Rational Expressions by Lou DiGioia, Executive Director of MATHCOUNTS
Fun With Dates
7/31/2009

Here's a game you may find as compelling as Sudoku or the Harry Potter books. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

First, you look at the date in a specific numerical format. Using today's date, that format might be 7-31-09, 07-31-09, or 07-31-2009. The format really doesn't matter; in fact, you might want to try playing the game three times, once with each format.

Next, you take the numbers in the date and see how many correct equations you can create. To make the game more challenging, only use each symbol and function – plus (+), minus (-), etc. -- just once.

For example, using the following format of today's date -- 07-31-2009 -- you can rearrange the numbers in the date into the following equation:

(70x3) - (9+1) = 200

Here's another one:

102  - 70 = 90 ÷3

It's a simple but challenging game – and every day brings you a new brain-twister … or three. Have fun!

ONLINE LOGIC PROBLEMS
7/17/2009

Here at MATHCOUNTS, we take particular delight in brain-teasing math problems, but I've found that many Mathletes also enjoy untangling interesting logic problems … like this one:

Four friends participated in a golf match for help raise money for a local charity. The competition between them was steep and each played one of the best games of his life. During the 18-hole match, each friend played very poorly and over par at one hole. But, each also scored a hole-in-one at one hole. Most amazing, these accomplishments all happened at different holes. Determine the full name of each golfer, the hole number for each poor shot and each hole-in-one, and their final scores.

1. John got the first hole-in-one. Mr. Knight had the highest score (which in golf means he lost the match).

2. Steve, whose last name isn't Price, was over par six holes earlier than his hole-in-one shot.

3. Bill placed ahead of Walter but after Mr. Grant.

4. The man who got the last hole-in-one had the lowest score. The man who was over par last got his hole-in-one first.

5. From the highest score of 64 to the lowest score of 57, the friends placed as: the man whose over par game was 12, Bill, the man who got a hole-in-one at the second hole, and Mr. Mann.

6. The man who shot a hole-in-one in the 6th hole had his over par game in the 4th hole.

These sorts of problems are often found in the variety puzzle magazines you can buy in the supermarket or candy store, and they require a grid for you to fill out as you work through the pieces of information provided with the puzzle. With the Internet, though, you can save yourself the hassle of drawing out a grid on paper – here's the grid to the above problem. The page also includes links to dozens of additional logic problems you can solve online.

Have fun!

MNEMONIC MANIA
7/10/2009

I've always liked mnemonics – you know, those little memory tricks that help you remember certain facts, for example: "every good boy does fine" is the way to remember the notes E, G, B, D, and F on a musical scale.

Math mnemonics? There are countless examples. Here's one for remembering the metric units of measure (Kilo, Hecto, Deca, Units [meter, liter, gram], Deci, Centi, Milli) in order:  King Hector Doesn't Usually Drink Cold Milk.

Here's another one, sung to the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel," to help remember the quadratic formula: "x equals negative B / Plus or minus square root / of B squared minus four A C / All over two A."

Want more? Here's a page that features all kinds of mnemonics – and couldn't we all use a helpful trick to remember the value of Pi out to 30 (or 440 – or 3,835!) decimal places?

HAPPY 2-SQUARED OF JULY!
7/7/2009

Tomorrow's the Fourth of July and … what? You said you're looking for fun activities for kids that blend math and the Fourth of July? Why didn't you ask? All you need to do is click here. Or here. Or here and here.

Have a great holiday!

MATH Camp!
6/19/2009

School's out, and that means that middle schoolers around the country are getting ready for … math camp!

Check out this story about a camp in Virginia. Or this one about kids in Colorado. Or this one about a camp in Ohio.

There are countless camps across America kicking into high gear this month, places where math and science and creativity all add up to fun and learning and building stronger minds and better futures for middle schoolers everywhere.

For all the stories and data about falling math scores and kids who don't want to learn, too often we ignore stories like these – stories about kids who are embracing learning and who genuinely represent a brighter future for America than gloomy news reports would have you believe.

Bravo, kids!

FREE Math Books!
6/12/2009

Okay, that's a headline that may not catch the attention of most people. But hey: You're not most people, you're a MATHCOUNTS person. And if you have an eBook reader or are thinking of getting one soon? Well, have I got some good news for you!

There are thousands upon thousands of free eBooks available in the public domain – with some terrific math-related books among them.

Two sites that will keep you busy are MobileRead and Project Gutenberg.

MobileRead is a site dedicated to eBook news, discussion and free eBooks. When you click on the "E-Books" link at the top of their screen, you can choose the specific format of your reader. Click on the "Full list" link on the page and you'll see a list of more than 11,000 books, among them: "Amusements In Mathematics" by Henry Ernest Dudeney and P. Hampson's "The Romance of Mathematics."

Meanwhile, Project Gutenberg maintains more than 28,000 free books in its online catalog which actually includes a mathematics bookshelf. You're looking for Rene Descartes' book on geometry in French? Robert Carmichael's "The Theory of Numbers"? Wittengenstein's volume on logic? They're all there – along with dozens more.

Given the speed of daily life, it's important to take a moment to step back and appreciate the world in which we live. For example: Tens of thousands of classic books – all at our fingertips, all available for free with the click of a mouse. We truly do live in a remarkable time.

Are you a MATHCOUNTS Fan?
6/8/2009

A fan of our page on Facebook, that is.

If you're not on Facebook yet, you're one of the very few. According to this post on the Inside Facebook blog, Facebook has 200 million users. According to this post, the amount of time U.S. Internet users have spent on Facebook is up 700 percent over last year. But here's the truly amazing statistic: "From April 2008 to April 2009, total minutes spent on Facebook increased from 1.7 billion minutes to 13.9 billion minutes." Given that the U.S. population is about 305 million, that's a little more than 45 minutes for every man, woman and child in the country … and about a 66 percent chance that you have a Facebook account.

So click on over and check out our page, suggest it to all your friends, and let's watch the number of fans increase … oh, exponentially would be nice!

WOW
5/29/2009

According to the UPI news service, a teenager in Sweden has solved a 300-year-old math problem.

Happy Memorial Day
5/22/2009

I hope everyone has a very safe and happy Memorial Day weekend … and takes a few minutes to think about the very serious reasons why we celebrate this holiday each year.

