Crowdfunding More Public School Chess

The AVC community will remember back to this summer when we helped to crowdfund a middle school chess team that was struggling to come up with the money to go to the tournaments it had won numerous times over the past decade. That was a huge success for everyone involved. And like most successes, it brought out other similar efforts.

One that I am particularly fond of is at the Park Slope Elementary and Middle School (aka PS/MS 282) in Park Slope Brooklyn. At PS/MS 282, every student learns chess and 50 of the students are selected to represent the school in the state and national championships. Last year, PS/MS 282 won the National Championships in the K-5 category for Under 900.

Royal panthers

In order to raise the funds to send the kids back to the state and national championships this year, PS/MS 282 is doing a Donors Choose campaign right now. I have given to the campaign and I thought I'd let everyone here at AVC know about it too. If you want to support public school chess and help these kids defend their title, you can support them here.

I am a big fan of teaching chess to youngsters. I think it teaches struggling, persevering, thinking ahead, and getting ahead. I would like to see more of it in our public schools.

#hacking education#NYC

Comments (Archived):

  1. CalebSimpson

    Very cool! I’ve always been amazed at just how much youngsters can learn. I bet any one of those kids could take me down in chess. Even the young mind is capable of great things.

  2. Khalid

    Fred says : “I think it teaches struggling, persevering, thinking ahead, and getting ahead. “I like this sentence. 🙂

  3. Carl Rahn Griffith

    I’m still rather amazed that nobody has (to my knowledge) jazzed-up the aesthetics of online chess – the gameplay/etc and history/role-playing potential is vast…

  4. reggiedog

    I believe that we, as a society, fail our children (and ourselves) by privatizing the funding of a public good such as this. While I applaud your genuine sentiments, I believe that they are misguided, and in fact counter-productive, because they legitimize the de-funding of public education. Should every school program require private funding? Are libraries and internet access next (if not already)?

    1. pointsnfigures

      I disagree pretty strongly with your statement. The public school system nationwide is a total disaster.We need more competition for public schools through vouchers and school choice. America needs innovation in education desperately. The existing bureaucratic system, and teacher’s unions block innovation.Fred’s effort spreads a little ray of sunshine and opportunity into these kids lives. No one in the photo above will become a grandmaster. They will take lessons that they learned and apply them to real life.

      1. reggiedog

        Not a ‘total” disaster; my kids go to truly amazing public schools in a community that lionizes teachers.I have volunteered in poverty-level schools and don’t see the teachers’ union (whose members often buy their students’ school supplies) as the main problem. It seems that the poverty and lack of investment is the problem.I believe that the poverty rates, tax bases and priorities in the failing school communities are primary cause. The innovation of MOOC’s, charter schools and 2-year, unprofessional, ill-prepared Teach for America teachers just don’t have the data to support them as solutions.

        1. pointsnfigures

          @reggiedog, Public education is a total disaster. We spend more and more money and get less and less. I pulled my kids out of very good public schools and sent them to private school because I thought it could be better. I was right.American school children are less prepared academically than our competitors. Last year we gave out slightly more than 200,000 degrees in STEM out of all college undergrad degrees granted. (Can’t cite the exact root for that stat; an 80 year old professor at a major public college gave it to me over dinner) There are isolated instances of good public schools, but they are rare when compared to the total American public school system.Education innovation is a relatively new phenomena. Give it time. It also has trouble because existing entrenched players with the political cronies are using all the power they have to stop it. It takes 30 years for true innovation to make a gigantic difference. Education innovation isn’t a 30 second miracle.Unbundling education is the civil rights of our time. It’s not just inner city kids that are being short changed. Rural kids have similar problems.Friends of mine have built charter schools, and you can’t imagine the hell they went through fighting the bureaucracy and teachers unions.If you want data, look at Louisiana and New Orleans before and after Katrina. Prior, some of the worst schools in the country. Post, they are graduating children that are prepared for life. Bobby Jindahl has done great things down there and was able to persuade Democrats and Republicans to change.KIPP and other charter school programs can revolutionize education if we allow competition.Another friend of mine is working on an educational startup in Austin, TX. Will revolutionize and bring a high priced private school educational program to the masses if he is successful.

          1. ShanaC

            what about philly – where charter schools are not performing any better (en mass)

      2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        Yes…there are bug fixes and total-pivoting… each one’s needs and efforts and people involved are different.

    2. Richard

      There is an important lesson for the kids that your are missing. I still remember raising money for my first class trip through a bake sale. Raising money for class trips etc. is part of the educational process.

    3. fredwilson

      i am pragmatic, and not particularly principled. when something isn’t working, i want to fix it now. fixing the system is hard and may never happen.

      1. JamesHRH

        At a certain point, you have to say that progress is progress.I agree.

