An Open Letter to NAQT

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Sir Thopas
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An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas »

First of all, let’s assume the following things. Note that I am being extremely generous in my assumptions, but I’d rather not have them be argued. Anyway, here they are:
- Let’s assume that comp math is acceptable in NAQT packets at the rate of 1 or 2 per game. This is a contentious point, one that I personally do not agree with, but I’m not even going to bother attacking this.
- Let’s also assume that there is some silent majority in Oklahoma or Illinois or whatever clamoring for 4/4 comp math a game, and that you are extremely noble for holding the tide back to half that. Whatever.
- At the same time, there is one thing you know about the silent majority: it is not the vocal minority. That vocal minority includes pretty much—if not literally—every top team in the nation, the people expected to go far in your national tournament.

It has been discussed many times: to end a game on trash or comp math is utterly inappropriate. To end a SEMIFINAL match between comp math, to force two of the top teams in the nation racing to round a decimal up to an integer for a spot in the finals, is mindblowing. I was sitting with Dan Puma, Kevin Leahy, Ian Eppler, and Quint Carr, and several of our jaws literally dropped. There were many problems with the bonuses in this set—capricious difficulty, random list bonuses in the playoffs, 30-20-10s, a bunch of 5-10-15s, and so on. But making computational math tossup number 26 in the semifinals is surely the most egregious, and totally indicative of why HSNCT is losing legitimacy among top high schoolers. I think the wacky results from this tournament show this as well, although not quite as easily as this. I won’t say too much, so as not to make other teams feel bad, but Dees was pretty pissed Sunday afternoon, and rightfully so.

You know our grievances. You can fix the problems. HSNCT continues to grow in popularity, but if this trend keeps up, it’ll surely become the NIT of national tournaments soon enough.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by yoda4554 »

metsfan001 wrote:
It has been discussed many times: to end a game on trash or comp math is utterly inappropriate.
I'm actually a lot more sympathetic to the complaints against the assumptions you're willing to grant than to this. A question is a question, worth the same number of points no matter where it falls in the packet. To demonstrate the problem with your approach, look at the ICT complaints about the placement of trash in packets. Like you, they want certain categories to play a lesser role in determining the match--but their suggestion is that those tossups go later in the packet. Why? So there's less chance of the round actually getting to that unwanted tossup. There's no way around this--if you put said tossups in the first 20, you're guaranteeing it'll come up, and if you put them after that, you're increasing the likelihood that it'll "decide" the match. The only way to decrease the importance of such questions is to decrease their percentage in the set; that's where this argument has to go if it's to be made.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by matt979 »

Given the same initial assumptions, and setting aside one's opinions of computation questions (NAQT members have a wide range of opinions there), I don't think it's tenable to claim that any particular question is acceptable at one spot within a pack but not another spot within the same pack.

(The implicit claim that tossup 26 matters more is similar to the idea that a September 30 baseball game matters more than an April game. In the standings they count the same.)

There might be a valid, compelling argument that some question shouldn't have been in the HSNCT packet set at all. (I'm comfortable with the premise that if a question shouldn't have decided the championship then it shouldn't have been anywhere in the set.) But we shouldn't expect packets consistently to have one (predictable) category distribution in one range and a different (predictable) distribution in a different range: One of the reductions to absurdity there would be degenerate substitution patterns for category specialists.

Matt Bruce
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Full disclosure: A plurality of this year's computation questions were mine. I'm ambivalent about the right amount of HSNCT computation, and didn't personally influence the category distribution (that I know of). If the number of computation questions is fixed then the next issue is to distinguish good computation questions from bad ones. I believe the former should depend on knowing how to solve a problem rather than on performing speedy arithmetic.

The finals included two examples of computation questions that (alas) don't quite live up to that ideal, though I did write both. (The guy who wants to buy a book, and the long distance runner.) Specific discussion of those questions probably belongs in the sticky thread that already has a spoiler.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas »

yoda4554 wrote:Like you, they want certain categories to play a lesser role in determining the match--but their suggestion is that those tossups go later in the packet. Why? So there's less chance of the round actually getting to that unwanted tossup. There's no way around this--if you put said tossups in the first 20, you're guaranteeing it'll come up, and if you put them after that, you're increasing the likelihood that it'll "decide" the match. The only way to decrease the importance of such questions is to decrease their percentage in the set; that's where this argument has to go if it's to be made.
I think this has less validity when it appears so late in the tournament, because the last few rounds almost always see all 26 tossups played, or at least very close to it. Putting a comp math tossup in slot 24 or so of round 1 is not a problem; in round 22, though, it's pretty egregious, and it really stuck out to the audience.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

metsfan001 wrote:
yoda4554 wrote:Like you, they want certain categories to play a lesser role in determining the match--but their suggestion is that those tossups go later in the packet. Why? So there's less chance of the round actually getting to that unwanted tossup. There's no way around this--if you put said tossups in the first 20, you're guaranteeing it'll come up, and if you put them after that, you're increasing the likelihood that it'll "decide" the match. The only way to decrease the importance of such questions is to decrease their percentage in the set; that's where this argument has to go if it's to be made.
I think this has less validity when it appears so late in the tournament, because the last few rounds almost always see all 26 tossups played, or at least very close to it. Putting a comp math tossup in slot 24 or so of round 1 is not a problem; in round 22, though, it's pretty egregious, and it really stuck out to the audience.
I would certainly be one of the first arguing for a decrease in the amount of computational math in all NAQT sets, especially HSNCT. I agree with Guy here in that, since most playoff rounds (especially the later, more important ones) do get all the way through the packet, and thus it is better, in these later packets, to move what computational math there has to be to somewhere in the middle of the packet, thus decreasing the likelihood that a close, important match will be decided by computational math.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas »

matt979 wrote:Given the same initial assumptions, and setting aside one's opinions of computation questions (NAQT members have a wide range of opinions there), I don't think it's tenable to claim that any particular question is acceptable at one spot within a pack but not another spot within the same pack.

