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Friday, July 21, 2006


I finished Steve Olson's Count Down: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World's Toughest Math Competition this week. Gotta give the guy snaps for going for a narrative on a competition where the kids just go in and work on math questions. Olson takes the opportunity while the kids are sitting at their tables to go off on explorations of what it is to be creative, the meaning of "genious," whether Asians are inherently better at mathematics and science, etc.

This book falls into what I think of as the "Wall Street Journal page 1 narrative," which is more "story segment, exposition/tangent, story segment, exposition/tangent, story conclusion." See Follow the Story, by former WSJ editor James B. Stewart for a lengthier explanation.

I note that Olson tagged along for the 2001 Olympiad and the book was published in 2004. It takes so long to do a book from beginning to end! How does anyone have the patience?

For stories of competitions, reviewers on Amazon of Count Down recommend the documentary Spellbound (and I wholeheartedly concur) and Cookoff (I haven't read it, but it's now on my list).

By the way, I've put the links here to Amazon so that the info on the books is easily available, but I always try first to get my books at the public library.


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