The Shoreline Math Olympiad volunteer staff works very hard behind the scenes, for months beforehand, to make the event a great experience for kids! On contest day, it’s up to us, parents, volunteers, and students, to make sure we get the kids to the right places, at the right times, with the right items available. With this blog post I’m hoping to give you all that information in one place.
To minimize stress and confusion, students and parents should understand how the morning procedure is going to work. This is actually a very complex operation. Things need to happen according to a very specific procedure because there are a lot of kids to manage, a tight schedule, and many locations. Please read everything below. It’s long but it’s all important.
Before the contest
Note: All links in this section currently lead to 2016 versions of the documents. They may or may not be out of date for 2017 and beyond.
I put together an orientation map that summarizes where to be, and when. Parents, take a look at that and I think it will alleviate a lot of confusion. Chaperones, I think you will find that map very handy; consider bringing a printed copy.
Once you have that basic idea, read the day-of-event information from the SMO organizers:
- Overview of the day (includes the official schedule; parents and students should read this together)
- Logistical info (more details; again, parents and students please read this together)
- Wristband and scantron procedures (students: read this!)
- Chaperone information (description of the chaperone job — duties, important highlights, perks)
Specify your pizza preferences as soon as possible:
- Every student gets a free slice, and so does every volunteer. After that it’s $3 apiece.
- Procedure: Go to the spreadsheet link from email. Find the row with your student’s name. Mark the number of slices you want of each flavor. Then to the right of that, enter the cost of your “extra” slices.
- Other parents, siblings, people who think they are hungrier, etc. — you’re welcome to order your extra slices through our spreadsheet.
- I’m looking for a volunteer Pizza Czar to collect all the extra-slice money from 8:00am-8:45am, take the order to the concession desk upstairs at 10:00am, then coordinate the pizza deployment right before lunchtime. Let me know if you can do that.
Pack everything you want to bring on contest day.
- You need pencils (sharpened) and calculator. You may also want an eraser. No other materials are allowed while you’re testing.
- Bring a calculator for the team contest. No calculators with a QWERTY keyboard or programmable calculators are allowed. Other than that, a scientific calculator is preferred (particularly with a square root key), but if you don’t have one, just bring whatever non-scientific calculator you have.
- Smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, etc. cannot be used as calculators. In fact, you may be asked to hand them to your chaperone before going in the testing room.
- Snacks and water are recommended. You may need to leave them with your chaperone, or your proctor may allow you to put them away in the back of the room.
- In the 2016 SMO the pizza order was very late, and some kids got really hungry. So I recommend that students bring a plan-B snack in case lunch is delayed. Note: We are not allowed to bring in other external food items (per the college’s policy); so, for example, please don’t bring Costco pizza. Other schools get in trouble for this. Also note that no food is allowed in the gym.
- Dress in layers and be prepared for rain. Wear your Math Club T-shirt if you can! Or at least wear red if possible. That will help us watch you in a crowd.
- Many students like to bring their stuff in a pencil bag or small backpack. The proctor may ask you to park your bag in the back of the room.
- Chaperones should bring a bag — that will make it easier to bring snacks (your own, or the ones we will provide) to the kids. Also, if you have a cell phone, you’ll want to bring it, fully charged!
OK, now on to what is going to happen on contest day!
8:00AM: Meet at Student Union building, downstairs
(In previous mails I said 8:15AM. However, the contest organizers recommend 8:00AM so I’m switching to that.)
See my orientation map for where to park. Parking is free all day. Thank you, event sponsors!
Once you’ve parked, bring your child to the chaperone.
- Please walk your child into the Student Union building (designated #9000 on campus maps). Enter on the main floor and go down the stairs.
- Bring him/her to the coordinator so we coaches can check them off, verify their pizza order if applicable, and direct them to their chaperone.
- You are responsible for your student until the chaperone acknowledges and accepts them.
- Please exchange contact information with the chaperone and let them know your plan to come back.