  5. pointsnfigures

    Chess is good because it tests mentally. You can learn a lot of great lessons on the field of athletics, but if you aren’t physically able it can be very difficult to learn those lessons. Everyone can play chess.

    1. Andrew Kennedy

      I played chess and hockey intensely from ages 7-12 and then shifted focus primarily to hockey throughout middle school and high school. I went to nationals for chess when I was 12. I didn’t win anything at nationals (can’t remember if I won a match), but I mention this because my chess trophies towered over my hockey ones. Looking back, hockey and chess were a great combination of mental and physical development. Sports are great for learning what it takes to win as a team.

      1. fredwilson

        yup. i’m a big fan of team sports for kids. lot’s of valuable lessons even if you aren’t a great athlete (i am certainly not!)

        1. Richard

          Basketball .. Baseball

          1. JamesHRH

            Imminent threat of physical injury adds several dimensions to the team aspect of hockey (football too).

        2. falicon

          …music to my ears…music to my ears… 🙂

      2. JamesHRH

        great combination.

      3. falicon

        Agree. FTW! ;-)sorry…I can only go so long without a least a little *shameless plug*!

    2. LE

      I guess the issue I would take with this vs. some skill that is more analog is that with a “game” there is only one winner and the people who don’t win don’t get as much praise or benefit. In real life coming in third or 100th actually can matter. Not in a sport or a game though. Even in what you did (commodities?) you didn’t have to be the “winner” just right more than you were wrong. That’s real life, right?Anyway let’s say you took a group of kids at a school and gave them a task in which they had to learn how to sell and they would make money for themselves (I’m not talking about fund raising).In that case if someone made $350 and another made $600 while it would be nice to make the most money the fact that you were able to use strategy and effort to make a dollar would pay off well into the future. Especially for disadvantaged kids.It’s easier to teach chess of course because it’s an organized sport and game and it’s legacy as far “this is what we do”. (I tend to hate stuff like that one of the things about schools is they really do the same type things they have always done..)And there really aren’t people to coach kids in the small business “game”.Because the people that would do that typically would work for a corporation (they are encouraged to do this on the side to move up the ladder) and they don’t really know about small business.The guys who do know about smb don’t have the time to do these things. Or if they do it ends up being some kind of fake “junior achievers” type thing (like in risky business).

      1. falicon

        In sports, you learn *everything* in the practice…people think it’s about the games, but it’s really the practice and training that’s the meat.The games are just a (hopefully fun) way to gauge how well you’ve been doing in practice….which I believe means, *everyone* can learn and improve through sports (and competition in general so long as you approach practice and training properly)…

  6. David Semeria

    Agreed that chess brings many benefits but – thankfully – I don’t expect we’ll see yesterday’s enthralling debate about how helpful it is in getting people laid.

    1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      you don’t know what made internet popular? 🙂

      1. pointsnfigures

        Chess is all about getting laid. You have to predict the “opponents” moves prior to acting.

    2. JamesHRH

      Chess skills can be applied to anything. Not saying that grand masters apply their skills to your topic a lot…..but they could.

  7. Brandon Burns

    I’m all for this, despite the not-so-hot-on-chess personal story that’s coming…When I was little, I played chess with my uncle all the time. He urged me to join the chess team in high school. He figured since I was at a prep school, it would be “normal.” It wasn’t. I was cool enough to not be labeled a total loser, but a good amount of cool points were definitely confiscated from me. It wasn’t the end of the world… until I had to miss a big social event freshman year due to the state chess championships. In a school where pretty much everyone was a nerd, I was suddenly nerd #1 (well, that might be an exaggeration, but you get the point). It took me probably a good two years to recover from that blow and regain those cool points. I wish I could say it was worth it, and it was in some respect — I focused on my music, got into the Chicago Youth Symphony, went on an intl. tour, etc. (which, being in a school of full of kids trying to over-achieve each other, was ironically a boost to social status). But looking back on it, I would have rather not endured the hell that is being stuck in social exile during the first half of my high school career.That said, maybe some of this money should go towards making chess seem cool to kids. Find a couple respectable celebrities who play the game and do a video, and distribute it in schools.

    1. takingpitches

      should have gotten a car man!

      1. Brandon Burns

        a porche would have come in handy. 🙂

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Naw. Not enough room in thefront seats, and the back seatis missing or way too small! :-)Instead, get a used SUV, folddown the back seat, and spreadout some blankets or pump upa sleeping bag. My brother likedhis car where the front seat wasdivided, and the passenger sidewould lean back to flat! And turnoff the @#$%^&*() smart phone!And to heck with being ‘cool’; instead, get nice and warm!

          1. pointsnfigures

            This might be better.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Excellent! And no side windows! Everyfather with a daughter regards that asthe four wheels from hell!