(The implicit claim that tossup 26 matters more is similar to the idea that a September 30 baseball game matters more than an April game. In the standings they count the same.)
I'm pretty sure people play tossup 26 differently than they do, say, tossup 4. If you're down by 20 on tossup 4, you probably don't care enough to temper your negs, but if it's tossup 26, you're sure as hell going to wait those extra few words to make sure you don't throw away the game.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo »

Ukonvasara wrote:...since most playoff rounds (especially the later, more important ones) do get all the way through the packet...
What exactly does this mean? I guess i'm not clear on how the rules at the HSNCT change compared to a traditional set. You read more than 20 questions? Only sometimes? Or in later rounds? Or you're just assuming there are close games and these are all tiebreakers... or something? Explain... (?)
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas »

Caesar Rodney HS wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:...since most playoff rounds (especially the later, more important ones) do get all the way through the packet...
What exactly does this mean? I guess i'm not clear on how the rules at the HSNCT change compared to a traditional set. You read more than 20 questions? Only sometimes? Or in later rounds? Or you're just assuming there are close games and these are all tiebreakers... or something? Explain... (?)
NAQT has a clock.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo »

Well now THERE'S your problem... :oops:
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by evilmonkey »

Note: When I began writing this, no one had yet replied.

Guy, I'm going to assume that since this is an open letter, you actually sent a copy to NAQT, and that the one posted here is open for discussion.

I'm going to start out by saying that I think there are things wrong with NAQT.

I personally don't see anything wrong with deciding a match with computational math. Its an academic subject that everyone is required to take to at least some degree in high school, and therefore should not be grouped with trash. But you don't want to delve further into the computational math subject as a whole, and I agree that it is contentious, so we will set it aside.

Your second assumption needs work - why would a majority in one state make a difference, especially a silent one? I think that there may be such a group, but that they aren't silent - rather, because they don't know about the forums, that they are directing all of their comments to their only outlet - directly at NAQT. And I assure you, NAQT probably pays more attention to comments directed at them than those expressed on this board or in IRC. Even though you are vocal, you are vocal in the wrong places if you intend to enact change in NAQT. So this letter (assuming, once again, that it was actually sent) is a step in the right direction.

You say it has been discussed many times that computational math and trash are inappropriate to end a game. I have heard the discussions about trash, and am inclined to agree with them. Perhaps I missed something, but you know I frequent these boards and that channel as much as you, and I have never seen anyone discuss the inappropriateness of computational math near the end of a game. Frankly, beyond the argument that computational math is NEVER appropriate (which, as stated before, I do not agree with), no argument against such an occurrence is evident to me. Since it is an academic subject, I believe it has a legitimate claim to occur at any point in the packet.

By focusing on an issue that at least a couple of people disagree with you on (including those at NAQT who are arguing for the continued existence of computational math), you make your letter worthless. If you have not sent this to them yet, I implore you - rework its focus. Variable value bonuses have to go. Clue repeats between sets have to go. Focus on those, and you might find a more receptive audience.

You'll get nowhere by threatening NAQT. By threaten, I mean the implication you make when you say "HSNCT is losing legitimacy among the top players" and that HSNCT will "become the NIT". You have to understand how hollow both of these things sound to them. Unless you can organize the top players, and get them all to express what they find wrong with HSNCT in letters or emails to NAQT, all this sounds like is that you are projecting your opinions onto others like you to try to get changes to suit your own agenda. Both phrases make you seem hostile to NAQT, which will make them give less weight to your claims.

By "become the NIT", I assume you mean they will become like the "NAC", where none of the top teams participate. This is either folly or selfishness on your part. Let me explain to you what will happen if you can convince all the top schools to switch to PACE-only. Your small geographic region will be mostly unaffected, because many of your best teams have house-written tournaments or what not. The rest of the nation does not. PACE has shown a rational unwillingness to expand the NSC, which will cut off quite a few teams. PACE also has not been producing very many Invitational Tournament Sets, which means for regions like the Midwest, there would be very few tournaments that are considered legitimate. PACE is not well known to people. If you all jump ship from NAQT, you can be assured that :chip: will take the opportunity to grab a foothold (or more) in every state west of Virginia. If NAQT is not considered legitimate, then schools that used to play :chip: , and switched, will be forced back into :chip: . The upshot of this is that you will have destroyed good quizbowl for the rest of the country for the sake of East Coast. Now, I understand that this is not a certainty, and may be overexaggerating the effects of your implied course of action (and if you quote this line as your reasoning for why my paragraph is not legit, you are an idiot). However, I think that y'all need to think about the ramifications before you imply such actions.

I'm not hostile to you, though this may have come across as such. I want to see things improved about NAQT as much as you, which is WHY I am criticizing this letter. I think that it does a poor job of accomplishing its mission. If you want to see things changed, focus on things that there is not so much controversy about, and make sure you explain your reasons for your beliefs. If you want to tell them you disagree with computational math, feel free - but give your reasons, and show that you understand that people disagree with your point of view. Get other top players to write in to NAQT - one voice proclaiming to represent all of the top quizbowlers will not accomplish anything. Don't threaten them, especially when such a threat carried out would hurt good quizbowl as a whole - you wouldn't respond well to an attack either, which is the tone you set in your letter.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by wowitsquinthaha »

Although I agree with Guy, my jaw was mostly dropping because of how well Charter was playing at that point. The game between Whitman and Charter A went down to the last question, and, since it was math, obviously Raja from Charter had a better chance to get it than pretty much anyone else. He did and Charter ended up winning. Whether the last question being math delegitimizes Charter's win or not is unimportant. They played like hell and they came out on top. Although I don't really think that they should have ended the tournament with math (or really have computational math at all), the fact of the matter is that Charter had a better overall game anyway.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by cvdwightw »

Matt, a September 30 baseball game between a 94-67 team and a 93-68 team and an April 30 baseball game between the same two teams do count the same in the standings, but clearly the September 30 game matters much more. In April, each team has well over 100 games to make up whatever standings points it might have lost. By September 30, the team behind in the standings has few (in this case, no) opportunities to make up that game. That's why there's a "magic number" - beyond a certain point, the trailing team can win all its games and the team ahead can win all its games and it's not going to matter in the end.

