50k Download Milestone!

Just wanted to let all the Number Sense enthusiasts who frequent this site know that you’ve surpassed the 50,000 download threshold! A year ago I couldn’t even imagine this type of activity on the website. I thought there might be some mild interest and maybe a few teams might like my Number Sense Manual, but WOW, 50,000 cumulative downloads of my material is something else!

Thank you all for making this project a success and I look forward to building off of it in the near-future!

2018 Goals // Update

In an effort to combat the planning fallacy, I went into 2018 with only a handful of goals (which are outlined at the end of my 2017 re-cap) in order to make achieving them much more likely. Now that we are about one-third done with the year, I thought I would give a status update.

Goal 1: Read 2 Books of Month. So far, I’ve kept pace with this goal and have completed 9 books. Here is a short recap with a Siskel and Ebert thumbs up/down review (note: you should be able to find all these books from your local library).

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer: A first-hand re-telling of a mid-nineties Everest disaster that claimed 8 lives when an abrupt change of weather caught several expeditions off-guard. What fascinated me most about this book was the in-depth look at the logistics of climbing Everest (from selecting the gear to navigating the  route to the ins-and-outs of high-altitude acclimation). Additionally, Krakauer approaches the retelling of the disaster in a matter-of-fact, journalistic way that leaves you in awe how any rational person would willingly choose to attempt the climb (in fact, Krakauer mentions that in order to try the climb you probably are a little crazy to begin with…). <Thumbs Up>

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks: Breakout novel of the famed — and recently deceased — neurologist Oliver Sacks. The novel itself is composed of a series of interesting medical cases detailing some of the most extreme behaviors due to brain abnormalities (either through accidents, drugs, or other measures). Each vignette is interesting on its own and most provide some sort of insight into our daily behaviors. Of particular personal interest was the story of “The Twins” who, despite their significant mental deficiencies, could calculate large prime numbers. <Thumbs  Up>

Welcome to the Club by Raquel D’Apice: A humorous look at “100 Parenting Milestones” that every parent can relate to. Ranging from the significant (“First Time You Hold Your Baby”) to the trivial (“First Time You Hold Your Baby Over Your Head and He Vomits All Over You”), each milestone is a hoot to read and, more times than not, is something that, if you are a parent, you have truly experienced. <Thumbs Up for Current Parents>

A Happy Death by Albert Camus: A precursor to Camus’s The Stranger, this book seems more ripped from a sketchbook than a finished project. Although I appreciate the parallels with my quest towards Financial Independence (after all, what could make people more happy than stripping away their dependency on money — albeit, I’d choose a better way than murder!), overall, I found the book lacking in impact. <Thumbs Down>

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris: This was surprisingly the first David Sedaris book I’ve ever read and I found it to be a delight. Similar to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, this book is a collect of stories loosely centered around two autobiographical eras: Sedaris’s youth and his move to France during adulthood. Each story seems to be more hilarious than the previous (with my personal favorite being his fascination with finding the French translations of some very specific words about anatomy) and, if you like witty dialog, you’re sure to like this book. <Thumbs Up>

What Do You Care What Other People Think by Richard Feynman: I liked famed physicist’s Richard Feynman’s previous book Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman a lot so I figured I’d give this one a try. Let me just say that if you are expecting a sequel you are going to be sorely disappointed. There are some interesting stories but they are few and far between. The majority of the book deals with Feynman’s work on determining the root cause of the Space Shuttle Challenger’s mid-air explosion which is very long-winded and filled with pointless conversations about minutia that don’t amount to much. (Tl;dr: the O-ring became misshapen due to the low temperature at launch which led to a faulty seal). <Thumbs Down>

The Sebastopol Sketches by Leo Tolstoy: Although the Introduction was a bit of a snooze fest, the actual writings of Tolstoy chronicling the Siege of Sebastopol during the Crimean War of the 1850s was surprisingly riveting. Detailing three distinct parts during the siege (December 1854, May 1855, and August 1855), Tolstoy goes from hyper-patriotism regarding the conflict to utter-despondency, questioning the whole point of the war. <Thumbs Up>

Despair by Vladimir Nabokov: Despair is probably one of Nabokov’s most straight-forward, plot-driven novel that he wrote. Centered around a bizarre case of insurance fraud, the novel is a fictional first person retelling (albeit highly biased narration) of a murder-gone-wrong. The book is pretty gripping (the planning and orchestration of the deed leaves you wondering how things could go so wrong!) and has an unusual ending. <Thumbs Up>

Mary by Vladimir Nabokov: Nabokov’s first novel is more like a short story chronicling a coincidental love triangle. What I like most about Nabokov is his inventive and descriptive language — and although his first novel possesses some of these features, it’s certainly better in later works (with my personal favorite being Ada or Ardor). <Thumbs Down -unless you are a Nabokov fanboy like myself>

Goal 2: Run 1000 miles: Definitely have fallen demonstrably short of this goal. The math works out that I should have logged about 295 miles so far, but my Strava shows I’ve only ran a total of 117 miles — a discrepancy of 178 miles! Part of this is due to my re-aggravating my groin injury earlier in the year, but it’s mostly due to my inability to find time to go out for a run. Recently, I’ve picked up the pace a little (running about 41 miles so far in April), but 1000 total miles by the end of the year might be a little out of reach.