          3. pointsnfigures

            Yes, as a father of daughters we do….. and I have a nice shotgun that works really well. When this van is rocking…..

          4. sigmaalgebra

            For you, your wife, and your daughters, I wish onlythe best. For any boys who want to see a daughterof yours, here is a secret score card for you to useto evaluate him, (1)-(7) and (A)-(E):(1) Caring.He needs to care about her, really, REALLY CARE.He wants for her for all the rest of her life onlygood things and no bad things, even if he gets runover by a truck tomorrow and is not there to see.He never, ever wants her hurt in any way, from anysource, for any reason, at any time and wants tocherish, treasure, and protect her from being hurt.If they are walking across a meadow and a mad dogcomes after them, without hesitation he gets betweenthe dog and your daughter; she runs to safety; andthe boy looks for a big stick and, stick or not,takes on the dog and likely dies. No hesitation.No doubt.He knows that if she ever cries, necessarily thefault is his and will welcome retribution from you.He is to be a wise and responsible leader andboyfriend for her.She is always as safe with him as gold in Fort Knox.Period.(2) Commitment.He will never, ever give up on her.(3) Affection.Daily he will pour over her a river of warmaffection.(4) Romance.He will hold her hands, kiss them both, stack andhold them, pray to God with tears in his eyes thathe be a good boyfriend for her and never let themcome apart and with all the sincerity andmeaningfulness he can find say into her eyes threelittle words. Frequently.(5) Knowledge.He will exchange with her knowledge of what’sbetween the ears, thoughts, feelings, frustrations,fears, hopes, dreams, etc.(6) Passion.It’s nearly all just for her, and what he mostlywants is just her smiles, and, no matter what shewants, as her boyfriend will never ‘go too far’.Period.(7) Faithfulness.She’s the only one for him. He just doesn’t wantanyone else.(A) In holding hands, hugging, and kissing, he doeshis best to communicate to her, with full sincerityand meaningfulness, how much he loves her.Thus, each morning she wakes up and knows that she’snot alone because he really loves her, will continueloving her for a long time, and the love will getbetter and better.A major purpose of the whole relationship is justnot feeling alone.(B) He respects her. E.g., he never, never attemptsto dominate, embarrass, insult, humiliate,intimidate, denigrate, or subjugate her.Her self-esteem goes up, not down, and she smilesmore and more.No one is perfect, but he still respects her. If,no, when, she has a problem, then for a solutionit’s at least their problem together and maybemostly just his problem.He’s essentially not permitted to have any problemsthat affect her.(C) He responds to her. If she asks a question,wants something, looks a him, etc., he respondsappropriately.(D) He is honest with her, no lying, deception,manipulation, destructive competition.(E) She can trust him. Period.More generally:He brings her to his home for a Sunday dinner tointroduce her and his family.He gives her parties in his home, for her birthday,when they ‘go steady’ or get engaged, any victory orsuccess she has in school or extracurricularactivities, has her over for Thanksgiving, theholidays, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s day, and anyother excuses.He and his family try to arrange outings where sheis invited along, to a picnic, boating trip, play,concert, opera, charity party, country club dance,tennis match, etc.After a snow storm, they work/play in the snow,shovel walks, build a snowman, entertain children inhis or her neighborhood, etc.They eagerly take opportunities to do thingstogether that are productive in school, business,community activities, etc.They accumulate a collection of activities,traditions, memories, etc. that they like, commonlycan continue, don’t want to lose, can’t get anywhereelse and that will help them stay happily together.If they are eager to sit alone, then they can get alaptop computer and a DVD of an opera, the libretto,and the score and can learn some music and French,Italian, German, etc.They might get to where they can play the Vitali’Chaconne’ together, piano and violin, really well.They have lots to do other than find a place to parka van and get it “rocking”.Not difficult. Much easier than first year algebra.I very much wish I’d had this list, together withexplanations for why various parts of the list areimportant, when I was 14.Draft for part of ‘Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys’.

      2. JamesHRH


    2. B12N

      This guy, some world champion with highest ELO rating ever seems pretty cool.

      1. JamesHRH

        Unique genetic combination there.

      2. LE

        In the above photo he looks like a doosh to me. I wouldn’t want him marrying any of my daughters.(Looks like it’s Magnus Carlsen found by searching “highest elo rating”)

        1. B12N

          Yep it’s him. I find your comment funny simply because James Altucher made exactly the opposite remark here:…”World Chess Champion Magnus Carlson. My daughters have my permission to marry him”LOL

          1. LE

            Sorry. Wouldn’t want my daughters to marry any celebrity. Especially this one. What kind of screwy life would that be where it all revolves around him? [1] How well adjusted is he? (I know nothing about him he might be totally normal, right?) [2]Someone who is a champion like that has an off the bell curve personality. I would prefer someone more “normal”.Noting also that Sergey Brin is divorcing his first wife.[1] Otoh if the idea was to marry him in order to get the fame and benefits in the short term that came with being married to him I’d be all for it. Then use that as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. It puts you on the radar and allows you to make connections. Just don’t go into it thinking it will last and don’t have any kids.[2] My snap judgement. If this were a real situation I would investigate further obviously.