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While researching "Memorial Day math" I came across this very cool page courtesy of SoftSchools.com. It's a puzzle generator that turns any set of words – like "Happy Memorial Day, Everyone!" into a math puzzle. Try it!

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Here's a puzzle you can share with your friends at a barbeque this weekend -- see who can get the answer the quickest: If a pack of hot dogs has 10 hot dogs in it and a pack of buns has eight buns in it, what's the minimum number of packages of each you need to buy so that you have an equal number of franks and buns? (The answer: four packs of hot dogs, five packs of buns.)

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Did you see 2009 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Champion Bobby Shen on The TODAY Show recently? He faced off against TODAY's Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford in a "math-off" hosted by Danica McKellar. In case you missed it, you can view the video clip over here.

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Have a great weekend, everyone!

WHAT? YOU MISSED THE FINAL COUNTDOWN ROUND?
5/15/2009

Then what are you waiting for? Go see it right here, right now!

D-A-N (the value of "n" is) I-C-A …
5/7/2009

Greetings from Orlando!

The 2009 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition is underway here at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, where the nation’s 228 most talented middle school mathematicians are battling it out for the honor of becoming 2009 National Math Champion.

If you didn't know already, Danica McKellar, best known as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years and Elsie Snuffin on The West Wing, and now as author of the New York Times best-selling books, "Kiss My Math" and "Math Doesn’t Suck", is hosting the competition and will name the MATHCOUNTS national champion via live Web cast – tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.!

Yep: The final Countdown Round is once again being broadcast online live, and you can see it right here on our site. For complete details, click here.

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A quick follow up on last week's post: The 2009 Almgren "Mayday" Race was held on Sunday May 3, from Rutgers to Princeton, ending at Washington Road. There were 11 teams competing -- in the rain! -- and the winner was the Princeton "Psych et al" team, with a winning time about 2:40.

You'll get 'em next year, math department!

Mathematicians May Day Relay
5/1/2009

Who says mathematicians can't be athletes, too?

On Sunday, the Rutgers Math Fast Fourier Transforms will defend their 2008 win and resulting possession of the Fred Almgren memorial race trophy. The event is the 33rd annual Fred Almgren Memorial Relay Race, a 25-mile relay in which the primary teams competing are the mathematics departments of Rutgers and Princeton University.

The race began in 1976 as the "Mathematicians May Day Relay," and the name was changed in 1997 to honor one of the event's most active participants, Fred Almgren. The race trophy, with the winners' names engraved on it, is located in the lounge of Fine Hall at Princeton University.

Learn all about the race over on this page which, to no one's surprise, includes a link to detailed statistics of names engraved on it, is located in the lounge of Fine Hall at Princeton University.

Learn all about the race over on this page which, to no one's surprise, includes a link to detailed statistics of last year's race.

The weather forecast for Sunday is cloudy with temperatures in the 50s.  Not too hot, not too sunny – just perfect, in fact, for this sort of race.

Good luck, runners!

T-Minus Two Weeks
4/27/2009

Wow. It's hard to believe that the 2009 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition is just two weeks away.

This year's competition is going to be held in Orlando, Florida, at Walt Disney World's Swan and Dolphin Resort, where 228 final Mathletes and their coaches from all 50 U.S. states and several U.S. territories will experience an exciting weekend of spirited competition.

If you can't join us in Florida, be sure to join us online: Once again, the countdown round of the National Competition will be broadcast live right here on our Web site – check out this page (and bookmark it for future reference) for all the details. The fun begins May 8 at 2:00 p.m. eastern time – don't miss it!

One Meeeeellion Hours!
4/17/2009

If you're like me, you read that headline and picture Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies with his pinky up to his mouth: "one meeeeellion hours!" he cackles.

Something about that makes me laugh just thinking about it, even though there's a very serious idea behind it: The One Million Hours Initiative.

The idea behind the Initiative, which was developed by National Engineers Week (which was founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers, which is also one of the MATHCOUNTS Founding Sponsors), is to catalog 1,000,000 volunteer hours given by engineers to STEM education activities.  STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

Almost all of our coordinators and the vast majority of our volunteers at competitions are Professional Engineers, so all those who qualify for this great undertaking should please be sure to log on to the Initiative's site and record all the time spent on your MATHCOUNTS activities.

Hey – a little here, a little there … pretty soon, you're up to a million!

Read more about The One Million Hours Initiative over here … and don't forget to clock those hours!

4/10/2009

Gifted Exchange is a terrific blog all about "gifted children, schooling, parenting, education news and changing American education for the better." I had the pleasure recently of speaking with the blog's writer, Laura Vanderkam, and you can read the posting over here. After you read it, be sure to follow Laura's advice and share some of your MATHCOUNTS experiences in the comments!

4/3/2009

Deb Russell (you can visit her blog here) has been a "mathematics guide" over on About.com since 2002. I subscribe to the About.com mathematics e-mail newsletter and you may want to sign up, too. There's often good information and ideas in there.

I particularly liked this recent post from Deb entitled, "A Little Math on the Car Trip? Why Not?" Among the activities she mentions: a series of license plate games.

When I'm in the car on a long drive, I love playing license plate math games. So I did a little Googling and I found some free shareware you can download: License Plate Math provides "a virtually unlimited number of math puzzles." For example: You're shown a license plate with two numbers on it and asked to determine whether or not there's a match between the two numbers.

What's a match? Well, they match if adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing the digits of one of the numbers is equal to adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing the digits of the other. For example, the plate might say: 61 16. That's a match, because 6+1 = 1+6. Or the plate might say 11 98. That's a match because 1x1 = 9-8.

License Plate Math is free to use for 30 days and it's one of hundreds of freeware and shareware math programs you'll find over here. Disclaimer: Neither MATHCOUNTS nor yours truly has any connection with License Plate Math or the download site, and you should always thoroughly investigate any specific software before downloading anything to your computer. (Be sure to have all your antivirus software running properly, too.)

That said, there are a lot of fun math games to be found for free online. License Plate Math is just one good example. Enjoy!

Numbers vs. Letters
3/27/2009

Last month (in my February 20 post, to be precise), I listed a dozen movies in which math plays a part in the plot.