There's a "magic number" at the higher levels of NAQT gameplay, where matches are likely to go through 25 or 26 questions, and that's the number of tossups you have to prevent your opponent from getting (whether by answering them yourself, having them go dead, or performing a clock-killing neg) to guarantee that you win the game. If you're up 100 points after a few questions, that's nothing; I and presumably every other regular board poster have managed to lose such a game. If you're up 100 points with after question 24, the very worst you can do is tie, and that's only if you pull off the most inanely stupid strategy ever.

I agree with much of what Bryce is saying - math is an inherently academic subject, everyone in high school has to take it, and it's far more legitimate to decide a game on a computation tossup than on random minor characters from Harry Potter.

An important distinction is that NAQT has to satisfy all 176 teams (maybe up to 200 next year?) that come to nationals with the preliminary rounds. However, NAQT does not need to satisfy 176 teams with the playoff rounds - if teams are using them as consolation rounds, that's great, but they don't count in the standings. NAQT needs to satisfy the teams that are playing for something meaningful on Sunday, and in particular the best teams in the nation that are expected to play well into Sunday. If NAQT were to divide up the HSNCT set into "HSNCT Prelims" and "HSNCT Playoffs", this would allow for the customization of the playoff packets to better tailor them to the "needs" of the top teams without changing from a per-tournament distribution.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by NMBlumberjax »

I agree with Guy why should a math question matter so much to be the final question, not that i have a problem with math but when do you see people playing at the college level get math questions right it's only that specific 2% of the college quiz bowl population that gets the question right, why should there be calc problems at the high school level that take a minute to solve and people have to solve them in 10 seconds why?

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

Since when do you see college players getting calculations?
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

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Calculus sry

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by cvdwightw »

NMBlumberjax wrote:I agree with Guy why should a math question matter so much to be the final question, not that i have a problem with math but when do you see people playing at the college level get math questions right it's only that specific 2% of the college quiz bowl population that gets the question right, why should there be calc problems at the high school level that take a minute to solve and people have to solve them in 10 seconds why?
This post makes no sense. Lots of people can do simple derivatives and integrals in ten seconds, just like lots of people can solve simple sets of two equations in two variables in 10 seconds. Maybe you can't, but that doesn't mean that other people can't either.

NMBlumberjax

Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by NMBlumberjax »

No what im saying is that most quizbowlers i know cannot solve stupid and pointless math problems in 10 seconds, thumbs up to you if solving those problems is that easy for you but realize that math should not be stressed so strongly in quizbowl because it either is too simple or too difficult, sry if i offending anyone.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Xerxes »

It just seems that otherwise very knowledgeable, experienced teams can't score many of the math tossups NAQT includes in its packets. I'm sure that if someone analyzed the percentage of tossups scored for each category (literature, math, etc.), the percentage of math tossups scored would be inappropriately low.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by jbarnes112358 »

I tend to agree with Guy's original premise. The logic of Matt's response is certainly sound. You can lose a close game on a computation or trash question wherever it might fall in the packet. But, you are going to walk away from the game with a worse taste in your mouth if it happens on the last question. Since the presence (or at least the prevalence) of trash and computation questions is so contentious, that is precisely the reason they should be minimized in playoff games, and especially near the end of the packets where their effects will be most apparent. I do like the idea of changing the distribution a bit for the playoffs to try to reward the more academically knowledgeable teams.

Quick math computation is a specialty skill that is categorically different than the skills necessary for most of quizbowl. Not all teams are going to have a player with these ciphering skills. In regions where much computation is mandated in their packets, then I suppose you need to find someone withs those skills. But, in other regions, such players are not as necessary to have present.

On a more positive note, Matt, I thought the computation questions were for the most part well written. I do like it that you are trying to make them more about the underlying mathematical concept rather than who can multiply fastest, etc. I also like the fact that there seemed to be more non-computational math theory type questions this year. Nice job on that.

Full disclosure: I am a mathematics teacher so I am certainly not biased against math as a subject, and believe it should have a place in quizbowl in some form.

P.S. I do not want any of my comments to hijack the thread back to another discussion of math in quizbowl. So, hopefully we can keep it focused on the original topic of distribution and placement of questions in later rounds.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by aestheteboy »

I'll go ahead and agree that Guy misses the focus. I mean, where the questions fall in the packet is trivial compared to the other problems that NAQT has.

NAQT math questions are not well-written, if that means having basic pyramidality and rewarding knowledge. I don't think it's impossible, but NAQT math certainly doesn't accomplish it. There are about 20 different skill sets that NAQT regularly tests, and the questions that do not fall into that category are usually too complicated or confusing to be solved even by the better teams. I dub them listening skill questions because figuring out what the writer is saying is the bigger part of getting the question right. It's more than a few times that I wondered during a math question "I think I missed a crucial number because I can't listen and do math at the same time. Now what should I do?" or "Oh no, was it width or length that the question is asking for?"
I'm planning to write "NAQT math for dummies" this summer if I can get my hands on some IS and HSNCT sets.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Ondes Martenot »

Let me get straight to my point: despite some issues I had with the tournament set, I generally felt they were acceptable. My biggest issue were some powers being too easy, but I have read ACF style questions with power lengths/lead-ins that I felt were too generous.

To describe NAQT as the next NIT is quite absurd; this will never actually be the reality. The credibility of NAQT can be seen because the best team won this year's HSNCT. Having played against both TJ and Dorman, and watching the other top teams play, myself and the rest of my team all felt that TJ was the most well rounded and knowledgable and deserved the win. At NAC, the best teams often don't win due to the ridiculous set up of the tournament. It is NAC, not NAQT that will remain the NIT of quizbowl.

