Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

September 15, 2004:

Richard Rusczyk ’93 and wife Vanessa ’93 offer an online community for top-notch math students. (courtesy Richard Rusczyk ’93)

Math jam
Richard Rusczyk ’93 creates online community for number lovers

As a teenager in Alabama, Richard Rusczyk ’93 had a hard time finding friends who shared his passion for geometry and probability. Today he’s shepherding an online community for avid students, like his younger self, who want to talk math and push each other to solve challenging problems.

Since its debut in May 2003, his Web site, www.artofproblemsolving.com, has gained a strong following among mathematically inclined middle- and high-school students from all over the world, who account for most of the 250 messages posted daily on the site’s discussion forums.

“Kids use the board to ask questions, challenge each other, get support, and socialize,” says Rusczyk. “Extremely strong students are often somewhat alone as far as their interests and aptitudes are concerned. It’s very difficult for teachers to reach the top few students in their classes without abandoning the rest. Our community gives these kids a chance to come together.”

Beside the forums, the site features moderated problem-solving sessions called “math jams” and online courses taught by Rusczyk and others. Each course costs $98 and consists of twelve 90- or 120-minute sessions. One course offered this fall covers basic and intermediate counting concepts, including multiplication, permutations, combinations, Pascal’s triangle, probability, combinatorial identities, and the binomial theorem.

Rusczyk, who lives in Alpine, California, majored in chemical engineering, laboring “under the mistaken notion that you couldn’t do a lot with a math degree.” As an undergraduate, he started a math contest for high school students with Sandor Lehoczky ’94. They also wrote and self-published a two-volume set for high school students called The Art of Problem Solving, which has sold about 20,000 copies in the last decade. After graduating Rusczyk worked as a bond trader for four years. The nest egg he built in the business world allowed him to start AoPS Inc. Rusczyk focuses on content and business opportunities, while his wife, Vanessa ’93, “takes care of all the money.”

Says Rusczyk, “Basically, I’m building what I wish I’d had when I was 14.”

By Van Wallach ’80

Van Wallach is a freelance writer in Stamford, Connecticut.


By K.F.G.