FAQ's: Math Olympiad and more...

Plan to enroll early

Demand for Math Olympiads classes is extremely high and Dynamic Teaching has added more and more sections every year. For a decade, we have reached full capacity. Parents and students who wait till the last minute to sign up will be relegated to a waitlist with no guarantee for admission. Our staff does everything it can to accommodate our community, but we will never sacrifice quality of teaching by overcrowding our classroom. So that means some hopeful students will just have to wait until the next school year.

The moral of the story: SIGN UP WELL BEFORE THE DEADLINE to ensure your student's spot. We share specific enrollment window dates with our community every year.

Class Size

Class size is based on tables.  At Creekside, we have 9 tables of 3 = 27 students (maximum). This follows the “Mr. G. Rule of 3.”  No student ever sits more than three rows from the board. The Individualized Instruction section will have a maximum of 25 students (5 students per TA).

What are Division E and Division M? What are E Honors and M Accelerated sections?

Division E” means Elementary School.  For Math Olympiads, that means grades 4-5.  “Division M” means Middle School, or grades 6-8.  Math Olympiads contests are by grade.  Students in grades 4-5 almost always take Division E.  Students in grades 7-8 must take Division M.  Students in 6th grade usually take M; in rare cases, we will allow a 6th grader to take division E.

Honors/Accelerated sections are by instructor approval only.  Students earn admittance to an Honors section in one of two ways:

  • performance in the previous year’s contests (90th percentile or higher), or
  • qualification from the diagnostic exam, administered during the first week of classes (all students will take such an exam during the first week) 

Content in the E Honors and M Accelerated sections is the same as in regular sections; additional lessons are provided when there is extra class time.  The main difference lies in the speed of teaching.

What about the 2nd and 3rd grade class?

By popular demand, Dynamic Teaching will be offering a Math Olympiads class geared towards 2nd and 3rd graders for the first time!  The class will be different in two ways:

1) Duration This class is for 50 minutes instead of the typical 75 minutes.  This will allow the younger students to concentrate even after a full day of regular school.

2) Expectations Because students haven’t mastered writing yet, we will not expect them to show all their work (as we do for all students in grades 4 and up).  We will, however, still explain problems step by step. 

What is the Individualized Instruction section?

This is our deluxe offering, focused on fundamentals, in which students are placed in small groups with a 5:1 student to TA ratio.  A dedicated Teaching Assistant will be watching each student at every step to ensure they are focused, concentrating, and understanding how to get from the start of the problem all the way to the end.  Unlike in our other sections, homework must be completed every week to ensure progress.  Enrollment is by instructor consent only.

How long does a class session last?

2nd and 3rd grade classes run for 50 minutes. All other sessions run for 75 minutes.

What are TA’s, and what do they do?

TA’s are Teaching Assistants.  All TA’s are former students of mine who have taken Math Olympiads classes and scored at least 90th percentile on their contests.  Furthermore, TA’s must have strong leadership qualities, maturity, and a natural ability to relate to their peers.  TA’s undergo thorough training so that they are prepared for the challenges of assisting in a fast-paced classroom.

Each section will have one TA dedicated to that class.  TA’s are entirely responsible for grading homework, which is assigned about three times per month on average.  TA’s also work interactively with individual students and assist with group work as needed.  TA’s typically teach one problem at the board per class and also distribute class rewards, keep track of bonus points earned, assist with classroom management and behavior (including timeouts), and help with dismissal. 

Who teaches the class?

Mr. G is the main teacher for Math Olympiads classes in Cupertino and will teach nearly every week.  During weeks when he is out of town, classes will be taught by Ms. T.  Ms. T. graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in computer science, worked many years in the engineering field, audited several of my classes, enrolled her two sons in Math Olympiads for five years, and basically knows everything there is to know about our classes.

Math Explorations will be taught by Brandon Muliadi while ATM will be taught by Dylan Frake.

For Palo Alto and Fremont, we are finalizing our instructors and will announce them when ready.

Is Math Olympiads a raw math class?

No. Some math concepts are indeed taught (prime numbers, area of shapes, rate/work/speed, and so forth) but that is not the primary element. That is because Math Olympiads is CONTEST math.

How do Math Olympiads contests work?

Students take five contests, administered during class, over the course of the year – one per month from November through March.  The contests are written in New York but taken here.  All problems are free response (not multiple choice) word problems.

What then do the students learn?

Students learn, first and foremost, how to break down the problem. They learn how to organize information, how to choose an appropriate strategy given the wording of the problem, and how to solve creatively when no obvious solution presents itself.  In short, students learn how to think.

When TA’s correct and return homework, students learn what they are doing well and what needs to be improved.  This feedback allows students to pinpoint their individual learning needs efficiently.

Do lessons repeat from year to year?

