On December 13th, 2020 I finished my yearlong project of running every street of Salt Lake City. Without a doubt, this has been the most demanding running goal I have ever set for myself (and I ran a 50-miler a few years back…). This project was complete with physical, mental, and logistical challenges that — when thrown in during the year that was so difficult already — tested me in a number of ways.
I won’t bore you with the play-by-play of each run (which, if you have a Strava account, you can trace back all my 2020 runs here) nor give you an exhaustive breakdown of all the interesting things I’ve seen, but I do want to spend a few paragraphs discussing the impact of committing yourself to achieving a goal that seems so far-fetched and, at times, insurmountable by simply performing a series of tasks one day at a time.
It’s tough to put into words what running 994 miles across 118 runs — yet alone all the route planning and map double-checking — meant to me. It’s easy to put up a finished map with all streets marked complete and understand the finished product, but thinking about each individual run or each time I printed off a small portion of the city gives me a better sense of what was required to get there.
And this is so true with respect to all sorts of facets of my life: education, relationships, work, hobbies — you don’t just suddenly arrive at a point of expertise but, rather, through consistent hard work, you eventually just sort-of get there.
So I challenge everyone who happens across this website (whether it be for Number Sense practice material or for running advice) to think of an area of their life that they can practice consistency with and try to better themselves one small step at a time. I promise you, the journey will be way more fulfilling than the celebration at the finish line.
I view the videos as a supplement to the Number Sense Manual whereas I will describe less the derivation of each trick and outline more the general thought process when applying the trick under different circumstances. I think having the videos and the Manual sets me a part from other Mental Math channels as you can get exposed to each trick through the Manual, look up the video to see how it can be applied, and go back to the Manual for extra practice.
Anyways, I hope to go through all the tricks by the end of this year. Additionally, I would love to answer student’s questions through videos, so if you have any particular questions you’d like to see answered, e-mail me at:
Hey y’all – just wanted to write up a quick post as it’s been a while since the last status update (you know, the whole pandemic thing…).
First off, I absolutely feel for all the high school students out there — especially the Class of 2020. My heart breaks for you guys that all the hard work and hours-and-hours of practice you put into being the best math/science competitor came to such a nondescript ending. I can’t even imagine having to go through that and the range of emotions you must have felt: disappointment, sadness, anger, regret — just to name a few, I’m sure. This past spring was not the way to end one’s high school experience and this fall is definitely no way to start college. I just wanted to personally say that I’m so sorry!
As for current high school students, from what I gathered from the UIL website is that, barring some COVID-related precautions, it’s business as usual for the 2020/2021 school year and that competitions are on schedule. However, if I’m reaching an incorrect conclusion, please leave a comment as to what exactly the plans are (I’m not a Texas school teacher or affiliated with UIL, so I’m not too aware of what the actual plans are). Similarly, it looks like there will also be TMSCA events scheduled as normally planned according to their posted calendar.
Since the competitions are resuming, I figured I’d give you an update on the status of the website. As always, I will be uploading my automated generated Middle School and High School Number Sense exams on a weekly basis. Additionally, I have received a slew of corrections from a handful of e-mailers about already-generated tests that I plan on correcting in the next month. Finally, I believe I have found a good technique to start recording individual number sense tricks videos which I will post to Youtube and cross-link them on this site.
As always, if you have any questions on how to approach problems or whether or not a trick exists for some more recent questions, you can send me an e-mail at:
Lastly, a few things that are going on in my life since my last posting:
Celebrated my 10-year work anniversary with Boeing
Received a “Meritorious Award” for a new invention that I’m currently working on getting patented
Spent a stint frantically trying to figure out how to work-from-home and juggle daycare closures for my 3 year-old
Had a second child (!!)
Set a goal for 2020 to run every street in Salt Lake City. After 700+ miles, I’m about 80% done — you can follow my progress on Strava here (taking a little breather the past few weeks due to the prior bullet point)
Started-up tutoring Algebra II and Pre-Calculus online for local area students. (I have been considering maybe offering short 30-minute Number Sense tutoring sessions using the same online approach — let me know via e-mail if that might be something worthwhile to do)
That’s about it for me! Expect a little more frequent posting now that things seem to have settled down a bit.
I know that all you Number Sense competitors are in the thick of your qualifying and are hungry for more practice tests! As a result, I just updated a fresh batch of four exams that you can find in the Middle School and High School practice test sections. I’ll also be a lot more regular with uploading tests on a weekly basis.
Additionally, I have recently added ~1500 questions into the High School problem database and ~800 questions into the Middle School problem database. As a result, the auto-generated practice exams should be a little bit more reflective of current exams.
Finally, thank you to EVERYONE who has sent me an e-mail! I’ve enjoyed helping a number of students with how to solve a wide variety of questions (some of which aren’t mentioned in the manual). I’ve also received several e-mails outlining errors in the exams that I plan on correcting, en masse, at the end of this year’s competition calendar.
Thanks for making this project so wildly successful!
Thank you to EVERYBODY who has made this website so successful over the past two years — so happy that I could reach a fair share of you all and (hopefully) you’ve gotten good use out of all this practice material! Math is fun!