Well, the other night I'm channel-flipping after watching the President's press conference, and I came across a film playing on Turner Classic Movies that I should have included as the 13th title on the list.

"The Phantom Tollbooth" came out in 1970 and the plot is described by the TCM program guide as, "a bored boy enters a fantasy world where letters and numbers are at war." That sounds pretty interesting on the face of it, but it's a description that really only scratches the surface of what the film is all about.

Among the many wonderful things about "The Phantom Tollbooth" is the fact that it's directed by animation legend Chuck Jones. Voiceover legend June Foray is in the movie (among so many other voices, she was the voice Rocky the flying squirrel in the Bullwinkle cartoons) as is Hans Conreid (probably best-known for being the voice of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook in Disney's Peter Pan) and Mel Blanc (the voice of almost everyone in Looney Tunes, from Bugs Bunny to Yosemite Sam to Foghorn Leghorn). The voice of the main character, Milo? It's Butch Patrick, who was Eddie Munster on The Munsters.

But "The Phantom Tollbooth" is more than just an under-recognized gem of an animated film, it's also an under-recognized gem of a book. It was written by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer and is recognized by many critics as a classic of children's literature right alongside "Alice In Wonderland."

If you get an opportunity to rent the movie version of "The Phantom Tollbooth" or see it on cable, take it. Meanwhile, you might want to go to your local library and give the book a read. I can't imagine you won't enjoy it.

Some Good News For GM
3/20/2009

While the economic news for General Motors may not be the best (thank goodness my focus is math and education, not money and the financial industry!), the news for GM is excellent on the education front.

GM's education Web site has just launched a new blog called "Teach Green" (see it here) intended "to help encourage conversation, information-sharing and the exchange of advice among teachers who want to promote green lessons in their classrooms." It's just the latest component of a robust online educational presence put forth by the company.

I have to salute GM: Even though there are a lot of financial issues happening over there, I'm glad to see they're still engaged in educational activities. I'm particularly fond of the educational materials you'll find in their lesson plans area, specifically: "Count on Science & Math for Your Future: Inspire students to pursue career paths in math and science with Count on Science & Math for Your Future, an initiative set forth by General Motors and Weekly Reader. All materials are available in both English and Spanish."

Thanks, GE – that really is bringing good things to life.

3/13/2009

Wow. Two Friday the 13ths two months in a row. As I pointed out four weeks ago, there will be three Fridays in 2009 that fall on the 13th, which only happens once every 28 years. Some might think that makes 2009 a particularly unlucky year (especially if they're involved in the stock market; we'll see how the rest of the year plays out before making that call).

But why is the number 13 considered to be unlucky? What causes people to suffer from triskaidekaphobia – the fear of the number 13? Or paraskevidekatriaphobia – the fear of Friday the 13th?

Some say it's because Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th to sit at the table for the Last Supper. Others think it began with Norse mythology -- specifically Loki, the 13th god who was said to have murdered Baldr. Still others think it began with ancient Persians and their views of the constellations. You can read a lot more details about it all over in this Wikipedia entry, where you can also read about the Thirteen Club:

"At the first meeting, on Friday 13 January 1881 at 8:13 p.m., 13 people sat down to dine in room 13 of the venue. The guests walked under a ladder to enter the room and were seated among piles of spilled salt. All of the guests survived. Thirteen Clubs sprang up all over North America for the next 40 years. Their activities were regularly reported in leading newspapers, and their numbers included five future U.S. presidents, from Chester A. Arthur to Theodore Roosevelt." What fun!

Of course, 13 isn't the only number considered to be unlucky. Those suffering from tetraphobia have a fear of the number four – which is as common in Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan as the fear of 13 is for many here in the United States. In Italy, 17 is an unlucky number – but 13 is considered to be lucky. It's also a lucky number in Sikhism.

Whatever your views on the lucky or unlucky nature of 13, have a very happy Friday the 13th – something I won't be able to say again until November!

The Art of Problem Solving
3/6/2009

This is a post that's long overdue.  I'm sure many of you already have The Art of Problem Solving among your Web site bookmarks, but for those that don't, you should. It's a terrific site that offers free online classes, a robust community forum, tons of fascinating articles and the proverbial much, much more.

AOPS was founded by my friend, the incomparable Richard Rusczyk, and you can read about his many accomplishments on their About Us page.  (You also get to see a great picture of Richard and his staff, including the lovely model Dave Patrick showing off the 2006 MATHCOUNTS National Competition shirt.  Thanks Dave!)

Visiting the About Us page shows that Richard is ably assisted by a lot of talented people whose credits are universally impressive, but I can't help but point out that one of them is Ashley (Reiter) Ahlin, the first female to win a medal at a National MATHCOUNTS competition.

Among the many admirable things about this site is the sensibility that problem-solving isn't just a math skill, it's a life skill. Richard's article, "What Is Problem Solving?" puts it well:

"By developing problem solving skills, we learn not only how to tackle math problems, but also how to logically work our way through any problems we may face. The memorizer can only solve problems he has encountered already, but the problem solver can solve problems she’s never seen before."

Couldn't have said it better myself!

Happy Square Root Day
3/3/2009

Yep: Square Root Day - it only happens nine times each century!

Cool Sites, Cool News
2/27/2009

Over on the MATHCOUNTS Notes blog (I love the name!), someone known as "someone opposite of Pierre" posted "two very cool Web sites for young mathematicians." I agree.

One of them is nrich, courtesy the University of Cambridge. As the site explains, " NRICH is a team of qualified teachers who are also practitioners in RICH mathematical thinking. This unique blend means that NRICH is ideally placed to offer advice and support to both teachers and learners of mathematics."

The other is Wired Math, courtesy the University of Waterloo, described as "a free web site created for grade 7, grade 8 and grade 9 students and teachers.  The activities can also be used for enrichment or remediation with students in grades 4, 5 and 6 as well as those students in grade 10."

Meanwhile, if you haven't checked out our news section yet, click here and learn more about a very cool partnership we just announced with Nintendo! (Hey – I can't think of a MATHCOUNTS club that wouldn't want 20 Nintendo DS systems!)

See you next week!

Best (Math) Picture Nominees
2/20/2009

It's Academy Award weekend, which means movies are on the minds of a lot of people right now. So I thought I'd dig through the archives of the Internet Movie Database and assemble this list of a dozen movies in which math plays a key role in the plots, the synopses of which are culled from that excellent Web site.