Let me also say that the majority of math questions at the tournament were acceptable; they generally involved problem solving skills with trivial computation, thus the player who had figured out the proper strategy to solving the problem got the tossup, making these tossups as legit as a history or lit tossup. What is sad is that the "9%" tossup seen in the finals was probably the worst at the tournament as it involved one's ability to add quickly, using skills learned in elementary school rather than the more complex problem solving skills seen in the majority of math tossups.

Finally, ACF style questions are not perfect, even though they are hailed as the best questions by the "vast majority of top quizbowl players". Having switched to ACF style questions at practice (we simply ran out of NAQT questions) I have seen the same flaws of inconsistency of power marks/lead ins as well as some inconsistency in the bonuses. Despite these flaws, I still enjoy ACF style questions as much as I enjoy NAQT questions. Furthermore, I find Guy's complaint of a trash bonus in the finals to be odd considering the packet used for the finals at Hunter's Prison Bowl contained a pokemon tossup. There was little complaint about this (the final between Stuy and Gonzaga was a blowout) but the same concerns raised about NAQT questions were seen in this ACF style packet. I am not bashing the Prison Bowl (which in general was a well run and enjoyable tournament), but simply saying that these questions had problems just like NAQT questions but in general were legit.

Yes, NAQT could take steps to improve their questions, but so could writers of ACF style questions. I enjoy both and feel that it you are good at one, you will generally be good at the other, at least to a large extent. While I am not going to PACE, I find it hard to believe that the top finishers will differ much HSNCT (except that Dorman will probably finish in the top four).

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I (and the rest of my team) would appreciate it if people would stop dismissing our victory over NKC in the playoffs as non-legit. Our team has been practicing hard all year and made great improvements, perhaps best seen by our 5 point loss to Dorman A in the playoffs :shock: . To dismiss our victory as the result of the question set is completely inappropriate.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by jbarnes112358 »

aestheteboy wrote:I

NAQT math questions are not well-written, if that means having basic pyramidality and rewarding knowledge. I don't think it's impossible, but NAQT math certainly doesn't accomplish it. There are about 20 different skill sets that NAQT regularly tests, and the questions that do not fall into that category are usually too complicated or confusing to be solved even by the better teams. I dub them listening skill questions because figuring out what the writer is saying is the bigger part of getting the question right. It's more than a few times that I wondered during a math question "I think I missed a crucial number because I can't listen and do math at the same time. Now what should I do?" or "Oh no, was it width or length that the question is asking for?"
I see where you are coming from. But, when I said "well written" I mean compared with computation questions in other NAQT sets. I am in no way advocating computation questions. In some ways, striving for pyramidality in computation questions can be a distraction, which is part of the listening problem you mention. It might be better to just state the problem and let people try to solve it (perhaps with a little more time), without rattling on about how to solve it. The knowledgeable player would know how to solve it and all the explanation as to how to do it does often become a distraction. Maybe it would be better to just read the question twice to make sure you get the data right, or better yet just to focus more on math theory questions. The reason computation questions that have basic pyramidality that reward knowledge are so difficult to write is because computation questions don't fit well into the quizbowl paradigm. Mathematics is certainly a branch of knowledge that should be covered in quizbowl, it is just a matter of how to best accomplish it.

Furthermore, If a person needs a full explanation as to how to solve the problem, then you are not testing mathematical knowledge, but you are often just reducing the problem to a trivial arithmetic race.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas »

aarcoh wrote:To describe NAQT as the next NIT is quite absurd; this will never actually be the reality. The credibility of NAQT can be seen because the best team won this year's HSNCT. Having played against both TJ and Dorman, and watching the other top teams play, myself and the rest of my team all felt that TJ was the most well rounded and knowledgable and deserved the win. At NAC, the best teams often don't win due to the ridiculous set up of the tournament. It is NAC, not NAQT that will remain the NIT of quizbowl.
This was probably a bit hyperbolic. Nonetheless, I have heard someone who will almost certainly be a top contender saying he was seriously considering not attending next year, and all of the top teams I spoke to were really frustrated with the set.
Let me also say that the majority of math questions at the tournament were acceptable; they generally involved problem solving skills with trivial computation, thus the player who had figured out the proper strategy to solving the problem got the tossup, making these tossups as legit as a history or lit tossup. What is sad is that the "9%" tossup seen in the finals was probably the worst at the tournament as it involved one's ability to add quickly, using skills learned in elementary school rather than the more complex problem solving skills seen in the majority of math tossups.
I completely disagree, but like I said, I didn't start this thread to be a rehash of why computational math questions are inherently out of place in quizbowl, as I find them to be.
Finally, ACF style questions are not perfect, even though they are hailed as the best questions by the "vast majority of top quizbowl players". Having switched to ACF style questions at practice (we simply ran out of NAQT questions) I have seen the same flaws of inconsistency of power marks/lead ins as well as some inconsistency in the bonuses. Despite these flaws, I still enjoy ACF style questions as much as I enjoy NAQT questions.
No need to bust out the tu quoque, dude. But you seem to be operating under a couple of misconceptions. First of all, ACF doesn't have power marks, so I'm not sure where you're getting that from. Second, the problems that you are mentioning can't be endemic to all "ACF style questions", because those are written by all kinds of people. Perhaps you read bad tournaments, or something, but it's ridiculous to malign an entire format---not a particular company writing questions, mind you, but a format---on a bunch of questions you've read in practice. Also, nobody's putting all mACF questions up on a pedestal. We're saying that, by and large, they are vastly better than NAQT, because they are, not inherently so because of the format. When mACF questions suck, the people accountable for this get heat, and, usually, work hard to fix it so that tournaments will be better in the future.
Furthermore, I find Guy's complaint of a trash bonus in the finals to be odd considering the packet used for the finals at Hunter's Prison Bowl contained a pokemon tossup. There was little complaint about this (the final between Stuy and Gonzaga was a blowout) but the same concerns raised about NAQT questions were seen in this ACF style packet. I am not bashing the Prison Bowl (which in general was a well run and enjoyable tournament), but simply saying that these questions had problems just like NAQT questions but in general were legit.
I wasn't inherently complaining about a trash bonus, but rather that it was a list bonus of the worst kind---that it was Harry Potter merely added insult to injury. I thank you for the kind words about Prison Bowl, but really, how does having a Pokemon tossup in the past preclude me from complaining about trash? We made an effort to keep the trash to a minimum---and even if we had issues with the set, am I not allowed to alert others to the same? Looking back on the set, we had a bunch of easy/transparent lead-ins, power marks that were way too long, some "screw you" third bonus parts that should have not been there, some tossups that were also too hard, and some bad tossup clues. I realize this now, and we'll be using this to make the set that much better next year.