          2. JamesHRH

            I believe that point 1) is known as ‘pulling a Huffington’.

          3. Anne Libby


          4. JamesHRH

            what? ;-)Maybe a guy will pull a Huffington on Lexie Stewart (as an example that comes to mind) & you can rename it in his honour.

          5. JamesHRH

            Totally agree with the issue of the narcissism required of champions, BTW – see my comment to @Brandon_Burns:disqus post re: cool.

        2. JamesHRH

          Your daughter might disagree though.

    3. JamesHRH

      This is a great post.Cool is a very important topic.First, it is a word that holds the test of time. You don’t look like a dork by saying cool today, even though the word has a 60 year history.Second, the real key to parenting is the deft steering of your children’s definition of cool. BullyIng? Not cool. Getting bad grades at school? Not cool. Being your own definition of your own bad self? Very, very cool.As an aside, there is huge pressure in lots of schools for boys not to be smart. Really not cool. Your school’s definition of cool was pretty solid.Third, cool points change generationally. My oldest brother was 11 years older than me. Our peer groups definition of cool are fairly different. I will spare you the details.Last, culture plays a big part in it. We tend to think of uber successful people as really cool. Most of them are not cool, unless sociopathic narcissism fits your definition of cool.To paraphrase Ron White, “cool is for evah”

    4. LE

      That said, maybe some of this money should go towards making chess seem cool to kids.Maybe money should be spent to educate kids with some perspective on why “cool” doesn’t matter. Not to worry about what others think and to need validation. I know that will be difficult.I’m thinking of two particular kids. One was the coolest kid in elementary school. Let’s call him David Schwartz. He had the fastest 100 yard dash. Was always on the bus with this “chuck it here” to other kids (with a football).Always choosing the teams. Good looking to boot. Lost touch with him but he ended up being a shoe salesman or something like that. Another kid was always choosing the sports teams as well. Works in a jewelry store now after his daddy’s business went bust. Of course yesterday I made an example of kids I knew that weren’t cool back then and are quite accomplished now specifically because they weren’t popular enough to have a group of friends. I’m sure we all have examples of this.I know even as an adult it’s hard to not be bothered by what people say. But if you start early and develop a way to do it it pays off well in the future. If you don’t you will always be constrained by what people think and it will limit your potential.

  8. Richard

    Here is a little better feel: “it would be unprecedented for the entire team to be able to travel and compete together. In the past we have only been able to send small representative sections, based upon whose families could afford to make the trip. We simply couldn’t afford to send everyone”.Compelling Message.

  9. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    I gave (little … but whatever i can) because I owe fred and this AVC community my tuition fee…

    1. fredwilson

      thank you

    2. ShanaC


  10. Evan

    Poker > Chess.

    1. JamesHRH

      Poker = Chess LIteFewer tactical options in poker. Reading of players more valuable.

      1. Evan

        Chess is a game of perfect information. It’s pretty non-social.Poker is more analogous to life. It’s a game of imperfect information. It’s more social. It teaches you to deal with emotional swings much better than chess does.

        1. B12N

          Why not play both. I do (though poker more often than chess nowadays)? You also have to play poker with real money, in my opinion, to really take advantage of the lessons you get from emotional swings (a downside for, lets say, kids). Luck also plays a huge factor in the short-run, and I’m not sure if this is a pro or a con in terms of motivation, especially for kids. In chess, if you work hard, study, and practice, you can see almost immediate results in terms of wins. You can play an entire session of poker perfectly and still lose your stack, so that could be demotivating, especially for a kid.I know Peter Thiel is a rated as a chess-master and claims you can apply a lot of lessons you learn from chess to business. Then again, a lot of other successful business and political leaders also play poker (David Einhorn).So play both. Apples and Oranges.

        2. JamesHRH

          Totally agree with you.Chess is far more intellectually rigourous. Poker is far more applicable to life.

  11. Diana

    Fred, You should also look into Chess in the Schools. They have been around since 1986 and support/sponsor NYC public school children http://www.chessintheschools.orgI think they’ve supported 400,000 kids at this point.

    1. fredwilson

      yup, they are a great program.

  12. AMT Editorial Staff

    It teaches “GRIT”. That is what kids need. Grit. If you are not familiar, google. It’s the anti-helicoptering approach. It’s recognizing that failing means you tried and recovering from failure proves capability and resilience….Good stuff.

