2005 7:12 pm

1. VHSL distribution is 7 of 55 questions being math. Of that, probably 3/4 is computational. Some of it is merely rewarding the ability to multiply, whereas some of it requires knowledge of some formula, such as Heron's Formula. Within the match, 2 tossups of 30 are math, 4 of the 20 directed questions are math and 1 of the 5 spares are math. The tossups are generally much easier than the directeds.

2. At the District level, we try to meet: 3.5 Arithmetic/probability, 2.0 Geometry/Trigonometry and 1.5 Algebra. At the Regional and State levels, we figure teams with seniors will have picked up enough calculus by then, and we go 3.5 Arithmetic/probability, 1.5 Geometry/Trigonometry, 1.5 Algebra and 0.5 Calculus.

3. We've had some computational science, a mix of Hardy-Weinburg, pH questions, chemical equation balancing. We're using a new writer for the chemistry and biology areas, so I'm not 100% sure what will be the difference. :grin:

4. As long as people know it'll be there, I agree with Mr Egan's point in that a math specialist is like a relief pitcher. If the guy can pick up the pop culture, or some other niche subject he/she likes then all the better. Since much of the math is in the directed rounds it might help somewhat to sub in a good at math but not good at anything else player in for the directed rounds.

5. As a former player, I didn't mind. I suppose it is more of a knowledge game for the HS players, as College-level math is much more closed to non-math majors than HS-level math.

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Post by Tegan » Thu Aug 18, 2005 8:58 pm

ASimPerson wrote: You're missing the point. Math has a place in quizbowl - questions about theories, mathmeticians, etc. do have a place. What is being argued is that computational math does not have a place in quizbowl - it rarely tests knowledge over an innate ability to add numbers the fastest.
I think this is the second time someone (I forget who .... months ago) said hte same thing. Maybe I am missing the point.

In Illinois, our math tends to be a bit higher level. There is no simple arithmetic, even at the frosh-soph level (maybe some writers, but that isn't the norm). Under computation, we use a mixture of algebra, geometry (which almost always starts with a player having to recall a formula, and not just "area of a circle"), some probability (permutations, combinations). At the varsity level, we drag in trig, some calculus (occasionally integral), more advanced statistics, analytic geometry, etc. Sure there are a few number cruncher race questions, but almost every question I can think of requires the player, at least initially to recall some basic knowledge of the particular subject. The computation is worthless without the proper recall (I had a player who was very fast at computation, but unfortunately was not very good at recalling how to do every one of the problems.

In this regard, at least a part of the computation process involves the same recall that a history question would.

In many formats (NAQT most notably), there are some questions that force a player to recall information, and then answer in a particular order. While the ordering may not be the same skill, I think you can argue that it falls into the same area of discussion ..... that is something beyond just recall.

LEFTSAIDFRED: I saw your post. I thought you were only raging against the NAQT style math questions (which get under my skin a bit too!). I didn't know that included the rest.

GOLDEN TIGER 86: I agree completely. There is no reason for any question in any category (math, history, etc) that is that rudimentary to decide a match.

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Post by jewtemplar » Thu Aug 18, 2005 9:05 pm

TJ's house written tournaments have 1/1 or fewer computation tossups/bonuses per round, and even this is more a matter of tradition, of fulfilling teams' expectations, etc. Of all subjects in quiz bowl, computational math is the one that exhibits the least correlation of legitimate subject knowledge to quiz bowl advantage. Quick number crunching and a few formulas are practically all you need to succeed at quiz bowl math, and these simply aren't the things that serious math students worry about. The "critical thinking" aspects of math are far more substantial than the arithmetic implementation. In a history class, you are expected to know who did what, what motivated it, etc. These bits find their way into good quizbowl history questions. In a math class you are expected to know how to go about solving problems, be they geometrical proofs, algebraic manipulations, minimization problems or tricky integrals. Messing up simple arithmetic is barely cause for point deduction on math tests, but quiz bowl is all or nothing. Rare is the math question that is long enough to actually reward deeper knowledge. If you can write such a question that doesn't unfairly disadvantage teams from schools that don't offer advanced math courses, and that tests depth of knowledge in the subject, they can be valuable tests of skill. In practice, this is extremely difficult to do. In my opinion, time is better spent writing balanced, pyramidal questions in areas that lend themselves more easily to quiz bowl than vainly attempting a computation question that is not grossly out of place.