The frustration that many of us share with NAQT is that they have been alerted time and again to the problems we have with their questions, and refuse to do anything about them, citing silent majorities and dubious question-writing philosophies. As others have pointed out, there is literally no silent majority for the HSNCT playoffs, because only the good teams are still playing, and they should be the ones to whom the questions are geared at this point, if not at all others.
Yes, NAQT could take steps to improve their questions, but so could writers of ACF style questions. I enjoy both and feel that it you are good at one, you will generally be good at the other, at least to a large extent. While I am not going to PACE, I find it hard to believe that the top finishers will differ much HSNCT (except that Dorman will probably finish in the top four).
Well, Dorman not finishing in the top four is a pretty big problem, no? They're insanely fast and have legit knowledge; shouldn't their final standings reflect this? Also, again, making a nebulous blanket statement that "writers of ACF style questions" could do better shouldn't be done, because you're not really giving anything to go on. The problem is that NAQT COULD take steps to improve their questions, but very strongly do not.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Matt Weiner »

Well, I guess a side effect of the laudable increase in high school players' commitment to writing and playing good quizbowl is that some of the issues that come up with NAQT and other things at the collegiate level are also going to filter down. Some of us have seen a lot of these discussions before in the collegiate context, and I think we should cut to the chase with what we have learned from the past:

*Is it better to threaten to stop patronizing NAQT, or try to use moral suasion to just convince them, when you want them to stop doing things like writing arithmetic speed contest tossups? I don't know what is more effective, but I do know it's something of a rhetorical fallacy to be told, by some people, that you are a customer who should vote with his dollars and/or just not come if you don't like it, and then by others that is "hostile" and a "threat" to even contemplate not giving your $525 to NAQT each year. In general, something that emerged from the post-SCT discussion was that it would be better if we just talked openly about what we want to see in quizbowl and did less psychoanalyzing of each other's motives and interaction styles, which seems like a necessarily good idea.

*Saying that a question at the end of the game is worth as many points as a question as the start, and going from that premise to a "therefore question placement doesn't matter" conclusion, is fallacious. First off, NAQT has a clock. The reason clocks were put into quizbowl was for the obvious purpose of forcing players to play the different parts of the game differently (i.e., creating drama and making quizbowl more like hockey). NAQT members are the last people who should be saying obviously untrue things like "a question is the same no matter where in the packet it is." On top of the fact that the analytical argument doesn't hold up, we have the reality that quizbowl is not played by robots. Why make people angry and frustrated for no reason? In an unworkable extreme sort of way, the best thing to do in terms of minimizing the ridiculous nature of the trash/human calculator bonanza would be to just play all those questions off the clock at the start of the match, so everyone knows where they stand and can then proceed to trying to win the actual quizbowl game, from whatever position they are in, playing on real questions on real topics. Obviously, no one is going to adopt such an extreme solution, but one could at least compromise and cluster the nonsense questions earlier in the match so that, if you are down 100 points to a team that "knows" stupid things, you know that you have a chance to rise or fall the rest of the way on your own relative merits, rather than trying to win a game and then running into a big wall of number-crunching sideshows when you need to power the last tossup.

*I, of course, strongly agree with the implied premise of Dave's post, which is that you aren't going to accomplish much by dancing around the elephants in the room. Allow me to spell it out: While the placement of questions is somewhat more than the non-issue it is being made out to be, in pales in comparison to the core problem, which is that math calculation tossups are unacceptable, and that there is too much trash in NAQT. As compared to the real categories, the trash is often harder, more inane, more focused on things in the coach/parent age range than the high school player age range, and less likely to be written by qualified people. However, trash can at least be written as a real quizbowl question, so some reasonable amount of it (i.e., an amount somewhere between 0 and what NAQT has now) is appropriate. Math calculation, on the other hand, is not quizbowl. If you support math calculation tossups, you support bad quizbowl. If you disagree, please re-examine all of your most fundamental premises about what is going on here, because at least one of them is incorrect. After going through several pages of threads this year about the hypothetical possibility of a math calculation question that tests factual knowledge rather than the ability to do an extremely small bag of arithmetical tricks with innate speed, what did we find? We found that maybe one tossup a year could be written in that way. We certainly did not find that tossup at the NAQT HSNCT. Instead, we found a bonanza of questions that reduced to number-crunching, more iterations of the mad libs trick questions that appear in every NAQT set with new numbers plugged in, a bunch of tossups that didn't state their question until the end or otherwise were unpowerable and/or antipyramidal, and everything else that an informed observer would expect to find.

This is the national championship. If NAQT wants to sell a weird hybrid of quizbowl and Mathcounts to states that are too uninformed to know better, who cares. Maybe letting teams that aren't good at quizbowl feel like they can compete by randomly stopping the quizbowl game every 7 questions for a math contest is an overall net benefit in terms of circuit expansion. But there's only one NAQT HSNCT, and one HSNCT question set. The purpose of the national championship is not to include bad teams, or cater to local peculiarities, or expand the circuit, or do anything else besides determine a national champion of academic quizbowl. How about getting rid of the nonsense just for that tournament, so that its sole goal is better achieved?

Put in more math concept questions. Maybe even put in a few more math calculation bonuses to make up for the tossups--that at least solves the problem of math being inherently impossible to write pyramidal tossups on, though it retains some of the other issues with math. Tell people in advance that this is a quizbowl tournament, not a math contest. Do any of several viable options, other than continuing to stuff 10% or more of the packets with an entirely different game.