  13. jason wright

    how good is this new world champion from Norge? how about a crowd sourced game, Magnus vs the crowd.

    1. JamesHRH

      I follow Kasparov on the Twitter. My perception, from his tweets, is that Magnus is not to be messed with, chess-wise.

  14. JamesHRH

    In my hometown, I played chess with a man named Willi Stuhr. He was in his 70’s in the 70’s. I cannot find anything online about Herr Stuhr. I understood that he held a government position and refused Hitler’s order to fight to the last man, woman & child. The phrase I heard around dinner tables was Gaollichter of Munich.He said about my chess (which is something I think about and have worked on my entire life): ‘You always see good moves, but rarely do you see the best move.”This was in the early days of chess boards. He came to our house and saw ours, asked how far I could go against it (level 3 of 7 or something).He stopped using his the first week he owned it.

    1. JLM

      .You probably mean the term “Gauleiter” which was a term used by the Nazis in their political organization of the German people.When the Nazis fancied themselves a political party and were trying to wrest the country’s political control from the Weimars, they were organized along the lines of election districts.Most folks don’t know that Hitler was elected to office by a majority of the Germans before he went nuts — always nuts really if you had simply read “Mein Kampf” wherein he had demonstrated his wickedness.After the Nazis came to power, Gauleiters were like state heads reporting to the Reichsleiter.They were paramilitary leaders and were involved in the homeland defense with locally raised troops (boys and old men).Class dismissed due to snow.JLM.

      1. JamesHRH

        Thanks, that’s exactly on point.Herr Stuhr & Herr / Mr. Rueffel (our neighbour) were top notch people. I remember Mr Rueffel telling my father, to his dismay, that my father and my uncle (both of whom volunteered into the RCAF while underage), would have ‘totally been in the SS, if they were born in Germany in 1922 & 1925’.His rationale was that the party went after the bright & ambitious children and that parental resistance to the party was futile. He explained that Herr Stuhr was recruited that way.Put my Pops in a tough spot: he deeply respected Herr Stuhr & he deeply despised the idea that he would have been in the SS.My parents did a ‘locals tour’ of Germany with the Rueffels, in the 80s. They took them to the places where Herr Stuhr hid out from the Nazis. after he publicly defied Hitler.Pretty interesting people to have living next door / 3 blocks away.Northern Saskatchewan is full of surprises, if you look close enough.Go Riders.

        1. JLM

          .I have often pondered whether I would have seen the unspeakable horror and evil of slavery had I been born in the pre-Civil War South.I fear I would not have and that makes me very sad and angry at myself.I wonder what would have happened if the German generals had successfully assassinated Hitler in the 20 July plot. BTW, there were about 20 attempts on Hitler’s life going back to the 1930s. Shame he was not killed.JLM.

          1. JamesHRH

            It is discomforting to think that the preponderance of your morality stems from your cultural environment.He never said it out loud, but what you are thinking is what my Father was thinking when he got hit with the SS comment, I am sure.

  15. Guest

    Glad to contribute and did.My dad made us learn chess. My brothers (both scientists) kicked my butt consistently. In Monopoly, I did however, rule.

  16. JLM

    .I used to play chess with my father almost every night for years and years growing up. When he would come home from overseas, the first night we would play chess.He beat me like a red headed stepchild with a lisp until one day, one day I beat him. It was miraculous.Thereafter we used to trade pretty evenly until I owned him completely. He was proud of my expertise.We would spend hours playing and though I began to win consistently, I never gloated because I remembered how I had felt when I was getting whipped and I knew the thin margin of my victories.It took my complete focus to beat him.What I did not appreciate at the time was that my Dad was spending time with his son and that our conversations were not about chess — they were about life. I remember his telling me about something that sticks to this day.”You can be whatever you want to be and you can be the man you want to be but you have to decide it yourself. Nobody can tell you who to be.”Stonewall Jackson said: “You may be whatever you resolve to be.”I always knew I was going to be an Army officer and I intended to be a paratrooper and a Ranger. I did not know if I was tough enough to do it but I was damn sure going to try.My Dad would tell me what the soldiers expected of their officers and when I went into the Army, it fit perfectly naturally. It was the family business. I was at home and at peace.He told me the soldiers do not want their officers to be their friends, they want them to be competent and that when the shit hits the fan they wanted them to get the artillery and air support.They wanted them to be fair and never ask them to do anything the officers would not do themselves.I remember reporting into a new unit in the winter. We were out practicing river crossings — the kind where a guy swims a little rope, pulls a larger rope and the troopers cross on that larger rope. The swimmer has to brave the cold water, beat the current and get that damn rope across. Plenty of times they had to fish the first guy and try again. You had to be a damn strong swimmer.We got up to this river and everyone was looking around for someone to volunteer to be the swimmer. Smart soldiers never, ever volunteer for anything particular the regulars.I was brand new with the unit. I said nothing and just stripped down, stepped forward, grabbed the little rope and dove into the water. My nuts disappeared and I swam like Hell. I was always a strong swimmer.The current was strong but I made it across and dragged the big rope, tied it off and signaled the troopers to begin crossing.Our unit crossed in less than half the time of the rest of the battalion primarily because we got the rope set up on the first try. One company never made it at all.For a while I was referred to as “The Swimmer” until the soldiers and sergeants learned my name. My nuts reappeared just about Spring.It was my Father’s voice in my ear that said: “Don’t ever ask a soldier to do something you are not personally prepared to do. That’s what men expect of their leaders.”That wisdom has guided me in almost everything I ever did in the Army and thereafter. It was learned across a chess board when I was a teenager.JLM.