If you are a chaperone, you’ll get a team card from me to fill out. Also make sure you have your coach’s and coordinator’s contact info. If the kids have a problem, you’ll be their first point of contact and there may be issues where we have to step in.
If you are an event volunteer, you should have already received instructions from your SMO volunteer lead.
If you’re running late, please let me and/or your coach know. Texting is preferred. Note that reception is not very good at our meeting spot, and I’ll be handling a lot of different tasks. So I can’t always get back to you right away. Please, please be on time.
When a team has completely arrived (all students on the team!), the chaperone for that team temporarily hands off the kids to the coach or coordinator. Then s/he goes up alone to the registration desk, team card in hand, to check that team in. You’ll find out the kids’ actual testing room and other information.
Kids, stay patiently with the coach or coordinator until the chaperone comes back. That’s a good time to find the pizza coordinator and make sure that your preferences have been entered correctly.
Chaperone, let us (coaches and coordinator) know after you’ve registered. Then you’ll get your students for the day. Hand out the wristbands. If you have a few minutes, take the kids to the testing area. Show them the testing room. Find the closest bathroom and encourage kids to use it.
Kids: You will stay with your chaperone all day and follow their directions. Memorize your chaperone’s name, teammate names, team number, and testing room number. Use the bathroom when the chaperone encourages you to. It’s a long day with lots of times when you can’t easily leave like in a regular classroom.
8:45AM: Walk to the gym
This is where orientation will happen. Pay attention and cheer when Meridian Park’s name is called. We’re a small team but I know we can be loud!
9:05AM: Walk to the testing room
Students, stay with your chaperones! They are responsible for you on contest day. I know you are eager to get to the room. The enthusiasm is admirable. But if you run ahead and we don’t see you, we may think you are lost, and then you’ll delay everybody while we try and locate you.
Chaperones, when your students are dismissed from the gym (which I think happens by grade level), walk them to the testing room. Greet the proctor and check in to see how much time the kids have until starting (in case of a last-minute bathroom run). Make sure they get settled in their seats.
9:15AM: Start testing!
Students: Now the real fun begins. Lots of math problems! The test writers work hard to make it challenging and interesting for you.
The tests are in this order: mental math, individual multiple-choice, break, mental math, individual multiple-choice, break, team contest, break, team contest.
Pro tips for the contest:
- Stay calm, do your best, and don’t worry about messing up a question — just focus on the next task at hand. The tests are written to be more challenging than regular schoolwork as you know. There is plenty of time for each test if you stay focused and work efficiently. We are expecting your best effort, not perfection.
- Don’t forget to write your name, school name (“MP”), and team number on every answer sheet; write it legibly. In fact, write everything legibly all day.
- If there is a problem or something happens that you think is unfair, raise your hand and tell your proctor. Then tell your chaperone when you see them next.
- Show great sportsmanship and respect for other schools. We’re all here because math is fun! MP has a great reputation for good behavior which we must all work to uphold.
- Save your test papers. This helps us help you. For example, if you ask us, “How are you supposed to do the problem with the two clocks?” we can’t help unless we see the actual question. Seeing the test papers immediately also helps us spot questions which are not worded correctly or have other issues, so we can notify the contest staff.
- Mental Math
- You’ll probably be asked to put your calculator away temporarily during mental math.
- No erasing, no cross-outs, no scratchwork.
- Listen to the proctor carefully and use the second reading to catch details you missed the first time.
- Calculate the answer, then commit it to paper, legibly.
- Work accurately but quickly in your head. Don’t get caught with time running out, especially on the last question.
- Individual Multiple-Choice
- Work accurately but quickly. Keep a steady pace of about a question per minute, or better.
- Eliminate choices that cannot be true for a good reason. Do not eliminate choices just because they look wrong.
- Important: Use the full time and do your best. If you think you’re done, don’t leave early as you will likely see other kids do. Use the time to check your work instead; try the same problem a different way, or reread for any missed details. Once you leave you can’t suddenly remember an answer and come back in.