(Caution: Not every movie listed below is suitable for everyone; please pay attention to the movie ratings and detailed synopses you'll find online.)

In no particular order … well, okay, in alphabetical order:

21 (2008) The fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings.

A Beautiful Mind (2001) After a brilliant but asocial mathematician accepts secret work in cryptography, his life takes a turn to the nightmarish.

Are You With It? (1948) Milton Haskins, a math genius known for his infallibility with numbers, quits his job with an insurance company when he discovers he made a mistake, and hooks up with a traveling carnival.

Fermat's Last Tango (2001) Inspired by the achievements of Princeton University Mathematics Professor Andrew Wiles, who in June 1993 presented a proof to the theorem first set forth by French mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637.

Hole in the Paper Sky (2008) A brilliant, misanthropic math genius is inexplicably drawn into an unusual friendship with a doomed laboratory dog.

Kuriton Sukupolvi (1957) Aging professor of mathematics completes his life's work, a research project that has taken him decades, and climbs up from the boiler room (his study) and back to real life.

Pi (1998) A paranoid mathematician searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature.

Proof (2005) The daughter of a brilliant but mentally disturbed mathematician (recently deceased) tries to come to grips with her possible inheritance: his insanity.

Qi Perd Gagne! (2003) Serge Vaudier, a mathematics teacher, wins the lotto twice and claims he can do it again, thanks to an infallible system he has designed. Is a he genius or a con man?

Stand and Deliver (1988) Jaime Escalante is a mathematics teacher in a school in a hispanic neighbourhood. Convinced that his students have potential, he adopts unconventional teaching methods to try and turn gang members and no-hopers into some of the country's top algebra and calculus students.

Stand-In (1937) Atterbury Dodd is an efficiency expert who believes everything can be reduced to mathematics. He is sent to Hollywood to see whether Colossal Pictures is a good investment.

What are the Odds? (2006) A story about two mathematicians visiting NYC for a conference who run into each other fifteen separate times during the course of a day.

All right – who's got the popcorn?!

2/13/2009

Say THAT three times fast!

Paraskevidekatriaphobia is a fear of Friday the 13th – which is today, the first of three such dates this year. That's a rarity: No given year ever has more than three Fridays falling on the 13th, and that only happens three times over the course of the 28-year cycle of how dates fall on various days. (It's not a seven-year cycle because 365 days of the year isn't evenly divided by 7 days of the week, plus there's that pesky leap year issue.)

Speaking of the number 13, did you know that 13 x 7 = 28? Of course it is … when Bud Abbott and Lou Costello do the math.

Happy Friday the 13th!

Finally, Some Good Jobs News – For Mathletes
2/6/2009

What do lumberjacks, taxi drivers, dairy farmers and garbage collectors have in common? They're among the worst jobs in the United States, according to this recent article in the The Wall Street Journal.

What do historians, accountants, philosophers and software engineers have in common? They're among the best jobs in the U.S.

But look at the number-one job: mathematician!

Yes, you read that right: Being a mathematician is the best job in the United States.

If that's not enough to get you to redouble your MATHCOUNTS efforts, take a look at numbers two and three on the list: actuary and statistician, both numbers-based jobs, too.

So keep flexing those mathematical muscles, people – not only is math fun, it's could be a path to getting one of the very best jobs in the country!

Are You Ready For Some Football?!
1/30/2009

This is the weekend everyone gets football-crazy.

Okay, I realize that not everyone is a football fan, but everyone seems to have their own reason to want to watch the game. Maybe it's to see the commercials. This year it could be to see Bruce Springsteen. Or maybe the big game is just an excuse to get together with some friends and have a party.

Of course, you KNEW I was going to come up with some mathematical tie-in to the game, didn't you?

Here's a fun activity sheet (it's in PDF form) from McClatchy-Tribune.

Here's a whole page of activities and lesson plans from The Teacher's Corner.

Here's a page of activities that are tailored to Steelers fans, but I suppose you could use them if you like Arizona, too.

Have a great weekend – and enjoy the game!

Eat Up!
1/23/2009

I knew kids in middle school who pretty much ate nothing but chocolate-chip cookies for lunch five days a week. As this article on the Max School Bus blog notes, a better lunch means better grades:

"Researchers saw significant increases in math scores among the 1,197 elementary students who participated in the Healthier Options for Public Schoolchildren obesity prevention program, an intervention currently used in 79 schools in seven states."

So eat up – it's not only good for your body, it's good for your report card!

Mathematics: Real Science
1/16/2009

Professor A. Voss, of the University of Munich, recently made the following statement: "Our entire present civilization, as far as it depends upon the intellectual penetration and utilization of nature, has its real foundation in the mathematical sciences." He adds that this truth finds expression in the ever-increasing appreciation of the educational value of mathematics, notwithstanding that it is the most unpopular of all the sciences. This unpopularity is natural since "unpopularity is an essential feature of a real science," because such a science can be comprehended only through tireless and continued efforts.

That's the opening paragraph of an article called, "The Future of Mathematics." It appeared nearly 100 years ago, in the August 1909 issue of Popular Science Magazine – one of thousands of searchable magazines now available through Google. Simply go to Google's Advanced Book Search , click the "Magazines" option under Content, and have fun! I found the article by searching for "mathematics." A search for "puzzle" turned up "The Lure of Puzzle Inventing" from the January 1935 issue of Popular Mechanics."

Google is just getting started with their magazine archives, but already it's an amazing resource. Check it out!

Cool Math -- Cool!
1/12/2009

Web site recommendation time: CoolMath.com – it's packed with games, puzzles, and more math problems than you can shake a slide rule at. From algebra practice problems to geometric info on properties, faces, edges and dihedral angles and plenty of good stuff in between, it's an online treasure-trove that's been around since 1997 (an eternity in Web terms). Give it a click; I think you'll like it. It's a great resource to help sharpen your skills for the next MATHCOUNTS competition -- and there's no question when you click around the site that math is fun.

But you knew that already, didn't you?

Happy New Year!
1/5/2009

"Seasons Of Love" in the Broadway musical Rent puts any given year in a numerical perspective: 525,600 minutes, the length of a year. Take it a step further: A year consists of 31,536,000 seconds.