    1. Andrew Kennedy

      my father taught me how to play chess. it took me a while to start beating my father, but once I started beating him on the regular we stopped playing (he’s not the type that enjoys losing). He’s an Army guy. I remember a time when one of his Russian clients was having dinner at our house and we started talking about chess. His client could play (full stop) and my father encouraged me to play with him, but I was very reticent. I was probably 9 or 10 at the time. After he beat me, he said some very nice things to me about my chess game; i remember him saying that i was playing 5 to 6 moves ahead (he could measure how far ahead I was thinking when we played) and his encouragement really impacted how I approached chess going forward. It gave me a lot of confidence that I could one day become a great chess player.

    2. jason wright

      playing decouples the logic brain from the emotion brain, allowing for more successful chess and more successful conversation.

      1. JLM

        .Brilliant insight, really.Well played.I am often searching for the moments when my children are actually listening. My CEOs also. My self also.JLM.

        1. Andrew Kennedy

          when driving in the car. that is where my mother loved to talk with me about stuff, but I didn’t have a smartphone back then.

          1. JLM

            .One of the reasons I have always loved road trips and still do now. Plus I know so many great cities enroute which have incredible food.My car automatically turns into New Orleans and goes right to the Gumbo Shop and Cafe du Monde, but I guess everybody else’s does also?JLM.

  17. kirklove

    Very cool, Buster. Backed.

