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How to prepare for Olympiads and other contests in Middle School?

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Middle schools (grades 5 to 8) are formative years for children. At this age two important things happen:

  • Children begin to love or hate subjects. This emotion is usually very hard to overcome at a later stage of life.
  • Children form mindset for problem solving and learning new things. This mindset usually governs what they will learn for the rest of their lives.

Therefore, in middle school, it is extremely important to structure learning around curiosity, love for the subject matter and open-ended enquiry. The Mathematics and Science Olympiads usually help this process. But they alone are not sufficient.

Here are some of the tools that you may use for children in the middle school and help them succeed in the long run.

(Beautiful) Books for Middle School

Thanks to the internet, we have an over-flow of information. This creates a lot of noise, unnecessary screen time and confusion. It is important to introduce children to the right resources early on. We try to do that in our math and science olympiad programs at Cheenta. Parents and teachers may do that at home and school as well.

Books written by true masters can change the life of children. They ask thought-provoking questions and provide powerful intuitions for fundamental ideas. Some of these books also have ‘how-to-teach’ sections. Here are some good titles for middle school mathematics and science.

  • Mathematics can be fun by Yakov Perelman
  • Physics can be fun by Yakov Perelman
  • Mathematical Circles, Russian Experience by Fomin
  • Math Circles for elementary school students: Berkeley 2009 and Manhattan 2011 by Natasha Rozhkovskaya
  • Algebra by Gelfund

Hands-on experiments in middle school

It is useful to have hands-on interaction with mathematical sciences. Our years of work with students taught us a very important lesson: if students are allowed to ‘do stuff’ they will begin to ‘teach themselves’. Here are some good softwares to do hands-on math and science experiments.

  • GeoGebra for math and physics experiments
  • Algodoo for physics experiment
  • Robocompass for geometry experiments

You may also set-up small labs at your home. A good telescope and some elementary tools can take you a long way. Here is a good book to get started with it:

  • Make: The Annotated Build-It-Yourself Science Laboratory by Windell Oskay

Peer groups in middle school for non-routine mathematical science

It is very important to have a strong peer group. Kids need to see other children who are excited about the subject. At Cheenta we endorse group activities such as math circles to promote such a culture.

Join a math circle or create one in your locality to inculcate a culture of critical thinking and problem solving in your child. Let us know if you need help.

Teaching at Middle School

At Cheenta we ask our students to teach as well (yes, even the kids in middle school). This process has an incredible effect on motivation and self-propelled learning. For example some of Cheenta kids teach rural school students, slum-area students from remote corners of India.

This process keeps the children grounded, alert about their own learning and engaged with the real world.

Non-routine tools

Cheenta programs use a lot of non-routine tools for Middle School Olympiad programs. You may also use them at home. They are useful for nurturing the mind and keeping motivation level high.

  • Kendoku
  • Star-gazing
  • Masiyu
  • Sctrach
  • MIT app-inventor

Non-routine contests

Non-routine contests such as science and math olympiads can be useful motivating for the children. However we should be very careful about this. Nowadays there are lot of contests with un-interesting problems that promote rote-learning. They may have negative impact on children. Here are a few contests that are useful for middle school kids.

  • American Math Contest 8 (AMC 8)
  • NMTC Gauss and Kaprekar
  • Math Kangaroo
  • Mathcounts
  • Australian Math Competition

Cheenta Math and Science Olympiad Programs for Middle Schools

Cheenta has outstanding math and science olympiad programs developed over a decade. Let us know if you need more information on curriculum and work-flow. Learn more about the success stories here:

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