On a related side-note, I started updating the practice test repository which you find on the sidebar. Happy competing!
Just wanted to let everyone know that I have been fairly busy with my normal job (plus a home renovation!) over the summer. As a result, I haven’t been able to do any of the Video Tutorials that I was so enthusiastic about earlier this year.
However, I have done some things in preparation for the 2019-2020 School Year:
Added several hundred questions to the Middle School database.
Added a little over a thousand questions to the High School database.
Began editing past exams to reflect errors users have contacted me about (thanks to everyone who has e-mailed me — really appreciate it!
Begun the process of segmenting my database into “like-minded” questions for use as drill sheets. That way, individuals can heavily practice single topics at a time.
Well I know I’ve been talking about it for a while (and at one point settled on not doing them), but I finally decided to do something about providing video tutorials that are meant to accompany the material supplied by my Number Sense Manual. Here is a quick sample video (it was literally a single-take unrehearsed screen capture — the “real-deal” instructional videos will go a lot more smoothly):
Quicktime for screen capturing (resized to ~1024×768)
On-board microphone for audio recording (but am looking into getting a Blue Yeti USB mic)
If you have any suggestions on how to better screen capture, please leave a comment on this post (note: it will need to be Mac-compatible).
I plan on having the video broken up into two parts: instruction and examples — with a minimal amount of my handwriting as possible. The videos are planned to be less than 5 minutes long each and will follow, sequentially, with the sections in my Number Sense Manual. Eventually when I revise my manual again, at each section I will provide a hyperlink to its corresponding youtube video that will further aid in the trick’s explanation.
I hope to do two to three tricks a week. Also, if you e-mail me with a question on how to do a problem, I’ll either give you .pdf containing the step-by-step instructions or a brief video. So there you go!
As readers of the website might know, I am an avid enthusiast and follower of the FI/RE movement (e.g., Financial Independence, Retire Early). If you want to read more about that, I suggest starting with this article here and follow it up with more of my favorites here.
There has been a complimentary theory that has started to revolutionize charitable giving that many FI/RE proponents have endorsed that is called Effective Altruism. The gist of Effective Altruism is that if you truly believe all lives are equal then you should focus your giving towards having the most impact with regards to saving lives. Oftentimes, this means donating towards health-related organizations that operate in under-developed countries as each donated dollar tends to go farther in those places.
The person most associated with the movement is popular philosopher Peter Singer. He’s written severalbooks about the subject and put on a pretty convincing TED talk which you can watch below:
If you have the means, I highly encourage doing your own research about effective altruism (that includes reading-up on some of the nay-sayers as well) and come to your own conclusions on how and where to give.
To wrap up 2018 in a sentence: being a parent is hard! My daughter was one-year old for most of the year which opened up a whole batch of time constraints I never could have planned for. For one, she went from crawling around to running (and dancing!) everywhere. Just keeping up with her led me to get the majority of my 10,000 daily steps in. Pretty much anytime she wasn’t asleep my time has been 100% devoted to her which is pretty great but not conducive to accomplishing some of the goals I had planned from last year. That’s OK though, as I think I’ve learned to manage my time better around her, so here’s to hoping that 2019 is full of personal milestones!
Although I feel well short of my 1,000 mile goal, I ran for 376 miles across 70 active days (my schedule, both at home and at work, got immensely busy starting in June).
Helped throw a successful 2-year old birthday party at our house and had a wonderful year watching my daughter grow up!
Had two great vacations with both sides of my family that resulted in some epic family photo sessions.
Where I Fell Short
Still haven’t taken the Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam (ugh!) — I’m currently re-evaluating whether I want to even try for it now or not…
Did not read as many books as I set out to rad. I wanted to shoot for 2 per month (24 total), but wound up reading 16. As a result, I’ve augmented my reading goals for this year.
Feel incredibly flat with my math reading. I did get through some books (like Paul Zeitz’s The Art and Craft of Problem Solving), but overall I was very underwhelming.
Although I’ve made incredible leaps with regards to time management, I can always improve (see: this year’s goals).
I took 2018 as a re-calibration of my expectations. Although my goals seem to remain roughly the same for this year, I think I’ve developed a better mindset on how to actually workup and execute them. So without further ado, here is my 2019 list:
Run 1,000 miles. I’m off to a good start so far: 3 weeks in and 63.0 miles down! I need to average about 2.75 miles a day which is totally do-able. I’ve signed up for the Salt Lake City marathon and have a stretch goal of completing a 100-miler by the end of the year.
Keep up better with the website. I’ll admit it, sometimes sitting down on my computer and hashing out a post — regardless of length — is a bit of a slog. For 2019, I want to write-up at least 1 post a month and not just be pigeonholed into discussing what’s happening my life. I want to actually do more projects and report back on those findings. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from my Number Sense material and I want to expand by doing short instructional videos for each of the tricks.
Take my scheduling to the next level. Move from effectively planning to actually executing the majority of the tasks I have planned.
Do one thing around the house every day. Pretty self-explanatory!
And that’s it! As usual (in order to combat the planning fallacy), I’ve made a small number of goals that I can break into accomplishable sub-pieces rather easily.
Here’s hoping that 2019 turns out to be just as productive as some of my past years!