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Lou DiGioia on largest human Pascal’s triangles and more

I recently interviewed Lou DiGioia, executive director of MATHCOUNTS, for an "Inspired by Math" podcast series. The interview was great but, unfortunately, the audio wasn't. So, I had the audio transcribed and Lou was gracious enough to edit the transcript and fill in the gaps where the audio was so inaudible that the transcriptionist couldn't even guess at the words.

So, what did Lou and I talk about?

In a nutshell, Lou answered all of my questions about MATHCOUNTS. I had always assumed that MATHCOUNTS was the organization that puts on math competitions for the brightest of the bright middle school students. I was delighted to discover that there is much much more to how MATHCOUNTS serves students.

We also talked a lot about the making of the MATHCOUNTS 2013 Guinness World Record Pascal's Triangle created by 325 humans, each holding one of the numbers in the first 25 rows of the triangle.

Read the interview and you'll understand why accomplishing this was no easy feat.

Lou also answered these questions.

  1. Do you have a story about falling in love with math as a youth?
  2. What is MATHCOUNTS? What is its history, and its mission, and who does MATHCOUNTS serve?
  3. How did you go from earning a BA and an MBA to becoming the director of MATHCOUNTS?
  4. Tell us about MATHCOUNTS competitions.
  5. Tell us about the National Math Club.
  6. Tell us about the Math Video Challenge.
  7. Tough question: How would you address the concern that some people raise that contest organizations like MATHCOUNTS mainly serve the kids who are extra bright and extra motivated?
  8. Tell us about Solve-A-Thon
  9. What do you do in a typical day?
  10. Are there some interesting new projects that you are working on?
  11. The question I ask everyone: What advice would you give to a parent whose child was struggling with math?

Here is the transcript of the interview.

About Lou DiGioia

All Rights ReservedAs executive director of MATHCOUNTS®, Lou DiGioia leads the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to extracurricular middle school mathematics. As a former Mathlete®, DiGioia is the first executive director to have participated the MATHCOUNTS Competition Series as a student. During his tenure, he led the creation of The National Math Club, which builds student enthusiasm for math by providing schools with free resources to hold afterschool math clubs; and the Math Video Challenge, an online competition that has teams create innovative teaching videos based on MATHCOUNTS problems. In 2013, he orchestrated the organization’s successful Guinness World Record attempt of the fastest time to create the first 25 rows of Pascal’s Triangle in human formation. DiGioia holds a BA from Georgetown University and an MBA from George Mason University.


[From the overview page.]

The MATHCOUNTS Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that strives to engage middle school students of all ability and interest levels in fun, challenging math programs, in order to expand their academic and professional opportunities. Middle school students exist at a critical juncture in which their love for mathematics must be nurtured, or their fear of mathematics must be overcome. MATHCOUNTS provides students with the kinds of experiences that foster growth and transcend fear to lay a foundation for future success.

For more than 30 years MATHCOUNTS has provided enriching, extracurricular opportunities to students and free, high-quality resources to educators. Every child is unique, but we believe all children are capable of seeing the beauty and joy of math, whether they come to us already passionate about math, or intimidated by it.

There are many paths to math. We work to ensure that all students discover theirs.

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Ravi solves Rubik’s cube while juggling

This student from Stanford is awesome! And, in just 8 days his video has gotten over 4 million hits.

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More fun with the number 11

In honor of 11/22/11 (22 = 11+11), here is a nice complement to my 11/11/11 post.

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Happy 11/11/11 Day!

With help from a number of you I produced a screencast and blog article of fun math stuff for 11/11/11.

Read my blog article at the Wolfram Blog.

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Math is purest :)

From: xkcd. Hat tip to Colt at No Starch Press.

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Ma & Pa Kettle Math


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An incredible magic square

From Grey Matters:

In the following video from Germany, performer Robin Wersig asks for a 3-digit number, getting 843 as a reply, and then asks for a starting square, for which D2 is given. He then proceeds to start at square D2, and creates an 8 by 8 magic square totaling 843 in every row and column, all while performing a Knight's Tour!


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The importance of learning those formulas!

From XKCD:

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An evil twist on an old idea

From OhGizmo!

This gadget is pretty evil. It's an alarm clock that won't turn off until you solve an arithmetic problem. If you're not awake enough some morning to disarm the alarm, take solace in this quote from the OhGizmo! article:

... I wouldn’t actually worry about it becoming too annoying since I’m sure it will work with that age old equation; alarm clock + wall = silence.

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A fun moving cube kids can make

Here's a great craft project for kids to make using wooden cubes and duct tape. An adult will need to help with the cutting of the image to place on the cubes. I think it would be extra fun to design two images that work in such a way that you see one or the other depending on which way the cubes turn.


Hat tip to Richard Wiseman.

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