Every eight of those seconds, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a new person is born in the United States, adding to the projected national population of 305,529,237 on New Year's Day.

Wow. Two or three people were born in the time it took you to read this blog post up to here.

This is the time of year where we tend to get into a pensive frame of mind. We look back at the accomplishments of the 525,600 minutes just past (in the case of 2008 -- a leap year -- that number is actually 527,040) and look ahead to what we hope to accomplish in the minutes, days, weeks and months to come.

Here at MATHCOUNTS, we're thrilled to have celebrated our 25th anniversary this past year. We launched a new Web site (including a pretty cool online store), streamed the MATHCOUNTS national competition live over the Web and much, much more.

Over the last quarter-century, more than seven million students have used MATHCOUNTS materials. We're entering our second quarter-century with a terrific national sponsor in Raytheon and a level of enthusiasm among everyone here at MATHCOUNTS that is sure to make 2009 the best year ever for our organization.

So let me take this opportunity to wish you the happiest of years. May every one of those 525,600 minutes to come bring you all the health and happiness you want and deserve.

Here's to a great 2009.

Merry (Mathemagical) Christmas
12/26/2008

Yesterday was Christmas, the day on which Santa Claus visits billions of children worldwide to bring them gifts.

How does he do it? Lynda Colgan has a terrific article in the Kingston Whig Standard that explains it all.

"Santa math. Santa math. Mathemagic all the way. Oh what fun it is to solve the number secrets of your sleigh."

Indeed. See you next year!

Reinvigorating Science and Math Education – The Time Is Now
12/23/2008

These are both troubling and exciting times in education.

Troubling, because we have real problems in our educational system. As this editorial in the Dallas Morning News points out, science and math education desperately need some serious rethinking.

The paper notes that "a Raytheon survey in 2005 found that 84 percent of U.S. middle school students would rather clean their rooms, eat their vegetables, take out the garbage and go to the dentist than do their math homework."

You don't have to be the parent of a middle schooler to know how significant the finding is.

The paper goes on to say that "Texas teens have a very low passing rate for science and math, and the state must spend \$300 million a year in remedial education at the college level. This is costing us money and jobs. If Texas could reduce dropout rates, it would gain almost \$2 trillion in economic output and create 1 million new jobs over the next 20 years."

It's exciting, though, because January 20 marks the beginning of a new administration in Washington, which means a new Secretary of Education. As announced the other day, that position will go to Arne Duncan.

"While there are no simple answers," he says in the press release announcing his nomination, "I know from experience that when you focus on basics like reading and math, when you embrace innovative new approaches to learning, and when you create a professional climate that attracts great teachers -- you can make a difference for children."

I'm encouraged, too, that Mr. Duncan's statement dovetails nicely with part of President-elect Barack Obama's education platform -- to make math and science education a national priority.

Of course, the incoming President has an awful lot of priorities to deal with – let's hope that education doesn't get pushed too far down the ToDo list.

I Was Mistaken
12/15/2008

Last week I said there was just one week left to register for the 2009 MATHCOUNTS Competition Program.

Last week I said the next time there's a new blog post here, it'll be too late to register.

In the immortal words of Emilly Litella (oh, how we all miss Gilda Radner): "Never mind!"

The bad news is: I was mistaken. The good news is: We're accepting registrations through December 31, 2008.

If you haven't signed up yet, maybe you need some extra incentive. Try this: One lucky MATHCOUNTS Club coach and four of his or her students will have a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to watch the 2009 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida!

Local competitions will be gearing up before you know it, so don't be left out. Register online right now! After you register, you'll receive a School Competition Kit that includes a competition booklet, participation ribbons and certificates for your students.

But hurry: Because after December 31, we really won't be accepting any more registrations.

This time, I mean it!

Warning: One Week Left!
12/5/2008

I know, I know – there's all kinds of holiday madness tugging at you from all directions. That's why I'm letting you know a week early:

There's still time!

Time, that is, to register for the 2009 MATHCOUNTS Competition Program. Local competitions will be happening in February, and you certainly don't want to be left out.

So why not enroll your school today? Better yet: Register online right now!

Once you register, you'll receive a School Competition Kit that includes a competition booklet, participation ribbons and certificates for your students.

Don't delay – register today!

(Because the next time there's a new blog post here, it'll be too late.)

Math and "Out of Field" Teachers
12/1/2008

The Associated Press reported yesterday on a study from Education Trust that included significant focus on math teachers.

Bottom line: Too many students, particularly poor and minority students and particularly in middle schools, are about twice as likely as other students to have math teachers who ... well, who don't really know math as well as they should. As the AP points out:

"Math is important because it is considered a 'gateway' course, one that leads to greater success in college and the workplace. Kids who finish Algebra II in high school are more likely to get bachelor's degrees. And people with bachelor's degrees earn substantially more than those with high school diplomas."

What's happening in too many middle schools, though, is that there aren't enough qualified math teachers, so math is being taught by "out of field teachers" – teachers who may be certified in other subjects, but take on teaching math to help fill the gap.

All of which makes everyone who participates in MATHCOUNTS that much more important. Whether you're a teacher or an administrator involved in your local MATHCOUNTS activities – even if you're someone who tells a teacher you know about MATHCOUNTS and gets them started in our program – you're genuinely helping education in America and the future of all our kids.

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
11/25/2008

Hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is less than a week away.

Like so many people do this time of year, I try and take a step back to see the bigger picture – and the bigger picture I'm seeing is that MATHCOUNTS is a terrific program that's moving forward in its second quarter-century supported by more amazing people than (ironically) I can count.

So I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone associated with MATHCOUNTS in any and every way -- from the staff here at MATHCOUNTS central to the people and agencies we work with on a daily basis to the teachers and students around the country who support the MATHCOUNTS program and competitions to the sponsors whose support helps keep the wheels turning. You all know who you are, and you are all what makes MATHCOUNTS what it is today … and what it will be tomorrow and in the years to come.

I am truly thankful to be associated with such an excellent program and surrounded by such talented people. Any given work day may go better or worse than the next, but in the bigger picture? Well, I can't imagine a better place to be.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

OPLET Is Here!
11/17/2008

Huh?

What's OPLET?