Goal 3: Better Time Management: This is definitely not a S.M.A.R.T. Goal as it’s difficult to measure, but I feel like I’ve done a much better job this year. I keep a active note on my phone highlighting my weekly to-do list and recently every Sunday I physically sketch out the week ahead on a printed calendar that gives me a better idea of my available time for each day. I’d give myself a solid “B” grade when it came to improving my time management skills.

Goal 4 (Added): Math Practice: Came to this goal a little late to include in my year-end wrap-up post, but I wanted to become a better math test writer (either through my work with Number Sense or through other, more challenging, competitions). I’ve done a fair amount of work on improving my Number Sense Manual and have begun reviewing some math problem solving books I purchased long ago during my competition days in order to give me guidance (and inspiration!) for my own test writing. Currently, I am engrossed in Paul Zeitz’s The Art and Craft of Problem Solving which is a good book for any aspiring math competitors out there.

Well that about does it! Will check back in over the summer to detail my progress — after all, it has been shown in academic research that making public declarations of your goals (and subsequent progress reports) leads to higher probability that you will achieve them!

Number Sense Manual // Revision A

Happy to announce I’ve finally completed the revision to the Number Sense Tricks Manual I originally made a little over ten years ago. Here is the direct download link (you can also get it from my webpage here).

I cleaned up a lot of the LaTeX programming and split up each section into it’s own .tex file making it a lot easier to compile individual sections. I also made the .pdf a lot more navigable by adding referencing and a few hyperlinks to my free Middle and High School practice exams.  Additionally, I double-checked the question/answer pairing and corrected a fair number of problems. Finally, I added about two dozen more tricks that will help with 3rd and 4th column questions on more recent exams which you can find in Section 4 of the manual.

I wanted to get this version out ASAP to help students with their upcoming UIL regional/state meets. Over the summer, I plan on adding a substantial amount of practice problems to each section and doing another run through to make sure I didn’t miss any commonly tested topics. Hope this material is helpful to you!

Number Sense Manual // Update

Just wanted to let all the avid Number Sense participants know that I am (finally!) in the process of revising and editing my Number Sense Manual. I’m about halfway done with revamping the LaTeX code which, hopefully, makes it more readable (a lot has changed in 10 years!). Once I’m done with that I plan on adding a few more sections detailing the tricks that can be used to solve some of the more recent exam questions. I also want to expand the content to include popular Middle School tricks since there seems to be a lot of demand for that. I’m hoping to have an updated manual by the end of March – so stay tuned!

2017 Re-Cap

Following in the footsteps of my year-end summary from last year, here is a list of some of my accomplishments as well as my shortcomings from 2017. Taking time to self reflect on major milestones is important to track where you’ve been as well as where you want to go. As nice as it would be to accomplishment everything that you set out for in a give year, life happens. With that in mind, these sort of lists aren’t necessarily chronicling “successes” and “failures” as they are showing what your real priorities are within the past year and how you can adjust them for the future if you find that your aspirations are out-of-sync with your actualities.

Professional Achievements

  • Received our site’s first patent concerning my team’s work on updating our facility’s linear accelerator.
  • Submitted a second patent concerning an unrelated efficiency our team implemented on our linear accelerator.
  • Presented at the HEART conference this year concerning the capabilities of our radiation test stands.
  • Helped spearhead an effort securing a high value, long-term contract (apologies for the vagueness…).
  • Became laboratory lead engineer (where else… the linear accelerator group!) and gained more first-time customers than I’ve seen since joining the site.
  • Completed all work efforts to the facility’s and customer’s satisfaction — with numerous highly regarded customer reviews.
  • Personally recognized at the division level for all of my efforts.
  • Submitted application to become a Senior Member of IEEE, having accumulated 10 years of experience and detailing professional growth over the last 5 years

Personal (+ Family!) Achievements

Where I Came Up Short (a lot of areas! — because having a child is tough!)

  • Still have not taken the Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam and receive certification which complemented some of my MBA coursework — will DEFINITELY accomplish this year since this has been on the list for two years now.
  • Did not become certified National Instruments LabVIEW Developer — however, I don’t think this is a priority anymore, so I’ll scrub it for next year.
  • Did not read as many books as I would prefer. (As an aside: highly recommend newly minted Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler’s book Nudge — at least the first half where he explains sources of personal biases). I’m setting a goal of 24 books for 2018.
  • Did not actually run a lot of miles last year (282, to be exact). After my 50 mile race, I kind-of slacked for a few months. When I tried to get back into the swing of things, I suffered a pulled groin muscle that sidelined me for most of fall. I’m setting a goal of 1,000 miles in 2018.
  • Kind-of sucked with time management in 2017. Yes, having a kid is part of it — and I didn’t fully appreciate that part of it until Eleanor started to crawl — but, overall, I had an incredibly busy work year that bled into my free-time a lot. My goal is letting myself be OK with better allocating work amongst my team as well as to getting myself more on a schedule.