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Post by quizbowllee » Thu Aug 18, 2005 9:24 pm

I think the fact that Illinois - the state with by far the most math in quiz bowl - allows 5 players to a team is actually very relevent to this whole debate. Because of that 5th player, they can afford to have the proverbial "relief pitcher/math person" on the team. Most states and formats only allow 4 to a team; therefore I'd have a hard time choosing which one of my great "quiz bowl" players to bench in favor of a math player.

As for Mr. Egan's question about math preference and those whose teams are bad at math, I'd like to point out that back in my high school quiz bowl days (1995-1999), I was pretty good at math. In fact, I doubled-up on math in 11th grade and finished two college-level math classes (Pre-cal/Trig and Calculus I) before I was a senior in high school. Despite this, I never really felt that computational math belonged in the game. I still feel this way.

Now the team that I currently coach isn't that great at upper-level math (they are all sophomores this year), but - as I stated in an earlier post - they are getting much, much better. I can usually remember a shortcut or formula that will help them (though I have forgotten a lot, too...). In fact, they've even powered a few NAQT computational math questions - a feat that last year seemed impossible to them. But, whenever I say "Pencil and Paper Ready," they inevitably groan, roll their eyes, mutter under their breath, or worse....
It seems that nothing can ruin the momentum of a good match - be it in practice or in an actual tournament - quicker than those words "Pencil and Paper Ready..."

Now, like ASimPerson said, questions ABOUT math are great and I encourage that. However, the argument that actually DOING math is part of high school and should therefore be part of high school quiz bowl could lead to a slippery slope. For example, here is a list of things that - by that ridiculous definition - SHOULD be included in high school quiz bowl:

1) Quickly write a paragraph comparing Romanticism to Realism. Your paragraph will be scored according to grammatical useage, historical accuracy, and insight.
2) On a sheet of paper, correctly diagram the following sentence: (insert mundane sentence here).
3) List at least five things -other than slavery - that led to the onset of the US Civil War.
4) Using the colored pencils in front of you, create an accurate sketch of the flag of Finland.
5) Translate the following passage from 100 Years of Solitude into English...

The list would go on forever. All of these are things that are important in a classroom. They take knowledge and test a student's ability to APPLY that knowledge. That is not what quiz bowl is about at all. Despite the fact that my team would excel at almost all of the above-mentioned activities, I would vehemently (as most of you would) argue that they have no place in quiz bowl. And neither does computational math.
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Post by Deviant Insider » Thu Aug 18, 2005 11:36 pm

Hey! Coloring flags was my idea! (Scroll down) I already slid down the slope!

Seriously, the points made just above are important, though I don't know whether or not they support or shoot down the use of mathematics in Quiz Bowl.

Along the point Mr. Lee was making, Quiz Bowl is actually quite different from academia. Parroting one- or two-word answers will get you nowhere in academia, though it will get you everywhere in Quiz Bowl. If somebody is an expert in a subject in an academic sense, then they have added to the body of knowledge on that subject. Usually (though not always), this addition consists of analysis rather than discovery.

Even in the quiz bowl questions that we consider academic, there is nothing truly academic in answering them. That is, telling the Bronte sisters apart, being able to recite the Presidents or chemical elements in order, or knowing the nicknames of Beethoven's symphonies will help you sometimes in Quiz Bowl but will not impress anybody in academia. Remembering such things may help you make connections, but it is the connections and your explanations of them that will matter rather than the facts themselves.

Your English teacher will never ask you who wrote Wuthering Heights, and your ochestra director will never ask you who composed The Brandenburg Concerto. Mr. Lee is right.

I suppose some of this comes down to what the point of quiz bowl is. If the point is to quickly recall facts, then there should be no computation. And I certainly agree that computation can disrupt the flow of a match--I often skip questions when I am reading during practice for just that reason. Also, math dilutes the curriculum--Illinois teams focus less on social studies than other teams because it supplies only 20% of our questions.

I still believe that quiz bowl should draw from across the curriculum, and that means computational math. Historical and conceptual math questions are OK too, but the knowledge bases of even the best students is not big enough to write too many of those questions.

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Post by dtaylor4 » Thu Aug 18, 2005 11:53 pm

First of all, why are we having this discussion AGAIN? How many other threads have been along this topic?

Secondly, IMO, if math is to be included, it has to be comp math. There are only so many mathematicians, theories, etc. The only formats where math is a major is Illinois and the PAC. In NAQT, forget about it. Even the best of the best math players in Illinois can't power NAQT math. Personally, for the sake of Illinois scholastic bowl, math needs to be eliminated. It would force the below average teams to actually study (hopefully).