OPLET stands for Online Problem Library and Extraction Tool, and it's a brand-new
MATHCOUNTS feature about which I'm very proud and excited.

There's a ton of information about
OPLET over here, but
what I'd like to do here is take the opportunity to thank everyone involved
with getting OPLET created and up and running. It's an incredible resource -- 10,000
problems, plus the ability to create personalized worksheets, flash cards and
Problems of the Week. Check out the OPLET preview over here.

I could go on for pages and pages, but
I won't. Suffice to say that MATHCOUNTS has taken yet another huge step into
the future and has leveraged the power of the Internet to create something very
exciting for students and teachers alike.

Yep: I'm jazzed!

Spread the word: OPLET has arrived!

11/10/2008

First, let's review the question:

You have a pile of 12 candy bars, all of exactly equal size. Eleven of the candy bars weigh exactly the same, while one is different from all the others. In three weighings, find out which candy bar is different from all the others and whether it's heavier or lighter.

I wish I could say I thought up this question, but as with so many math questions of this type, it's an old classic in a new guise. Sometimes the 12 items are coins and sometimes they're other types of objects.

Here's a link to a Web page that provides a complete explanation and analysis of the solution. The main idea at the core of solving the problem is to look at the way each coin has participated in the three measurements to identify the one coin that could cause the particular combination of results. I'll let you think about that for a bit, then if you want all the details you can check out that Web page.

Here's hoping your Halloween candy bellyache has worn off by now! See you next week.

Happy Halloween!
11/3/2008

Today is Halloween
around the world. It's not as numbers-based an event as Election Day (I trust
you read my post last week), but InfoPlease has a fascinating page
that looks at Halloween by the numbers and AOL Horoscopes
takes a look at the numerology behind Halloween.

If you're trick or
treating (and even if you're not), I hope you have a safe and happy holiday. I
used to love coming home at the end of the evening and dumping all my candy on
the floor and sorting it into piles. As you're sorting your candy tonight,
consider this classic math problem:

You have a pile of
12 candy bars, all of exactly equal size. Eleven of the candy bars weigh
exactly the same while one is different from all the others. You're provided
with a balance scale (you know, the kind with a pan on each side – the kind you
see in the famous image of the scales of justice) and you can use it just three
times. How can you find out which candy bar is different from all the others
and whether it's heavier or lighter?

Tune in next week

Every Vote Counts!
10/27/2008

You may have seen
MATHCOUNTS in the news lately. Many newspapers are picking up our story about
how even one vote can make a big difference. If you haven't seen it yet, here's a
link to the story on Newsblaze
.

With Election Day
right around the corner as I type this, it's very important to appreciate the
value of your vote – but 1 isn't the only number that comes to mind when the
talk turns to elections. Here are some more numbers to bring up with your
friends and family when they start talking politics, as they inevitably will in
the next week or two:

3 – The number of
times that a Presidential candidate has won the popular vote yet lost the
electoral vote. It happened in 1824 (John Quincy Adams beat Andrew Jackson),
1888 (Benjamin Harrison beat Grover Cleveland) and 2000 (George W. Bush beat Al
Gore). The reason this is possible, of course, is that the President is chosen
not by popular vote but by the Electoral College. A candidate must win a
majority of the electoral votes in order to win the Presidency.

46 – The highest
number of electoral votes won by any third-party or independent candidate in
the 20th or 21st centuries. In 1968, American Independent
Party candidate George Wallace of Alabama won more than 9.9 million votes to
claim 8.5 percent of the Electoral College votes.

62.8 – The
highest percentage of eligible U.S. voters who voted in any Presidential
election since World War II. The year was 1960 and saw John F. Kennedy defeat
Richard Nixon. Only 0.2 percent of the popular vote separated the two, but
Kennedy won the Electoral College with 303 (56.4 percent) electoral votes.

270 – The number
of electoral votes required to win the Presidency in the 2008 election. Under a
variety of Electoral College scenarios, a 269-269 tie is theoretically
possible. In that eventuality, the decision of who wins the Presidency is made
by the incoming House of Representatives, with each state's delegation
receiving one vote (this happened just once: in 1825, when Andrew Jackson won
the Presidency). The Vice Presidency in turn is decided by the Senate with each
Senator receiving one vote (this also happened once: in 1837, when Richard
Johnson became Martin Van Buren's Vice President).

1820 – The year
in which a Presidential candidate won the greatest percentage of electoral
votes ever. When James Monroe defeated John Quincy Adams, he captured 80.6
percent of the popular vote – but came away with a near-perfect 98.7 percent of
the electoral vote.

13,332 – The
lowest number of popular votes ever cast. It happened in 1792.

19,743,821 – The
number of votes received by Ross Perot in the 1992 Presidential election. It
was the most votes ever won by an independent candidate. It was also
approximately 3.6 million more votes than Warren Harding received in 1920 to
win the Presidency. Perot won 18.9 percent of the popular vote but zero

220,600,000 – The
total number of voting-age residents in the U.S. (as of 2006, the last year for
which U.S. Census Bureau figures are available). This year, the total will
probably be closer to 225 million, maybe more. Statistics show that about
two-thirds of eligible voters have registered to vote. If you're one of those
two-thirds, good for you – now be sure to get out there and make your vote
count on November 4.

Play the Percentages
10/20/2008

Watching financial
news these days is enough to make one dizzy. One day the market is down by
seven percent. The next day it's up by 11 percent. Then it's down by eight
percent. Up four percent. Down five percent.

These are roller
coaster days on Wall St.

Here's a question:
If you're listening to the news and you hear that the market is up 10 percent
the day after hearing that the market dropped 10 percent, you're probably
thinking that everything is back to where it was, right?

Of course it's a
trick question!

Many people will
think they've made it back to where they started, but here's a simple example
of why that's not the case at all.

Let's say you start
with \$10,000 worth of stock and the value drops by 10 percent. You have \$9,000
left. Now let's say the value increases by 10 percent. You have \$9,900.

Down 10 then up 10
hasn't gotten you back to where you started. You're not subtracting 10 then
adding 10, you're multiplying by 0.9 (down 10 percent) then multiplying by 1.1
(up 10 percent) – and when it's done, you've lost one percent of your money.
You'd actually need to see an increase of 11.111 percent to get back to
\$9,999.99.