- You can skip a problem if it’s too time-consuming. I recommend taking a guess before skipping, but make sure you mark the question as guessed on the question sheet, not the answer sheet. When you’ve gone through the questions once, come back to guesses and skips.
- Stray marks on the answer sheet might be treated as wrong answers by the machine. Mark the bubbles completely but don’t go outside them.
- Team Contests
- Work as a team and use respectful communication; hurting someone’s feelings will slow the team down, guaranteed.
- Use the grid method if you’ve practiced that. Make sure every problem is being attempted by somebody.
- There is plenty of time to do the problems if you work quickly, accurately, and collaboratively.
- Calculators are allowed on this part of the contest. If someone on the team doesn’t have a calculator, work out a system for sharing the calculators you do have.
- Assume that units are required whenever the question contains units! For example: “What is the area of a 3-by-5 rectangle?” Answer: 15. “What is the area of a 3 cm-by-5 cm rectangle?” Answer: 15 square centimeters or 15 sq cm (the “sq” is required).
- Check your work. If two kids disagree on a problem, clearly write out your steps and compare. Don’t just do things in your head and argue; besides being rude, it’s also slow and inefficient.
Note: If you have to leave the testing room, say to use the bathroom, you can’t come back for that test. You will be told to wait outside until the other kids are done. (Did you use the bathroom earlier when your chaperone gave you the chance? I hope so! Now you see why that is important.)
Chaperones: You can hang out in the chaperone lounge or you can come back to the Student Union building. But please go back to the testing room during break times. During each break:
- Ask the proctor how long the break will last and determine what you let the kids do accordingly.
- Bring the kids snacks and encourage bathroom use assuming there is time; they will need those things at unpredictable times.
- Make sure they get back in the room on time or they will miss that round entirely; they cannot enter once the door is closed. Be aware of where the kids are and stay in contact with the proctor especially if you’re waiting for a straggler.
- Note that breaks can vary by a few minutes from the schedule, depending on whether your team’s room is running very smoothly or behind schedule. Also note that different rooms run at different speeds. Sometimes they announce break times at the chaperone lounge, and sometimes they don’t.
Meanwhile, back at the Student Union building: The pizza coordinator will be placing our pizza orders at this time so that the organizers can call it in to Central Market. The pizzas should be delivered and ready before testing ends.
11:45AM: Lunch at Student Union Building
Congratulations to the students! The hard work is done. But you still need to follow rules and directions in order to be safe and keep the day fun.
Everyone comes back to the Student Union building to eat. Enjoy your hard-earned pizza, students and volunteers!
Non-volunteer parents who dropped off, now is the time to come back and claim your kids. Your kids will appreciate your support and may have lots of things to tell you. Tell the chaperone you are taking your child off their hands. They will appreciate it!
12:15PM: Entertainment and Awards
Pack up your stuff from the Student Union and bring it to the gym. There will be entertainment for the families and kids. (During this time the scoring team is finishing up its work in advance of the awards ceremony.)
When awards are announced, pay attention and show sportsmanship and appreciation for all students from all schools.
I know students often need to leave at this time to go to other commitments. Again, parents, please make sure there is a clear chaperone-to-parent handoff. Chaperones, if you yourself need to leave, make sure you hand your kids to another chaperone (hopefully you have told the parents ahead of time that you would be leaving early).
- Chaperones: Make sure there is a clear handoff for every remaining student back to the parents.
- Parents: Please don’t just take off with your kids unless you’ve already told the chaperone what’s happening and they acknowledge it.
The coaches will get the students’ papers in a packet. Most kids will want to know their scores. We will do our best to accommodate that desire but we won’t be giving test papers back yet. Coaches will take the test papers home for analysis and return them at a later Math Club session. Kids, please be patient; this is how we get better at coaching you for the next contest!