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Post by AKKOLADE » Fri Aug 19, 2005 12:24 am

DaGeneral wrote:First of all, why are we having this discussion AGAIN? How many other threads have been along this topic?
Actually, we aren't having this discussion AGAIN - if we are, then the last time it occured was prior to the accidental wiping of the board, in which case it's been several months. There have been two threads related to math in high school quiz bowl - one regarding the usage of calculators and one regarding how to properly word rules regarding correct responses for computational questions. Those subjects may have branched into math questions in general, but this is the first discussion that is based solely around it.
DaGeneral wrote:Secondly, IMO, if math is to be included, it has to be comp math. There are only so many mathematicians, theories, etc.

Why can't math be represented like chemistry, biology, computer science, physics and all other scientific topics by asking questions about its various laws, historical figures and important components? Maybe you're right in stating that not all computational math questions can be replaced by "factual" questions (for lack of a better term), but I and others believe that math in general should just be cut down and included under the general distribution banner of science.
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Post by dtaylor4 » Fri Aug 19, 2005 12:29 am

I do agree that math needs to be reduced to a minor, i.e. art or music

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Post by jewtemplar » Fri Aug 19, 2005 12:39 am

ReinsteinD wrote: Along the point Mr. Lee was making, Quiz Bowl is actually quite different from academia. Parroting one- or two-word answers will get you nowhere in academia, though it will get you everywhere in Quiz Bowl. If somebody is an expert in a subject in an academic sense, then they have added to the body of knowledge on that subject. Usually (though not always), this addition consists of analysis rather than discovery...
The key difference is that someone with a high degree of legitimate knowledge in a subject like literature or the humanities is very likely to know the standard quiz bowl facts. Someone who has a real talent for math and substantial exposure to advanced mathematics is not particularly likely to be able to perform arithmetic quickly, which is what most computation questions come down to. Theoretically, it would be nice if quizbowl reflected the curriculum. Unfortunately, that leads to bad questions. I think good questions are more important than representative ones.

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Post by dtaylor4 » Fri Aug 19, 2005 12:45 am

Not necessarily. Most people who can do computational science i.e. physics/chemistry can do comp math pretty quickly.

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Post by Tegan » Fri Aug 19, 2005 10:07 am

quizbowllee wrote:I think the fact that Illinois - the state with by far the most math in quiz bowl - allows 5 players to a team is actually very relevent to this whole debate.
I would agree .... if Illinois quizbowl had evolved with only four players, I would think that computation questions would have been curtailed a long time ago. The fifth player is critical, which is why in other formats using four players its quite difficult to do advanced math, or math that can be solved without a quick trick (like NAQT). Panasonic gets around this by giving a minute and calculators on the questions. It makes me wonder if this is why Illinois went with five person teams in the first place (because the early coaches felt that computation was important, and that four people wasn't enough).
However, the argument that actually DOING math is part of high school and should therefore be part of high school quiz bowl could lead to a slippery slope. For example, here is a list of things that - by that ridiculous definition - SHOULD be included in high school quiz bowl:

1) Quickly write a paragraph (sic)
2) On a sheet of paper, correctly diagram (sic)
3) List at least five things (sic)
Now this I found to be a very convincing argument against including computation. If you include that skill, then why not writing?

This is something to think about .....

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Post by Deviant Insider » Fri Aug 19, 2005 11:42 am

From our intramural tournament this year:
If you haven’t seen Episode III by now, I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with you. You’ve all seen it, right? (Wait for response. Glare meanly at anyone who responds negatively.) Anyway, this is going to be a performance bonus. I want your team to reenact the final lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin, complete with choreography and hokey dialogue. Oh, and let’s change one thing that every Star Wars fan wants to see – make sure that Jar Jar somehow dies during the battle. [To the team that answered the toss-up correctly] Because you guys answered the question correctly, your team has the advantage of performing second. [To the other team] The rest of you have 45 seconds to prepare. Annnnnnd.... go!

[Scoring: Score teams based on awesomeness of the battle and the accuracy of the dialogue. Award minimal points if Jar Jar doesn’t die. Award extra points if Jar Jar dies a slow, painful death. Watch both teams perform before awarding points, then award 20 points between the two teams. So if both teams gave comparable performances, give both teams 10 points. If one team was merely good while the other team was amazing, maybe do a 5/15 distribution.]
Computation is very different than writing because there can be a right answer. While the question above was a lot of fun among friends, it would be foolish to use it in any regular competition because disagreements would arise over scoring it.