No. Math Olympiads is offered on a 3-year non-repeating cycle. Thus, a student can take division E in grades 3, 4, and 5 and not repeat lessons, or take division M in grades 6, 7, and 8 and not repeat lessons

Where do the lessons come from?

Mr. G writes the lessons himself, using prior contests to help him create problems that the students will enjoy.  Most weeks, students will tackle a set of five different problems, covering a variety of math ideas.  About once per quarter, students will have a thematic lesson that focuses on one specific concept.  Finally, once a year, students enjoy a hilarious “story” that sets up the problems for that week.

Occasionally, TA’s will write problems for the students to solve.  These are checked and approved by Mr. G for accuracy and appropriate difficulty level. Students especially love story week and TA problems.

How do I sign up for a class?

We are extremely pleased to report that we are no longer using a lottery system!  To register, please visit [link] and you can see space availability in real time.  What a relief!

If classes are full for the times that would work for you, get on a waiting list for a section that you are able to make.  I will do my best to accommodate as many waitlisted students as possible.

Fremont and Palo Alto class registration will take place completely online right here! 

Is this a quarterly class or an annual class?

Math Olympiads is a 9 1/2-month course (late August through early June) that runs for 37 weeks.  Parents pay once for the entire year and do not need to re-register in the winter or spring.  Because this is a non-changing weekly class, make sure you are able to commit to the time for which you are signing up

Note that there are scheduled breaks that coincide with the Cupertino Union School District Calendar.  Specifically, there is no class during the week of Thanksgiving, the last two weeks of December, winter break (February), and spring break (April).

Can I switch my child’s section if their schedule changes during the year?

We understand that kids may be busy with sports or other activities. However, Dynamic Teaching student roster spots and schedules are fixed. Every single spot in each section is given to one student for the entire year.  Students are not permitted to switch sections for a number of reasons (such as not going over class size limits and consistency in TA feedback). If you are concerned about the possibility of your child’s schedule changing, please consider a different activity.

Why are these classes popular with parents?

Based on course evaluations that I have received as well as verbal feedback from parents, I have identified four main reasons for the popularity of this program.

  • Convenience. For some residents, the classes are taught practically in their backyard. 
  • Tremendous Value.  For a breakdown of our program vs. other Math Olympiads programs in the area, please see page five.  The quality of both the program itself as well as the numerous Special Events creates value that far exceeds that of comparable Math Olympiads programs. 
  • Subject Matter Parents in this area are especially interested in seeing their children succeed educationally.  Instilling a love of math at an early age is clearly a top priority. 
  • Teaching Quality.  That goes for Mr. G, Ms. T, and our Teaching Assistants!

Why are these classes popular with students?

Students are not concerned about convenience or value, but they are certainly interested in other aspects of the class.  Here are the main reasons why students typically enjoy the Math Olympiads program:

Challenge.  The problems range in difficulty from straightforward (15%) to moderate (35%), difficult (35%), and very tough (15%).  Challenging problems are fun because you aren’t expected to solve them, but you feel fantastic when you do. 

Teaching Methodology and Style.  NO LECTURES!  I use the Socratic method for all lessons.  Students “teach” the problem by instructing me (or Ms. T, or their TA) what to do at each step.  Thus, learning math becomes interactive and fun.  Students also read all problems out loud.  The problems themselves are designed to be silly, hilarious, and sometimes ridiculous.  What better way to engage a student? 

Discipline/Timeouts/Surprises/Rewards/Games.  At the beginning of each class, I write 1-2-3 on the board.  Students are allowed no more than two timeouts as a class.  If the class does not get a third timeout, they receive whatever surprise I have prepared that night.  Food surprises range from carrots to brownies to onion explosions to hot chili gummies; game surprises range from RQG’s (five dollar instant questions) to 10-for-10 (one minute set of questions for $10) to instant winner shots (with whatever ball I have brought to class). 

  •       Special Events.  We have a fantastic lineup of special events for Math Olympiad students and their families.  The list below is confirmed; other activities are likely to be added as well.
  •       Jan. 27: Simultaneous Chess Exhibition
  •       Mar. 23: Games Day (Night) XIII
  •       May 4: HCMMC 2024
  •       May 18: Parent Appreciation Day and BPRN (Bonus Point Redemption Night)

By participating in Math Olympiads class as well as special events, students have an opportunity to experience virtually all important facets of child development: musical, recreational, athletic, team-building, social, educational, and live performance.

Why are these classes popular with students?

A personal message from Mr. G: "Many students have taken Math Olympiads for three years; some have even taken it for six years!  I think part of the reason for this is that when I teach in the classroom, I always put myself in the student’s shoes.  I am constantly asking myself: “Would a student think this is interesting?”  If students are engaged, THEY LEARN!  I want them focused and excited during class.  I don’t believe in boring math classes, and my teaching style reflects this.  As I see it, my job is to motivate and to inspire.  If I can do that, the rest is easy."