Blog #102 – ORGANIZING A MATHEMATICS TEAM

Organizing a mathematics team requires systematic planning and dedication. Initially, the focus is on recruiting students for the team. Several things can be done to be successful in recruiting. If your school has daily announcements, make use of them to inform students about team practices (dates, time, and type of contests). Secondly, posters or flyers can provide the same information as those provided during the announcements. Thirdly, get members of the mathematics department to provide a description of each contest that you coach along with the same information provided during announcements.

At the first meeting, outline a plan for success for your team. Inform those present about the practice schedule, upcoming tournaments, how practices will be structured, and how participation can impact class performance and potential scholarships in the future. Give students an opportunity to ask questions. Make them aware of what type of instructional workbooks and practice materials you will be using to prepare them for the tournaments they will be attending. If you have coached previously, you might share some of the successes you have had. For coaches with less experience, do your best to motivate them by telling them how you plan to help them succeed.

During the initial practices, try and prepare lessons that will focus on concepts that will prepare them for Number Sense, Calculator Applications and Mathematics. Develop practice materials that team members can use to reinforce what you are teaching. If some members of the team are more experienced, you could let them take practice tests while you train the novices on your team. It is important that you find a balance between training novices and answering questions for more experienced team members.

Prior to the tournament season, provide a glimpse of competing teams and individuals. This will help members determine how much additional practice they may have to do to improve their chances for success. During this period, you might provide information about what they may expect at tournaments that they attend. Once they begin attending tournaments, time has to be devoted to discussing tests that they have taken. Emphasis should be on reinforcing strengths and minimizing weaknesses.

Announcements, school newspapers or school newsletters and local papers should be used to promote your team. Highlighting accomplishments will instill self-confidence in team members. These are also excellent tools to recruit more members to your team. Fundraising can also be planned to purchase team shirts, instructional mathematics workbooks, practice tests, pay for meals, pay for entry fees, pay for transportation and purchase additional supplies. As I stated earlier, organizing a mathematics team will require planning and hard work. The rewards for you and your students will be well worth it.

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