  18. sigmaalgebra

    Get the kids thinking and getting ‘cool’ points forbeing one of the best at thinking? Great!As I recall, somewhere I read that “software iseating the world”. Well, sometime ago it prettywell ‘ate’ chess.But, as we know from game theory,T. Parthasarathy and T. E. S. Raghavan, ‘Some Topicsin Two-Person Games’, ISBN 0-444-00059-3, AmericanElsevier, New York.chess is a game of ‘perfect information’ with somenice consequences.So, try to get some ‘cool’ points from finding analgorithm that can play perfect chess without thestill way too high computer cost of mostly justtotal enumeration of the ‘game tree’.There is a simple, sample such algorithm: There isa game, Nim, where have several rows of coins withseveral coins in each row. A player picks a row andpicks up 1 or more coins from that row. Playersalternate, and the player forced to pick up the lastcoin loses.At first glance it would appear that to solve thisgame would have essentially to enumerate or traversemuch of the full ‘game’ tree. Or, would have towork ‘backwards’ where start with the desired endgame configuration, that is, opponent loses, and gofar enough enumerating from that position to the oneat the start of the game. Either way, want to knowwhat to do at the next move. Again, the usual wayis a big enumeration.But, it turns out, there is a really simple way.It’s in Courant and Robbins, ‘What Is Mathematics?”– right, to check just Googled it where Google had”Courant and Robbins” close to “Courant and Hilbert”(that try to read long after Courant and Robbins! –Courant was long a pillar of lower Manhattan). Thealgorithm requires a little arithmetic can do justbetween ears for most games people would play.So, for some cool points, when I was in college anddating a girl four years younger, I first met in myneighborhood, about 150 yards from my house when shewas 11 and I 15, we went to a ‘coffee shop’ wherethe local culture was that Oriental thinking was farsuperior to Western thinking, and, as luck wouldhave it, they were playing Nim. As I recall,Courant was not from the Orient but from Germany,i.e., Göttingen.Ah, if I’d had a little more in ‘character’ as ahustler! Yes, one afternoon in college I’d taken afast pass through Courant and Robbins and rememberedthe algorithm for Nim. That evening a little’Western’ thinking totally blew away coffee shop’Oriental’ thinking. I got some cool points with mygirlfriend!Did much the same in the CxO offices at FedEx. Itwasn’t my idea to play Nim! In those days I had aweakness, not a hustler and, instead, an honest anda willing teacher! With a little sense of a hustler,I could have gotten cool points enough to have beenthe unanimous choice of the ‘genius’ of the CxOoffices. Without the algorithm, tough to see how toplay that game, and some meager skills as a hustlercould have paid off!For high school ‘cool’, also at times can use math!She and I were both in the 7th grade, and she wasPRETTY. I tried to get her attention, clumsy, nerdme, and as far as I knew failed. In the 9th gradeshe invited me to her party, wore a sheer, floral,pastel dress tied up with satin ribbons and bows –gorgeous! As the party ended, she had us sit on hersofa, and there she told me a lot about her family– I didn’t know it then, but that was a good, verygood, sign and one I will explain if I ever write’Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys’.Nothing more until 12th grade. [With such slowprogress, big mystery, how the world ever got 6billion people?] There was a problem in trig class.I did it a conservative way, and another student,”Most Intellectual”, went to MIT, did it the usualway I’d always had some questions about (can end upmultiplying both sides of an equation by 0, abummer). Our results were different. So, we had a’shootout’ at the board, the other guy at the frontboard, and I at the side board. Apparently I won.Apparently news traveled quickly: During the 5minute break before the next class, that same girl,not in the trig class, walked up to me in the hall,stood close, looked up, smiled, (all good, very goodsigns! — VERY pretty girl and smile) and said, “Iheard what you did in trig class!”.So, she now regards me as a good choice to fatherher children? Maybe not, but definite cool points!Nerd me dropped the ball and failed to invite herfor a Cherry Coke after school and walk her home.Heck, even if I had, nerd me would too likely havetalked about trig! Of course, instead talk aboutHER! Dummy! Say something nice about her, hershoes, hair, smile, eyes, whatever about HER! Tellher that when you were in the shootout with “MostIntellectual” you had wished she had been there.Etc.! Offer to walk her to lunch the next Saturday,say, at Howard Johnson’s to get one of JacquesPepin’s Sea Dog fried clam dishes. Have your familyinvite her to Sunday dinner, with Dad’s charcoalbroiled sirloin steak, Mom’s salad, vegetables, andhot rolls, and Dad’s strawberry short cake! Takeher for a walk after the dinner. Then to a movie,you DUMMY! I was a nerd and a dummy.Heck, even here I mentioned that Courant and Robbinshave the simple algorithm for playing perfect Nim.Just not a hustler! Once a nerd, always a nerd?There is a huge list of such games, with an outlinein, say, Dreyfus and Law, ‘The Art and Theory ofDynamic Programming’. Have a ringer go to a bar foran hour or so for a few days and teach all the guysa game and lose to them frequently. Then as astranger show up at the bar, look stupid, and getsucked into playing. When the stakes get highenough clean up! I mean, who the heck in a bar willhave read Dreyfus and Law? Right?Of course, yes, could do much the same with chess!Alas, the students in the chess club are too youngto be in a bar!In my freshman year in college, next to me inchemistry was a girl, really nice, really sweetsmile, from a wealthy family, and about 100 poundsoverweight. She was not much interested in math orscience but for a math requirement was taking anadvanced course in plane geometry, So, her problemwas, given triangle ABC, by Euclidean constructionfind points D on AB and E on BC so that the lengthsAD = DE = EC. Spoiler below!So, the next day, I showed her how: Go off on theside and construct a figure similar to the desiredone — easy enough, and then find the crucial lengthAD in the original figure by constructing a fourthproportional. It appears that sometimes it’s easyto construct the similar figure but difficult to getthe construction in the original figure directly.There may be some more math to be done with thisbasic observation.So, when I showed her my solution, she asked how I’dknown to do that and said that I’d used ‘similitude’or