With that said, some positives: This was the first time I was present at the HSNCT since 2002, when the tournament had 64 teams and 8 making the playoffs. I saw a lot of good stuff this weekend--a huge amount of planning and concern for the teams' experience went into this tournament, starting a long time ago and continuing throughout the weekend. 176 teams played a tournament in a format that took a lot of skills to manage, and it went very smoothly. There were plenty of great teams competing at a high level, and plenty of questions that encouraged that to happen. The tournament can only improve on this solid base if it gets rid of what is clearly its major flaw, which is the inclusion of math calculation tossups and excessive trash.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo »

metsfan001 wrote:Well, Dorman not finishing in the top four is a pretty big problem, no? They're insanely fast and have legit knowledge; shouldn't their final standings reflect this? Also, again, making a nebulous blanket statement that "writers of ACF style questions" could do better shouldn't be done, because you're not really giving anything to go on. The problem is that NAQT COULD take steps to improve their questions, but very strongly do not.
So you're saying because a really awesome team that many people picked to win it all didn't get in the top four, something is inherently wrong with the questions and therefore, the tournament? What ever happened to "they got outplayed" or "oh well"? It happens, good teams lose sometimes.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by NMBlumberjax »

Guy does have a point with the math though and use in NAQT

Lets all go to :chip:

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

Um, like, the fact that anyone who has seen Dorman A can objectively tell you they are far better than they were last year when they placed 4th, and they are much better than their B team who placed ahead of them this year. I'm sorry, but saying stuff like that just goes on to exemplify how variable the NAQT rounds are that a team who has put in the massive amount of energy to learn actual academic information in tremendous depth can somehow do worse then they did last year.
EDIT- that was directed to Caesar Rodney and not NMBlumberjax, who just made a very stupid post.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by NMBlumberjax »

Dang Dees i hope to finally meet you in college competition

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by DumbJaques »

Guy does have a point with the math though and use in NAQT

Lets all go to :chip:
Ok, this is just getting excessive. There are board guidelines regarding making relevant posts that add some utility to the specific issues of a thread and not posting off-topic, one sentence blurbs. No offense, but there are also rules regarding rhetoric, grammar, and punctuation. If you're not getting what I mean, here's a broken-down summary:
1) Stop making posts like "were there video game questions i like video games" because that is not relevant to a discussion or critique of the questions at NAQT nationals.
2) Stop making posts like the one you just made. If you meant it as a joke, I don't understand it and you didn't actually comment on why Guy has a point or anything like that. If you're trying to hint that Guy or others should shut up because NAQT is better than Chip, stop arguing like that as it violates yet another board rule.
3) Spell out words. Use punctuation. Respond to the relevant topics of the threads.
4) I think Charlie hopes to play against you, as well. Also, knock it off Charlie, moderating to moderators, whatever, you know the drill. Anyway, you just made yet another post adding nothing to the discussion and violating even more rules. Stop that!
5) If you haven't read the board rules (and I can't believe you have. . .), you need to go there right now under Rules and Global Announcements. Like, right now.

NMBlumberjax - continuing to post like this is going to get you tembanned. Please try to adhere to these suggestions and check out our rules page. Thanks.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by NMBlumberjax »

Okay i am sorry for whatever i did wrong, sorry for the sarcasm just trying to get a point across and add a little humor to the topic, I only asked the video game question because i wanted to know what the high school national championship was asking on terms of trash because some of it is enjoyable. Again I just hope for the best of my team and prepare for college quizbowl.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo »

Deesy Does It wrote:Um, like, the fact that anyone who has seen Dorman A can objectively tell you they are far better than they were last year when they placed 4th, and they are much better than their B team who placed ahead of them this year. I'm sorry, but saying stuff like that just goes on to exemplify how variable the NAQT rounds are that a team who has put in the massive amount of energy to learn actual academic information in tremendous depth can somehow do worse then they did last year.
I'd like to hear a member of Dorman respond to the criticism of NAQT then, to see what they can gripe about. Do any of them post here?

Still, it's like you wanted to award them before the tournament even started. You have to play the games, dude. Things happen. What are you going to say, if, by some act of all the holy deities on the heavens, Dorman DOESN'T place any higher at PACE? Whose fault will it be that time?

All this is said with several facts realized: 1) you've seen them play, 2) you're far better than my school can dream of at this point, and 3) i know what you're trying to say, basically. Still, i would like to hear Dorman's perspective.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Ondes Martenot »

I agree with the coach of Caesar Rodney. Dorman was almost always the number one team in national polls, but what kind of competition would it be if people could predict the outcome before it ever happened? They were the number one seed at the end of the prelims so their losses in the playoffs were probably more the results of nerves/overconfidence/other non question related issues.
First of all, ACF doesn't have power marks, so I'm not sure where you're getting that from.
I meant ACF style questions, like the ones at Prison Bowl, or the Chitin Classic.
Perhaps you read bad tournaments, or something, but it's ridiculous to malign an entire format
I didn't malign ACF style questions, I was only saying that like NAQT questions they have some flaws but in general are very good. And I don't know, I've read stuff like the Chitin classic, which again I felt was well rounded and an appropriate length, but like NAQT questions had some flaws.
that it was Harry Potter merely added insult to injury
:w-hat: ??? I assume the logic was that most high schoolers have read Harry Potter. It certainly was better than the predicted question about a talentless pop singer who lives a double life.I didn't mind the Harry Potter bonus, maybe it could have been in a standard 3 part style but the overall content was nothing out of line.