Anyways, here’s to a very action-packed 2017 and the hope that 2018 will be just as fulfilling!

Website // Quick One-Year Analysis

Can’t believe I’ve had this website up and running for a full year now! With the help of Google Analytics, I’ve been looking at plots of different traffic data and I thought I would share with you two that are most telling.

This first shows a plot of unique website users since last November, while the second shows unique downloads (mostly of the .pdfs of my Number Sense practice materials) during the same time period. (Note: I only have been keeping track of that information since mid-July — shout-out to my buddy Jerod for helping me out with that.)

Unique Users 2017

Unique Downloads 2017

As you can see, the exponential growth is pretty evident which validates what I’ve thought all along: students and teachers are thirsty for free practice material to help their students succeed in STEM-fields.

Anyway, I plan on helping out where I can in the coming years and have some exciting things I want to put together! Here’s to another fruitful year!

Number Sense Practice Tests // Update

First off, thanks to everyone that has made my Auto-Generated Number Sense Practice Tests (both for High School and Middle School) such a success!

In late July, A friend of mine added a better way to track the number of downloads of all the practice exams posted on my website. I’m very happy to report that there were just about 2,000 unique downloads in about a span of 9 weeks! Incredible! I’m very proud to say that I’ve played (albeit a small) part in fostering a love of math with so many students!

Just to give y’all a quick update of the status of the project:

  • There are about 11,000 question in the Middle School and about 8,000 questions in the High School databases. Collectively, that represents enough problems to total 225 exams!
  • Now that the databases are pretty robust, I’m going to concentrate on making column-specific drill sheets. Basically, they’ll be full 80-question tests that focus on just questions from Column 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the exam. That way, students can better stretch themselves practicing on questions that they are currently reaching within the time limit.
  • I’m also going to start making topic-specific drill sheets. This will pair nicely with the work I’ve already done with my Number Sense Manual as I’ll provide even more practice problems for each topic. For instance, if you want to learn how to multiply two numbers close to 100, I’ll have drill sheets specifically highlighting those types of questions.
  • I’ve decided against making videos of each individual topic for the time being. If you’re looking for better explanations of the tricks outside of my manual, I suggest going to Math Ninja’s Youtube Page as he has already made a ton of videos detailing how to do most of the tricks.

That’s about it! Good luck to all the students and teachers with their competitions during the 2017-2018 school year!

Patent Issued // Customizable RF for Use in Particle Accelerator Applications

Patent 9,750,123

Received notification that my team’s US Patent concerning recent advancements to our linear accelerator officially got issued yesterday (August 29th). If you want to look it up, you can do a US Patent Search for Patent #9,750,123 or just click on the link here (note: might not work on mobile).

This was a pretty big milestone that was celebrated at our site and it gave me a chance to go through Boeing’s Invention Disclosure process for the first time. All-in-all it was relatively painless and I was very impressed by how quickly our patent attorney was able to pick up on the technical concepts despite being not too familiar with high energy physics. Probably the worst thing about the whole deal was the long wait — the patent was filed last August and it took a little over a year to go through the US Patent Office review process.

Regardless, it was worth the wait and I am very pleased with the outcome! Currently, I have two more invention disclosures in the works that are in various stages of development, so I hope that this is the first of several patent awards for myself and my team in the near-future!

Eugene & Janey Heath Engineering Endowment // Texas Tech University

Two years ago I started an effort to memorialize my late grandparents, Eugene and Janey Heath, by creating an endowment at Texas Tech University’s College of Engineering. You can read my testimonial concerning the gift, and my motivation behind it, here.

Although the endowment became fully funded after the first year because of the generosity of my family, today marked the completion of my initial pledge amount as I sent the university the last of my obligated donation. I am incredibly proud to have seen this project through its entirety and look forward to contributing, unencumbered, in the future!

For those looking to make an indefinite mark at your alma mater, I highly recommend establishing an endowment. With dollar-for-dollar employee matching and the lowering of creation thresholds, starting a fund has never been easier for a graduate. The amount universities (and their conferred degrees!) give to their graduates extend well beyond the price they recoup through tuition. I’ve had incredible experiences and created lasting relationships through my time at Texas Tech — so giving a little bit back after graduation was something I always knew that I wanted to do. Today marks a personal milestone for myself, my family, and my university!

BYU Math Contest + Number Sense Tests // Update

Received word back from the BYU Math Contest organizers that the problems I submitted a few weeks back made the cut and will be used in the problem pool for this years test!

In other news, I crossed the 3,000 question threshold for my automated Number Sense Tests which will mean less test-to-test repetition. My goal is to get a bank of 10,000 questions before I begin work on having user-generated exams via the website so students aren’t beholden to my weekly posts.

Anyways, 2017 is off to a great start!