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Mathcounts in Saigon

Our teams traveled to Vietnam to take part in the regional Mathcounts competition last weekend. Since I started the program at JIS and pushed for an interscholastic tournament, check out the phenomenal growth:

  • 2012 – 18 students from 1 school, school-wide competition in Jakarta
  • 2013 – 49 students from 5 schools, competition in Jakarta
  • 2014 – 72 students from 8 schools, competition in Singapore
  • 2015 – 108 students from 11 schools, competition in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

I’d say we’ve gotten things pretty well off the ground!

Mathcounts in Singapore

Mathcounts in Singapore got off to a bit of a rough start, as one of our students was turned away at the airport due to visa issues, then we had a flight cancellation, and finally a broken bus, the team finally made it and was raring to go. Late night studying and quick trips to Subway were all the rage for our kids.

Here’s the team in all their glory after today’s competition. Mathcounts can get rough…

Mathletes at their finest

Mathcounts tourney

Here are some images from the tournament and trip. I was really proud of the kids – well behaved, and they placed 33rd out of the 56 teams there. They were noted as the second-most improved team there – yay!!

Mathcounts National competition

Hints for State Department team coach:

  • Everything at the hotel is expensive! Bring all the supplies you can
  • An outgrowth of the previous hint: see if you can arrange a shopping trip to a local Target or Walmart to stock up on supplies for back home. Try to contact other overseas schools’ reps (DoDDs, Guam, etc)
  • Bring printed-out tests for practice, pencils, sharpeners, and blank (scratch) paper
  • The last breakfast of the tournament is just cereal and croissants – don’t get up if you don’t have to!
  • Bring lots of pins – try to get national flags, PTA support, etc

Mathcounts 2010

So another year, another Mathcounts.

Unfortunately this time around, we didn’t have any schools come in for the tournament, but we still had a good in-house competition.

The kids worked hard – well, at least on the tests. I’m thinking that many of the practices during the year were more of an excuse to get free popcorn than to study math 🙂

But they were tearing their hair out on the tougher problems and put on a fantastic show for the elementary students who came to watch the countdown round.

Of course, I think the highlight of the weekend was seeing the kids’ expressions when we pulled out the team t-shirts: they absolutely loved them! And it was also funny to see the reactions on the many adults’ faces (cough* Susan *cough) who don’t understand what they say.

Dave, on the other hand, is so cool as a middle school teacher that he came up with the slogan and thinks it is a pretty darn good one for a math team:

(ask a middle schooler if you need a translation…)


ASB Mathcounts Green TeamWe held ASB’s first ever Mathcounts competition this weekend, and I think things went off pretty well. We’ve had up to 16 kids coming for practices, but with other events (including an Iron Maiden concert here in Bombay – talk about a phrase I never imagined ever writing in my life!) we had 8 show up for the meet. That works out perfectly, though, as the team events involve 4 kids on each team, so we had 2 groups to go head to head.When the individual events finished on Friday, we had one person who was clearly ahead of the pack, but then a big logjam behind him. Our team competition on Saturday was very close, and our individual “Countdown Round” was a huge success, with several upsets and people changing final placement.

ASB Gold TeamI think the parents enjoyed the day as much as the kids, and the pizza afterwards didn’t hurt. We had really sweet looking trophies made, and hopefully the ‘buzz’ generated by the event will help get even more participation in ‘doing math’ as we go forward. All in all, a great end to our activity and a great start to the weekend.

Korean Kuisine

Alea and Breck seated at the cook-em-at-your-own-table Korean barbecue jointSusan and I worked in Korea long, long ago, and I fell in love with the food. I was really lucky to have 2 Korean kids travel with me to the Mathcounts competition, and we chowed when we stopped over in Seoul on the way back.

One of the families wanted to take us out for dinner, and set things up at a local Korean restaurant (according to all reports, the best in Jakarta). Unfortunately, Susan was still feeling the effects of her food poisoning from this weekend’s adventures, and so had to sit this one out. Alea and Breck, however, were true risk-takers and joined me for their first-ever taste of Korean food.

(As an aside, I have a sign Breck made for me when he was about 4 years old with a big red “X” drawn over a red and green squiggle with the caption “This is a no-kimchi zone.” So I’ve known for a while where their taste bud loyalties were!)

Once we showed up, and all the little side dishes were brought out, however, they really were good about trying things. Our particular meal was very light on the seafood, which I think made things easier, and by the time the barbecue was lit up at our table, Alea was in heaven.

We ate and ate and ate (with Breck experiencing some measure of a learning curve on the chopsticks), only to find that the “meat” portion of the meal was to be followed by the “dinner” part – and we were already stuffed! We enjoyed some noodles and rice, and then rolled ourselves on home. I was very pleased with the way the kids tried things they’d never had before, and I foresee some Korean food in our future (at least for Alea and me!).

It’s a small world after all

So I’m off on the Disney World adventure this afternoon. Two of our Mathcounts students were among the 4-highest scoring of all international schools, and (since one was the overall highest scorer) I get to be the official State Department Overseas Schools team coach! The award includes an all-expenses paid trip to Orlando, so we are heading out tonight.

As I was getting all the last-minute paperwork in order, I started thinking about the huge distances involved in this travel. We fly from Jakarta to Seoul, then to Chicago, then to Orlando. At the end of the tournament, we return via JFK (New York) and Seoul. I added up the distances involved in all the different legs, and got a total of 21,954 miles. Since the circumference of the earth at the equator (according to Google) is 24,901 miles, we are traveling 88% of the way around the world.