Also, may ask what's wrong with 5-10-15 bonuses? Every time I've seen them the point value correlates with the difficulty of the question. Would it be better to assign equal point values to questions that required various levels of knowledge?
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Matt Weiner »

aarcoh wrote:Would it be better to assign equal point values to questions that required various levels of knowledge?
Yes, when you consider the bonus as a whole. You want some teams to get 10, some to get 20, and some to get 30, based on how much they know about the bonus topic. (Maybe you want some teams to get 0, too, but that doesn't change anything). By shifting half the points to knowing the hard part, you make the bonus scores less meaningful in determining which teams in the lower 80% of the field are better than each other, or which teams in the top 20% are better than each other, for no benefit other than increasing the points gap between those two groups, who were already quite easily identifiable anyway.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by NMBlumberjax »

Strength of schedule does have a lot to do with quizbowl which could also determine why Dorman lost.
Last edited by NMBlumberjax on Mon May 26, 2008 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by vcuEvan »

aarcoh wrote: Also, may ask what's wrong with 5-10-15 bonuses? Every time I've seen them the point value correlates with the difficulty of the question. Would it be better to assign equal point values to questions that required various levels of knowledge?
5-10-15 basically assign 15 points instead of 20 to the average team, punishing them for drawing the 5-10-15 instead of a standard 10-10-10. Also more of them result in lower scoring games which are less fun, and 10-10-10 do a fine job of rewarding deeper levels of knowledge. If you know the hard part you get a 30, if you don't you get a 20.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

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aarcoh wrote: :w-hat: ??? I assume the logic was that most high schoolers have read Harry Potter. It certainly was better than the predicted question about a talentless pop singer who lives a double life.I didn't mind the Harry Potter bonus, maybe it could have been in a standard 3 part style but the overall content was nothing out of line.
Harry Potter bonuses are either extremely stupid and frustrating, as this one was, or a free 30. Also, let's not forget that NAQT puts them under the literature distribution, which is a problem.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

Guy, how do you know that they put Harry Potter as lit and not pop culture?
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas »

Deesy Does It wrote:Guy, how do you know that they put Harry Potter as lit and not pop culture?
I don't, really. I seem to remember that coming up as such in the past; I could be wrong, though I wouldn't be at all surprised.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by NMBlumberjax »

I can understand why they would ask the question of Harry Potter; to actually see if most of the people scrutinized the book.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by closesesame »

As a member of the TJ team, I would like to state my views on all of this. I think we can all agree that NAQT has too much math computation and trash. I hate it, everyone hates it (except someone who only knows how to do those 2 things, I suppose). Even math virtuosos like Palmer Mebane hate it. Math theory is good, but math computation can just be pretty lame sometimes.

That being said, why teams win or lose on NAQT (or on any set of questions for that matter) has VERY LITTLE to do with what category one question hails from. The last time I checked, a round at HSNCT consisted of at least 20 questions read within an 18 minute timeframe that provide ample opportunity for a school with a wide base of academic knowledge to post a large score and win. This year, there were 4 really strong teams that everyone predicted would do really well at nationals: TJ, Whitman, Dorman, and Wilmington Charter. It goes without saying that some sort of situation would arise in which these teams would knock each other out. You can't blame a loss or an unexpected result on math computation or trash; it's simply because this year has been so competitive and the top teams have such similar knowledge that rounds are mostly decided on who knows the answers to the 18 other questions in a round of NAQT the fastest. So while it's "strange" (to Charlie Dees, though not to most other people who believe that you win some and lose some on account of no human being divine) that Dorman A finished below Dorman B, or "intriguing" that Whitman lost to Charter, it's just the luck of the draw. You simply cannot assume one team will win because they play amazingly well. If that were true, what would the point of even hosting a championship be?

Unexpected results can be due to nerves or overconfidence. They can be due to lack of sleep the night before. They can even be due to (gasp) one team outplaying the other team or knowing more about certain types of questions than the team that unexpectedly loses. We have all agreed at some point this year that of the nation's top teams, certain teams are better on certain formats than certain others, and are thus more likely to win the national tournament that caters to those strengths.

I'm just sayin'... </rant>
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by jbarnes112358 »

NMBlumberjax wrote:Strength of schedule does have a lot to do with quizbowl which could also determine why Dorman lost.
I'm not sure what you mean by this, But, I hope you didn't mean Dorman played a weak schedule. They traveled far and wide to play the best teams they could find anywhere. They won or finished high in just about every tournament they played. See http://ratings.aiquizbowl.com/team.php?tm=Dorman%20A

I am not sure why Dorman A did not do as well as expected. After all Dorman B did better than expected and they played in most of same tournaments. Having two teams in the top five is an amazing feat for which they should be rightly proud. (Q. Has it ever happened before?) The only explanation I believe is that NAQT is subject to upsets and that all the top teams were legitimately good, capable of beating each other on a given packet. So, it is at least partly the luck of the draw on what comes up in the packet. Everybody knew it was going to be wide open, and it was.I know their A team is a bit disappointed with 5th. I hope it does not take too much away from their great season. There is still PACE and they are going to be a favorite there as well.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Ben Dillon »

Two points:

1. I'm not sure the argument about variable bonuses. If you agree that a tossup can be worth variable points, giving powers for deeper knowledge, why the objections to 5-10-15 or 30-20-10?

2. Is computational math less valid than Harry Potter and Starcraft? I don't object to any of them in small quantities. I do agree that, since it's very difficult to write pyramidal math, it's probably best confined to bonuses.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by vcuEvan »

Ben Dillon wrote:Two points:

1. I'm not sure the argument about variable bonuses. If you agree that a tossup can be worth variable points, giving powers for deeper knowledge, why the objections to 5-10-15 or 30-20-10?

2. Is computational math less valid than Harry Potter and Starcraft? I don't object to any of them in small quantities. I do agree that, since it's very difficult to write pyramidal math, it's probably best confined to bonuses.
10-10-10 Bonuses already are variable point bonuses. The teams who know the most get the 30. The rest get 0-10-20.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by closesesame »

I'm going to sound like someone's mother in saying:

You win some and you lose some. Sometimes you have a good day and sometimes you have a bad day.