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Post by jewtemplar » Fri Aug 19, 2005 12:22 pm

DaGeneral wrote:Not necessarily. Most people who can do computational science i.e. physics/chemistry can do comp math pretty quickly.
People who do mental computations regularly are certainly quicker, but in my experience you do less and less mental/manual arithmetic as you progress in your knowledge of math and science. If you are actually carrying out a precise computation, you'll want to use a calculator. The only reasons (and they are substantial ones) that people need mental math today are for making quick estimates (in a scientific/mathematical context) and for "real life" encounters like calculating tips and making change. It is silly to label something a math or science question when the competition comes down to a speed contest on a computation that a mathematician or scientist would check on a calculator. Quiz bowl students, by and large, know how to do arithmetic. Computation speed just doesn't matter. Speed of recall of answers from other subjects is also of dubious value, which is why pyramidal questions allow a student with deeper knowledge to win, rather then battling on the giveaway someone who memorized a list. If computation questions could be structured to weight knowledge substantially more, I think they would have a solid place in the high school canon. That structuring is just not easy to do.

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Post by suds1000 » Fri Aug 19, 2005 9:38 pm

jewtemplar wrote:If computation questions could be structured to weight knowledge substantially more, I think they would have a solid place in the high school canon.
I agree. Not only would that place be solid, but it would also be worthwhile.

As a matter of fact, I'm going to disagree with a number of people here and say that NAQT has done that, to an extent...at the very least, they have done us a service in making the first real attempts at pyramidal computation tossups. Personally, I think they've done well.

Hopefully I'm not too biased. I've powered probably over ten NAQT math tossups in my career (between several years in high school and the one college tournament that I played on IS questions), because I used to do all those math competitions in high school and knew most of the tricks. In that way, it became clear to me that, on NAQT math, it is a combination of trick/formula/mathematical knowledge and computational speed which is rewarded first. Next comes knowledge and slower computational speed. After that is someone with just computational speed and ability to understand and apply whatever method is described in the tossup. And last is the (admittedly often stupid) giveaway, for anyone else.

As a quick digression, I'll point out that tossups are written in order to reward those with greater knowledge and speed. Attempting to differentiate knowledge to the most minute level would require that tossups be 15 lines long, but everyone knows we don't have that kind of time and that moderators can only read so much in a day. That's where speed of recall and/or computation comes in. If it weren't being tested, there would be no reasons for time limit on questions other than not wanting to be stuck on one question all day.

That being said, NAQT math tossups do the best job of achieving this aforementioned pyramidal standard that I have seen to date. Because they are able to differentiate between the hypothetical players of varying knowledge levels that I described above, they're the best that exist right now.

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Post by dschafer » Sat Aug 20, 2005 2:25 pm

Now, before I start, let me mention that I am certainly biased, as I am one of the math people who also does math team that BuzzerZen mentioned, but I feel that there can certainly be a place in quiz bowl for math computation.

When I think of math computation, I tend to think of pyramidal math computation, somewhat similar to NAQT style math, as opposed to "What is 123 * 456". In a pyramidal question tournament, I'm not quite sure how a question like "123 * 456" would fit in, but there are many ways to write decent pyramidal math computation questions. I try to structure mine somewhat like this:

1. Start with "Pencil and paper ready", and give statement of problem.
2. Mention brute force way of solving problem, while giving subtle clue as to what the question is asking.
3. Mention subtle, probably faster way of solving problem
4. Straight out ask problem, and end with "You will have 10 seconds"

This approach, I've found, solves one of the problems Notjustolddeadwhiteguys brought up, where one starts to work on a math problem only to get beaten out by someone on a giveaway. Ideally, I envision the order that people would get the problem as follows:

1. Someone who immmediately sees how to solve the problem; he/she will probably interrupt before the "For 10 points".

2. Someone who sees how to solve the problem elegantly before that method is given. This person will either interrupt near the end or will answer right after the end of the question.

3. Someone who quickly applies the fast method given in the question. This person will probably get the problem 3-5 seconds into the 10 seconds given.

4. Someone who does the brute force method given. He/she might answer 6-8 seconds into the 10 second period.

5. Someone who slowly does the problem, using either method. This person will answer right before time expires.

Given this order of responses, it seems to me that a math computation tossup has a similar distribution as any other pyramidal tossup. Someone with deep knowledge of the subjet will get it early, someone with moderate knowledge will get it in the middle, and the average player can get it by the end.