some such which was an advanced technique she wasstudying in her class. I said I’d reinvented it inthe 10th grade — glad to know it had a name!So, I got some cool points and got invited to aliterature discussion group in her gorgeous home. Iwent once — very nice girl, but I was a nerd!Music I could have liked, but not literature!In college, my math teachers thought I was good atcalculus. Well, the silly college I want to for myfreshman year wouldn’t let me take calculus andforced me into a silly course beneath what I’dalready done in high school (relatively good highschool — the year before me three guys went toPrinceton and ran against each other for Presidentof the freshman class against some 4th guy fromsomewhere; MIT came recruiting). So I got acalculus book and dug in, transfered to a betterschool with a quite good math department, andcontinued with their sophomore calculus, from thesame book used at Harvard. So, while I was “good”at calculus, I never took freshman calculus!High school students: You can do much the same. Toheck with AP Calculus (in my opinion, developed bypeople who didn’t understand calculus very well);instead, just get the calculus book used at thecollege you might want to go to and work through it(the book!).So, since I was “good” at calculus, a girl, one yearahead of me, asked me to help her. So, I drove toher house — gorgeous. Looked like they’d pickedall the best from a high end furniture store.She turned out to be an interesting girl: She wasREALLY nice, and also from my high school, but fromabout the 10th grade likely had a bra cup size of DDor so and, thus, got some basically ugly commentsamong boys, boys who actually knew nothing at allabout her. But calculus got me enough cool pointsto get an invitation to her house! No, I didn’tconfirm her size!At FedEx the Board wanted some revenue projections.Reluctantly I got involved, observed that we knewthe current revenue and might assume from ‘viralgrowth’ that revenue would grow proportional to thenumber of customers talking and the number ofpotential customers listening. So, if b is thepotential revenue, say, from the planned cities andplanes, t is time, y(t) revenue at time t, and y'(t)= dy/dt, the calculus first derivative, then forsome constant ky'(t) = k y(t) (b – y(t))There is a fairly easy ‘closed form’ solution viacalculus — don’t really have to drag out ordinarydifferential equations.Right, guys: That’s a good, first-cut model of’viral’ growth.My solution was not very impressive, but it was muchnicer than anything else around the offices. It hadsome ‘sense’ to it, and the only number guessed atwas the constant k.One day SVP Mike Basch and I picked a reasonablevalue for k and drew a graph of the solution for theBoard meeting the next day, a Saturday.At noon I got a call from COO Roger Frock asking ifI knew about the graph. So, I drove to the CxOoffices. There our two representatives of BoardMember General Dynamics (GD) had their bags packedand their plane tickets back to Texas. FedEx wasabout to die.It turned out that the graph had been presented atthe Board meeting, and the GD guys had asked how itwas calculated. Well, the FedEx people had no moresuccess with that calculus than they had had withNim. After a few hours, the GD guys gave up onFedEx.I recalculated a few points on the graph; the GDguys stayed, and FedEx was saved.Maybe I got some cool points. Or maybe I scaredeveryone in the CxO offices!The nastiest person I ever knew was my planegeometry teacher. Actually at one point I showedher my solution where I had reinvented ‘similitude’– for how to inscribe a square in a semi-circle,and she had said “You can’t do that”. She waswrong.But I was working all the non-trivial problems inthe book, including the more difficult ones in theback;. One of these I started on a Fridayafternoon, stayed with it, and finally got it onSunday evening.In class on Monday, I didn’t sleep as usual andparticipated for the only time: There was an easyproblem with the same figure, so I mentioned theproblem in the back. About 20 minutes later theteacher and the class were still struggling with theproblem in the back. Since I didn’t want to beaccused of ruining the class (a nerd, not a goodhustler!), I raised my hand and said, “Why don’t we…” where I started to give the solution.She shouted “You knew how to do it all the time!”.Of course I did! I was doing all, 100.0000% of thenon-trivial problems in the book. And no way wouldI have asked her for help. How’d I know she wasn’tworking all the problems?I may have gotten some cool points, but no prettygirls walked up and smiled. But the next year Ididn’t want that teacher for second year algebra sojust went to the class of the teacher I did want. Ijust went. Period. I got sent to the principle’soffice. He was a good guy and said “I wish all ourmath students could have” the teacher I wanted andsigned the paper to transfer me. Maybe he did thatwith some of my math cool points!If kids in K-12 want to learn something that mighthelp them think, etc., then they can charge throughmath. Don’t waste time on ‘enrichment’ stuff suchas Pascal’s triangle or little number theoryproblems and, instead, just charge through the realstuff, on the main line — algebra, geometry, trig,solid, analytic geometry, calculus, linear algebra,abstract algebra, theoretical advanced calculus(right, Rudin), applied advanced calculus, ordinarydifferential equations, real analysis (Rudin and/orRoyden), probability based on measure theory (Neveu,Chung, Breiman, Loève), stochastic processes(Çinlar, Karatzas and Shreve, Wong), mathematicalstatistics, various selected topics, e.g.,optimization (Luenberger), signal processing,deterministic and stochastic optimal control, andthen mathematical physics, economics, etc. Takequalifying exams, pick some problems, get somesolutions, publish some papers, get a Ph.D., and geton with life.

  19. PrometheeFeu

    My siblings and I are very competitive. My brother and I cook. (He’s a professional chef, so I get the choice of the dish and my father breaks ties on the rare occasions when it is needed) my sister and I on the other hand play chess. It’s a great way to channel our competitive energies.

  20. rita

    Your community did a wonderful job by helping them.Hope everyone follow your footsteps.

  21. jstylman

    Great cause.I walked by the school today and they’re featuring their cred proudly.

    1. fredwilson


  22. Pamela Parker

    Thank you, Fred, for supporting public school chess and especially PS/MS 282 in Brooklyn, where our son attended PreK and started learning chess! It’s definitely well worth supporting.