Believe me, TJ has had its own share of disappointing losses, especially at tournaments like NAQT VA state where we were "supposed" to do well, and losses to (albeit not lower place finishes than) our B team. Every team has these sorts of experiences. Blaming it on math computation questions, bonus format, etc. is just silly. If you feel that the majority of NAQT questions don't require legitimate knowledge and thus NAQT is not a good format, fine. You are entitled to that opinion. Taking a rational look at the situation, there are things to fix about NAQT but it's nowhere near the level of "top high school quizbowlers" thinking NAQT is a worthless lump of coal that should be shunned à la Chip Beall. In all honesty, Guy et al., when next year rolls around, are you seriously going to not go to NAQT? As a fellow quizbowler with a very large ego, I can tell you that what you have predicted will not happen.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Ed McMahon »

NMBlumberjax wrote:Guy does have a point with the math though and use in NAQT

Lets all go to :chip:
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by vcuEvan »

TJ is the undisputed champion of NAQT and Charter is the undisputed runner up. They both deserved this because they won on the questions that were there. If Dorman deserved to be in the top 4 at NAQT, they wouldn't have lost twice in a double elimination playoff. That said, I fully expect Dorman and Whitman to go 1-2 at PACE.

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by Matt Weiner »

closesesame wrote:I'm going to sound like someone's mother in saying:

You win some and you lose some. Sometimes you have a good day and sometimes you have a bad day.

Believe me, TJ has had its own share of disappointing losses, especially at tournaments like NAQT VA state where we were "supposed" to do well, and losses to (albeit not lower place finishes than) our B team. Every team has these sorts of experiences. Blaming it on math computation questions, bonus format, etc. is just silly. If you feel that the majority of NAQT questions don't require legitimate knowledge and thus NAQT is not a good format, fine. You are entitled to that opinion. Taking a rational look at the situation, there are things to fix about NAQT but it's nowhere near the level of "top high school quizbowlers" thinking NAQT is a worthless lump of coal that should be shunned à la Chip Beall. In all honesty, Guy et al., when next year rolls around, are you seriously going to not go to NAQT? As a fellow quizbowler with a very large ego, I can tell you that what you have predicted will not happen.
I think you're confusing two issues here.

Yes, it's kind of questionable to say that there was something automatically wrong just because Dorman finished highly last year, obviously put in a lot of work and improved a lot this year, and didn't finish any more highly. Namely: TJ, Charter, and Whitman also put in a lot of work and improved a lot this year; Dorman was competing against those teams, and not the 2007 Dorman team, at the tournament. Furthermore, upsets and freak occurrences happen at all tournaments.

On the other hand, what is wrong with saying "maybe if this academic quizbowl tournament did not have a lot of questions on non-academic things and a lot of non-quizbowl in it, noted excellent academic quizbowl team Dorman could have done better"? "Blaming" something on what was, in fact, one of its most likely causes seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, especially when it's being done in the context of a discussion that is actually about the second thing (the non-academic and non-quizbowl component of NAQT) and not, in fact, about Dorman's performance at the HSNCT.

And in answer to the other question, this is in fact the highest final finish for a B team in NAQT HSNCT history. TJ B and Dorman B have both finished eighth before. It ties the highest final finish for a B team in general high school quizbowl national championship history, with TJ B's final four finish at the 2005 PACE NSC.
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org

closesesame
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by closesesame »

I see what you all are saying, and I thank you, Matt, for giving a clarification of the overall argument. I definitely think NAQT has some things that need to be fixed. I groan when trash about some football team or some bad movie comes up. I also groan when math computation comes up. For what it's worth, Charter got both of these types of questions in the first game of our final against them. I support the proposal to reduce the number of such questions in the tournament and not having them in playoff rounds. I am a strong believer in math theory and adding more academic questions to NAQT packets. I am in full agreement with all of you here.

Where I disagreed was in that argument that these factors were what caused Dorman's unexpected performance at NAQT. Whatever happened, happened. Like Evan Adams said, they will probably thrash the field at PACE. What I was sick and tired of hearing were such arguments that NAQT's faults were so bad, and the fact that Dorman did not make top 4 so inexcusable, that HSNCT and NAQT in general should be boycotted or its legitimacy questioned. You were definitely not among those making that argument, Matt. Trust me, I believe NAQT has things wrong with it and that they should change, but that "top high school quizbowlers" should seriously consider not going to NAQT next year just because of these issues? Give me a break.
Naren Tallapragada
TJHSST '09
MIT '13

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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by sunh »

I have a question regarding ACF Fall questions and those of NAQT.

Having practiced large amounts of NAQT questions at school and read large amounts of ACF Fall questions at home, are there ACF Fall writers that also write for NAQT?
I have seen a few questions found in both types of formats. Although the overlap is minimal, it does make me wonder about the similarities between NAQT and ACF.

In the case that it is true that ACF Fall writers also write for NAQT, does this mean the blame should be pointed the NAQT editors?
Also NAQT should adopt ACF's distribution

The distribution for the 20/20 of the regulation packet at ACF tournaments is:
4/4 literature
4/4 history
4/4 science
3/3 arts
2/2 religion, mythology, and philosophy
1/1 social science
1/1 geography
1/1 trash, current events, or miscellaneous
According to ACF's Wikipedia page
The only thing I don't understand is the social science category, which I assume includes economics?
Maybe change that into a math theory category?
Last edited by sunh on Mon May 26, 2008 8:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An Open Letter to NAQT

Post by catsasslippers »

I don't want to talk about Comp Math too much, but I do have a problem with it because it is a fundamentally different type of question from other QB questions. Comp Math is about how quickly you can do the numbers, and most questions are about depth of knowledge, ability to recall that knowledge quickly, and lateral thinking.

I will disagree with Guy on the sbject of having the last few tossups be Pop, Math or CE. I would much rather have the least few tossups be about these things than about something more academic. Typically the better teams make it to the end of the packet, but if you're playing with a team that likes to take its time I would much prefer missing a popular culture question to missing a literature one.
"... but not so if you're a structuralist! You're happy. You're french. You're very good looking. Very overpaid." - Sandra Blakely
Nina Charap
Stuyvesant High School '08
Emory University '12

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