Addressing some of jewtemplar's remarks on minor math errors, most of the questions I've written so far tend not to rely as much on large amounts of numbers, but mostly on figuring out the technique and applying it. The computation errors that can be made on some of the questions I've written would truly have to be major. I've tried to write questions that don't make anyone groan "I wish I had a calculator", although that is probably inspired by the mostly calculator-free math team competitions I do.

Regarding the number of math questions in a packet, I don't think that math should be on the level of science, social studies and english (much as I might wish!), but I think that the 1/1 we use at our tournament is satisfactory. If you use the average high school cirriculum as a basis, then each individual math course should theoretically get the same amount of time as each individual science course. Unfortunately, trying to write 14 distinct questions on any one math course would be virtually impossible.

Also, regarding advanced math, I will agree that my 3rd semester calc question in the finals of our tournament last year might have been a bit too much, but I don't feel calc should be excluded. There are questions that require AP Bio, AP Chem, AP Physics, AP US History, AP European history, or AP Literature knowledge; why should AP Calc AB or AP Calc BC be treated any differently? However, not all math questions should require AP Calc, just as not all history questions should require AP history, and not all Bio questions should require AP bio.

Finally, I absolutely agree with Notjustolddeadwhiteguys's statement at the end:
Notjustolddeadwhiteguys wrote:Overall, though i think they are fair in that the people who take an interest in math are more likely to get them, as with almost any category. Just as if someone enjoys watching sports or listening to popular music, they'll get the obligatory tradsh question, or if someone loves nineteenth century female authors, theyre more likely to get the obligatory Bronte sisters question.
Last edited by dschafer on Sun Aug 21, 2005 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by solonqb » Sat Aug 20, 2005 2:56 pm

Out of sheer curiosity, I wonder if chemical equilibrium questions might not make decent computation tossups. If the starting amounts and equilibrium constants are picked just so and kept simple, a player who knows what simplifications to make (5% rule) and what to do should be able to easily solve it.
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Post by First Chairman » Mon Aug 22, 2005 1:14 pm

OAC: mathematics is required in one of the ten categories that begin the game (category #2). Usually the questions will take 20-60 seconds for someone to buzz in (on the tossup anyway) and respond. There are 3 such questions worth a maximum value of 7 points (of the 90 possible points in an official game).
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Post by samer » Mon Aug 22, 2005 3:01 pm

Tegan wrote: Now this I found to be a very convincing argument against including computation. If you include that skill, then why not writing?
Because math questions *usually* lend themselves to concrete, easily judged answers, while essays don't. [There's a reason very few math questions ask you to prove the Pythagorean theorem. . . .]
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MSHSAA

Post by genius00345 » Sun Aug 28, 2005 12:07 am

MSHSAA (Missouri) format has a lot of comp. math....

(1) I'm not sure of a percentage

(2) Tends to fall around Geometry/Algebra 2 level...but there are also some questions each match from the other levels.

(3) Very little. Maybe one per match at the most, sometimes none.

(4) Our coach thinks math is great. He teaches science/math, though. I personally agree.

(5) With 20/20, I think that there should be probably 3 or 4 math tossups, and 2 or 3 bonuses.

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Post by Personamb » Tue Sep 13, 2005 1:12 am

I'm one of those "relief pitchers" that Mr. Egan talked about. I do math. That's about it. My opinion on whether or not comp. questions belong is obviously biased, so I won't go over that. However, I will describe HOW I play when answering comp. questions.

Many questions (sadly) ARE but variations on a theme. "If there are [2legged creatures] and [4leggedcreatures] on a farm, and there are x heads and y legs, how many of each are there?", any kind of 2-dice probability problem, and coin-flipping probability problems, age questions (A is 3 times as old as B, will be 2 times as old in 5 years, how old?), and a few other kinds tend to be very quick for me because there are methods for doing them very quickly.

If I can tell where the question is going, I kind of slip out of "math" mode and go into a quick little algorithm, really, to determine what the answer is.

But if it's a question-type that I DON'T immediately recognize, then I have to legitimately do the problem, and get creative to find the clever way to do it, quickly.

I don't know how much this will help, but just thought I'd contribute, being close to the topic at hand.
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Computational Math vs. Writing

Post by rcline » Tue Sep 13, 2005 12:05 pm

Tegan wrote:

Now this I found to be a very convincing argument against including computation. If you include that skill, then why not writing?


Because math questions *usually* lend themselves to concrete, easily judged answers, while essays don't. [There's a reason very few math questions ask you to prove the Pythagorean theorem. . . .]
Writing and math problem solving are really apples and oranges.

A closer comparison in the literary field to solving a math problem might be diagramming a sentence or correcting sentence errors.
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