It works the other
way, too. Start with \$10,000 and go up 10 percent: You have \$11,000. Now
decrease that \$11,000 by 10 percent and you're left with \$9,900. Again, you've
lost one percent from where you started in the first place.

Which is exactly why
it's important to not only know what the numbers are, but to develop the skills
to look deeper into what those numbers really mean and how they work.

See you next week!

Stop Spam: Know Math!
10/13/2008

In math, it's important to check your work. Here's a great example why.  There's an e-mail that's been getting passed around a lot lately. It begins:

Hi, Pals,

I'm against the \$85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG.

Instead, I'm in favor of giving \$85,000,000,000 to America in a We Deserve It Dividend.

To make the math simple, let's assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+.

Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child.. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up...So divide 200 million adults 18+ into \$85 billion that equals \$425,000.00.

My plan is to give \$425,000 to every person 18+ as a We Deserve It Dividend.

I've lost count of how many times I've seen this e-mail in my inbox or posted to an online forum. Except there's one problem, as you've probably already seen: The math is wrong.

That division? It equals \$425, not \$425,000. Seems someone doesn't know their billions from their trillions.

Yet this incredibly erroneous e-mail keeps getting passed around and passed around—often by very intelligent people who know better. It's not that they can't do the math if they think about it; it's that the math doesn't set off that little alarm in the head that says, "Hmmm, I wonder if that calculation is really correct?"

That's a quality in a Mathlete that's not often talked about: that little alarm. But when you have a keener awareness of math, you look at an e-mail like this and instead of saying, "Great idea! I'll send it to everyone in my address book!" you say, "Hmmm, let me check that division."

So check your work, everyone … and don't pass on bad math. But feel free to pass on this blog post to everyone in your address book!

MATHCOUNTS News Roundup
10/6/2008

MATHCOUNTS has been
in the news a lot lately.

First of all,
everyone here at MATHCOUNTS was thrilled to see that MATHCOUNTS national
champion Darryl Wu won a 2008 Relly Award for Best Junior Achiever. The Rellys
are awards given by the Live with Regis
and Kelly
program, and Darryl even made it into People Magazine.
This is the sixth year they've awarded them and the second year in a row that the
MATHCOUNTS champion has captured not only our national title but the Relly for
Best Junior Achiever. Click
here
to see Darryl – and to see Kevin Chen, who won the 2007 Relly!

Is the future of our
nation's energy in the hands of a MATHCOUNTS competitor? Perhaps. Here's a blog
post
that informs us of William Yuan, a 12-year-old Mathlete in Oregon, who
invented a new kind of solar panel. Wow.

Finally, from a
place where mathematics and fashion intersect comes this
video
from Women's Wear Daily that asks the timeless question, "
Who
says super models can’t be Mathletes?" The answer? "Not Donatella
Versace."

See you next week!

My Hero, Zero
9/26/2008

All the talk this week about "700 billion dollars" is making everyone's head swim a bit, so I think it's time for a bit of fun.

Back in the day (that "day" being the 1970s and early 1980s), Schoolhouse Rock snuck itself in between the cartoons broadcast on ABC to inject a little education into Saturday mornings.

The two Schoolhouse Rock cartoons everyone seems to remember are "Conjunction Junction" (what's my function?) and "I'm Just A Bill" (but I know I'll be a law someday).

People often forget, though, that there was a whole series of Multiplication Rock episodes, from "My Hero, Zero" (how wonderful you are) through "Little Twelvetoes" (I hope you're thriving).

Click around the links above where you'll find lyrics for each episode and, in many cases, links to view the episodes themselves.

Whether it's a trip down memory lane or you're discovering these for the first time, I bet you like them! Be sure to check out "Naughty Number Nine" – "naughty, nasty, mean old number nine." And when you do, go back two weeks and take a look at what I wrote about the "Fido Puzzle."

Enjoy!

A Billion Here, A Billion There …
9/19/2008

Here at MATHCOUNTS, we deal with numbers all the time, usually in a fun way. But if you're paying any attention to the news at all, even marginally, you're hearing a lot of numbers that aren't very much fun at all. The headlines are filled with news about financial issues and many billions of dollars being lost on both Wall Street and Main Street.

There's a famous quote attributed to Illinois politician and U.S. Senator (from 1950 to 1969) Everett Dirkson: "A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

But how much is a billion dollars, really?

Well, here's something interesting for starters: A billion can be either a thousand millions, which is how we usually think of it in the United States, or a million millions. Huh? Well, the latter case is an example of a "long scale" number, and I'll defer to the Wikipedia entry on long and short scales to explain further.

Okay, back to the question at hand: How much is a billion dollars?

Well, if you went to the mall and spent a dollar a second, it would take you 31 years, 259 days, one hour, 46 minutes and 40 seconds to spend a billion dollars.

If you stacked enough \$1,000 bills to add up to a billion dollars, the pile would be 63 miles high.

If you took a billion \$1 bills and laid them end to end, the result would be about 94,698 miles long and able to circle the earth nearly four times.

Forget money for a moment. How much is a billion?

A billion seconds ago, it was 1962.

A billion minutes ago (about 1,900 years), the Roman Empire was thriving.

A billion hours ago (about 114,000 years, that is), man was living in the Stone Age.

So there you have it. A billion. Now, when you listen to the news and hear about \$85 billion needed to bail out that financial institution or \$180 billion being moved over to that financial system, you'll start to have a little sense of what's going on.

Don't get me started on trillions, though.

The Fido Puzzle
9/15/2008

Over the last few weeks, several people have sent me an e-mail with a link to this puzzle created for the soft drink 7-Up. These sorts of things tend to come and go from my inbox, and while I certainly am not endorsing one product over any other, I do salute 7-Up for their use of a classic mathematical puzzle.

It's called the Fido Puzzle. Here's a good explanation of why it works.

You can actually design your own Fido-type puzzle to amaze your friends. Have them choose a number and manipulate it in some way. For example, if it's a three-digit number they can add the digits together or if it's a two-digit number they can subtract one from the other. Be creative and come up with multiple manipulations of the original number.

Here's the secret, though: At one point in the manipulations, have your friend multiply the number by 9. That will make the digits of the result add up to 9 – or some multiple of 9. From there, you can have them further manipulate the digits as you like, because you know what their number is, but your friend doesn't know you know – unless he or she is a MATHCOUNTS competitor.