That made me curious as to what would be on the exact opposite place on the planet, and my curiosity led me to this (unscientific) site. It turns out that we are pretty close to being exactly across the planet from Bogota, Columbia, and that not many other places match up with other land masses. Checking it out, we were almost directly across from the USA when we lived in Mumbai, but because we were in the same hemisphere it shortened things up a bit.

The other side of the world

In any case, it is time to hit the road for more than 36 hours of total travel time – one way! I leave the house at 5:30 pm on Tuesday and figure to get into the Disney World hotel around 7:30 pm Wednesday in Orlando – or 6:30 am Thursday back in Jakarta.

Jet lag city, here we come!!

Whoo hoo!

Gotta love the Indian sense of karma on the road. Don’t worry about things like helmets and seatbelts and carseats and rules, because nothing’s going to stop your number coming up when it is due on the big wheel of destiny, baby!

This guy came zooming up behind us today on the way home, and I just happened to have my camera (because of the Mathcounts tournament). Check out his kid’s hair whipping in the wind!

But don’t worry, dad’s got a good grip around his leg in case he has to stop real quickly – that’ll prevent the head from whipping forward, right?

Downtown visit and the Dhobi Ghats

Math group at the Gateway of IndiaWinding up the school year, one of my ‘chores’ is emptying everything off the computer. It is kind of like cleaning out the attic at times; you never know what you’ll come across.

In any case, as I was moving pictures and such over to my backup drive, I found some pictures that I had meant to post but had never gotten around to. No, not the Egypt trip. Those pictures are done, but we are having severe laggage in getting the travelogue part actually written. (the pictures and page navigation are here, but are still in a very disorganized and incomplete state).

These are actually from our Mathcounts competition back in Februray. As part of the weekend’s events, we took the participants downtown to see some sights and find some Mumbai math. It was a great afternoon, and we did get to take some fun pictures on the way down, so they are now posted as another view of our life here.

But the truly unique visit that we made that afternoon was to the Dhobi Ghats – the sprawling area of town where dirty clothes from all over the city are brought in to be slathered in soap and slapped against the concrete walls of hundreds of open-air laundry stalls. Quite the sight, and an iconic Mumbai landmark.

And while we’re on the topic of last-minute webpage updating and all, I just realized that – while the pages have been up for quite some time – I’d never made a blog blurb about adding them. So, in case you hadn’t noticed, the Alibag trip page is posted as well!

Back from one, off on another

Alea and Dave got back from our Week Without Walls trips on Thursday and Friday respectively, and now we are all packing up for our week long trip to Udaipur. Mom and Breck had some quality alone time, including day of canceled school! There had been some political unrest with a nationalistic party (the same group that had been causing problems earlier), and the police arrested the leader on Tuesday. Because of the possibility of trouble at the courthouse – just down the road from ASB – school was cancelled Wednesday. This, of course, had no bearing on us since we were out of the city, but it gave Susan and Breck some ‘at home’ time. (Some teachers took the opportunity to go shopping and get their nails done, as apparently there was no issue in our part of town, but the Stutz’s decided to stay home)

In any case, our trips were great – exhausting and physically demanding, but very satisfying overall. Both trips did some hiking, rappelling, outdoors cooking, as well as exploring India’s flora and fauna. Alea went to Matheran with the 6th grade, and did many of the same activities that Dave’s kids did last year. She found a scorpion, however – something that none of us ever saw! Talk about a fantastic find on her part!

The 7th grade trip to Durshet was centered around developing some teamwork, mountaineering, and orienteering skills that would allow the kids to track down and capture Veerappan, an infamous Indian bandit. The conclusion of the trip was them capturing him and throwing him in the pool – that’s where the picture is from. We made village visits and climbed to Buddhist caves – all of which will get written about in due time.

For now, however, we are off to Rajasthan for a week. When we get back, I will make efforts to get the pages from the last few weeks up and running. According to my count, I will be behind by 5 pages: Goa, Life in India 6, Week Without Walls, Village Life, and Udaipur. Of course, we also have a Halloween parade that first week back (it is being held November 8 here, since everyone is on vacation during the real date), we get back to teaching, soccer practices start on Wednesdays and Mathcounts on Thursdays, so those might be a bit slow coming out.

Who knows – we’ll figure it all out! Have a great Halloween!


(No, that’s not a picture of Oktoberfest)

In the past week, after our return from Goa, things have been moving at a lightning pace.

At school, we’re getting ready for the week without walls trips coming up next Monday, organizing community service projects with local NGOs, preparing for a family fun day in December, getting Mathcounts up and running, and writing report cards (due tomorrow).

At home, our single female platy (fish) had babies, so now there are orange fry to go with the black (mollies) and clear (guppies) ones in the tank. There was another festival this past week in town – that is where the picture is from. If you want to read more about it, check out the blog of a teacher that we knew in Belgrade who moved to Chennai, India this year…

But the real theme of the weekend was Oktoberfest. Saturday night was our big shindig – check out the online invitation. We partied and drank and talked and did the chicken dance until the wee hours. Some things that were new that went well this year: India sauerkraut is great and the homemade pretzels were a hit! And something that I wanted to get but could not find in Mumbai (to get over the summer for next year?) – kazoos for kazooing along with the oom-pah-pah music!

And that’s all I’m going to say about that. After all – what happens at Oktoberfest stays at Oktoberfest!! Plus we didn’t bring our camera up, so we’ll have to see what incriminating photos our party guests took.

Today it was all about a week without walls meeting and rooftop birthday party. It is great to see parents hanging out, with all the kids running around, drinking beer left over from the night before. Great times!