So, to state it another way: Choose a number, X. Manipulate it in some way till it becomes Y. Multiply Y by 9 to give you Z. The digits of Z will add up to 9 or some multiple of 9 (in which case, have your friend add up the digits again). Take that 9 and have your friend do something with it (divide by 3, add 1, whatever – again, be creative). Then, at a dramatic point in the process, tell your friend the resulting number – he or she will be amazed.

It's fun – try it!

This Is No Elephant Joke!
9/8/2008

A lot of students who participate in MATHCOUNTS tend to be pretty competitive when it comes to math. My guess is that an average of 87, while certainly a very respectable B+ grade, would be seen by many as a disappointment.

However, if it's an elephant averaging 87 in math, that's something else entirely.

This story in The Times of London tells the tantalizing tale of a particularly proficient pachyderm curiously capable of absolutely astonishing arithmetic appraisals.

(Sorry, I got a little carried away with my P.T. Barnum alliteration there!)

The story got me to thinking about animals and arithmetic. You probably won't be surprised to learn that chimpanzees are good at math. However, you might have fun reading about

Oh, and speaking of animals, today marks the first-ever appearance of Pluto the dog in any Disney animation. He made his debut on September 5, 1930, in a cartoon called, "The Chain Gang."

That doesn't have anything to do with math, I just thought it was kinda interesting.

Thank You, Raytheon
8/29/2008

Perhaps you saw the press release, but in case you didn't:  I'm proud and excited to report that Raytheon Company will be the title sponsor of the MATHCOUNTS National Competition for the next three years from 2009 through 2011.

You know, there are a lot of dedicated people here at MATHCOUNTS who spend every day working extremely hard on our materials, our programs, our Web site – I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

But the success of MATHCOUNTS ultimately lies in the hands of the people who don't work here. It's in the hands of countless teachers who bring the MATHCOUNTS materials into the schools and run the local MATHCOUNTS competitions. It's in the hands of all the kids who compete against one another, who share a fundamental fascination with numbers and the great joy of learning.

It's also in the hands of a generous sponsor like Raytheon, who sees the value in math education and understands that the future lies in the hands of the Mathletes of today who will become the engineers and scientists and artists and professionals of tomorrow.

Thank you, Raytheon. You're investing in more than MATHCOUNTS … you're investing in the future.

Attention Math Teachers!
8/22/2008

August is winding down and Labor Day weekend will be here before you know it. You know what that means: The first day of school is right around the corner.

I always felt excited about the first day of a new school year when I was a student. I suppose it was the blank slate factor: fresh reams of looseleaf ready to be filled with new ideas captured with brand-new pens and pencils – it was like standing on the edge of uncharted territory and knowing that before long we'd all be exploring that territory and … well, you get the idea.

As a teacher, you have a lot to think about (as if you need me to tell you this!) -- from lesson plans to administrative issues and everything in between. But as you're making your plans, don't forget about MATHCOUNTS.

Be sure to download the free (yes, free!) 64-page MATHCOUNTS School Handbook and explore the rest of our recently redesigned Web site for information about the MATHCOUNTS Club Program and answers to frequently asked questions about MATHCOUNTS

If you're a math teacher and you remembered MATHCOUNTS in your planning for the year ahead, we thank you.

(Now don't forget to tell all your math teacher friends!)

Of COURSE Math Is Fun!
8/18/2008

Here at MATHCOUNTS, we're all about math being fun … so when I typed "math is fun" into my search engine and found (surprise, surprise!) a Web site called "Math Is Fun" over at (surprise, surprise!) mathisfun.com – well, I had to tell you about it.

I particularly like their math and logic puzzles page, which has all sorts of fun brain-teasers. Here's one:

What 5-digit number has the following features: If we put the numeral 1 at the beginning, we get a number three times smaller than if we put the numeral 1 at the end of the number.

Here's another one:

Use exactly four 4's to form every integer from 0 to 50, using only the operators +, -, x, /, () (brackets) x2 (square), and ! (factorial). Example: 0 = 44-44

Click on over … I bet you find yourself playing for hours -- I did!

Olympics By the Numbers
8/8/2008

Back on 6/6 I blogged a bit about 8/8 and … well, here we are already!

I'm sure most of you will be watching the Olympics at some point in the next two weeks, so I thought it would be fun to assemble some interesting Olympic numbers.

0.03: The margin of victory, in seconds (yes, three hundredths of a second!), for Angelo Taylor in the 4x400 relay at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

10: The difference between the number of countries that participate in the Olympic Games (203) and the number that belong to the United Nations (193).

22: The number of countries that have hosted the modern Olympic Games.

28: The number of sports represented in the summer Games.

31: The number of venues in which the 2008 Games will be held.

60: The approximate weight, in pounds of the armor worn by participants in the hoplitodromos, a running event introduced in 520 B.C. in which participants would race wearing armor and carrying a shield.

100: The number of oxen sacrificed to Zeus on the opening day of the ancient Games. They would then be consumed at a banquet for all participants on the closing day.

190: The number of meters in the stadion, the foot race held in the very first Olympic Games – and the only event held at those games – in 776 B.C.

202: Prior to the 2008 Games, the number of gold medals in swimming won by U.S. athletes – the most of any country.

600: The cost, in Chinese Yuan (equivalent to \$87.61), of the best available ticket to the swimming finals on Thursday, August 14, 2008.

2,784: The number of years ago that the very first Olympics ever took place, in 776 B.C.

41,875: The amount of steel, measured in tons, used to create the unusual lattice design of the "bird's nest" Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Games in Beijing.

300,000: The number of surveillance cameras installed to assist with security operations for the 2008 Games.

400,000: The approximate number of volunteers recruited by organizers to help stage the 2008 Games.

1,000,000: The number of cars banned from Beijing streets for three months to help clean the air in preparation for the 2008 Games.

40,000,000: The number of pots of flowers that are being used to brighten up Beijing streets for the 2008 Games.

450,000,000,000: The estimated cost, in Chinese Yuan (equivalent to \$65,710,697,701) of staging the 2008 Games – five times the cost of the 2004 Games in Athens.

Whew! Let the Games begin!