AGazine, January 2014

The Online Magazine of the Academic Games Leagues of America

News & Notes Keith Richards Down Memory Lane Past AGazines


News and Notes

The Equations and On-Sets Judges Tests for 2013-14 are available. Those who have never been certified or those who were certified prior to 2009 should take either or both tests.

League administrators should use this link to order from Brother Neal Golden.

Events across the AGLOA leagues during the next month:

21 Palm Beach Academic Games League (PBAGL) Social Studies Tournament – Round 2: Current Events & Presidents (#1-24)
Martin County (FL) Social Studies Tournament – Rounds 3, 4 & 5: Current Events/Presidents
22 Jefferson Parish (LA) Elem LinguiSHTIK and Propaganda (Sec. F) Tournament
Indian River County (FL) Equations Tournament – I
New Orleans Academic Games League (NOAGL) Jr/Sr Presidents (#25-44)
23 NOAGL El/Mid Presidents (#13-24)
28 PBAGL Social Studies Tournament – Round 3: Current Events & Lightning Round Questions
IU6 Secondary LinguiSHTIK Tournament
Martin County (FL) Social Studies Tournament – Rounds 6, 7 & 8: Current Events/Presidents
29 Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV (PA) World Events Tournament
Indian River County (FL) Equations Tournament – II
30 Beaver County (PA) Academic Games Leagues World Events Tournament
1 Michigan League of Academic Games (MLAG) Saturday Tournament – 5 locations
4 PBAGL Social Studies Tournament – Round 4: Lightning Round Questions
5 Indian River County (FL) Equations Tournament – III
6 Beaver County (PA) Academic Games Leagues LinguiSHTIK Tournament
12 Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV (PA) M/J/S Equations Tournament

To see all of our of upcoming events, visit our Calendar page. If your league’s events are not listed, please send us your schedule.


Profile: Keith Richards


When Keith was interviewed at the 2013 Nationals in Charlotte, he had worked with Academic Games for seven years, all as a substitute teacher in the Jackson (Michigan) Public Schools. He knew nothing about the games when a counselor at the alternative middle school where he substituted frequently asked him to apply to replace the system’s Academic Games coach. She knew he could do it because Keith was competitive and academically sound, having minored in Mathematics Education at Michigan State. He inherited five players from various schools in the district when he started, a number that soon rose to seven. Keith had them teach him, first.

“I’m trying to learn myself. I don’t want 7th and 8th graders knowing more than me.”

He took those students to the first MLAG Saturday tournament almost as soon as he took the job as coach. At the state tournament in March 2007, he had one player qualify for Nationals, so he accompanied the student to Wheeling, West Virginia. Keith has attended every AGLOA National Tournament since. He worked hard to learn the games during that building year.

It took me a while. I talked to veteran coaches on the phone. I took the math worksheets to a lounge and sat there for hours and hours. The waitresses refilled my drink and looked at me funny. The previous coach couldn’t explain On-Sets Restrictions. I’m not a skilled On-Sets player, but I am a skilled On-Sets coach. I taught my second best player how to do Chain Restrictions on the bus to the state tournament.

Keith quickly learned that he had to be flexible to retain students in the program. His players are typically involved in multiple extra-curriculars. Some stick with Academic Games; others don’t. He drives back and forth between three or four schools to conduct practices. Some are after school while others are at night or on Saturdays—all to accommodate varied student schedules.

His teams have also done well in reading games.

We crushed people in Propaganda at the state tournament this year. We could have played without our best player and still won the Middle championship.

Like all coaches, he has honed his philosophy through experience. At the annual MLAG Super Tournament, players on a team must be seated from 1 to 5 for each cube game. They do not move from round to round of a game, so that Player #1 stays at the top table throughout the rounds. So Keith rarely assigns the same student to the “first chair” for all three cube games. He also lets the playes decide who will sit at which table, although he retains veto power.

When the players are involved, they take ownership. But if the order they come up with is not close to what I think, I step in and set it right.

He coaches so that players are hitting their stride at the state tournament in March.

Players perform right at or above expectation, much better than anything we do at the monthly tournaments.

He thinks the transition to AGLOA rules went smoothly in MLAG in 2012-13, but he misses the month-long transition from the local to the national rules from the previous years.

It gave players something new to work on. It refocused them. It created some variation in the season.

He also appreciates the more laid back atmosphere at the national tournament, likening it to a bowl game for a college football team.

The state tournament is like the conference championship. That’s the fight, this [nationals] is the reward. We visit the amusement park. I still want my Thinkers, but I try hard to make it fun outside the competition.

Keith’s analogy of a bowl game arises naturally from his experience as a manager for the football team at Michigan State. He began the spring of his sophomore year under Coach Nick Saban.

He loved to make an example of anybody who wasn’t a player. He’d yell at us just as much as players to show that everyone was treated the same. If he didn’t have a ball in his hand the second he wanted it, he’d yell, “There’s 10,000 *$%* managers, and I can’t get a *$%* football. Sometimes it was our fault; sometimes it wasn’t.

That was the year (1999) that Nick Saban took the job at LSU in December, and an assistant coached the team in the Citrus Bowl against Florida. The job as a student assistant consumed a great deal of time. Keith estimates he earned a penny a minute during the season.

JermaineOliverWe’ll close with what Keith calls his “claim to fame.” The story parallels the one in the movie The Blind Side about Michael Oher, a homeless boy who became a college and NFL football player. Keith’s tale involves Jermaine Oliver, whom he met when Jermaine was in the middle alternative school in Jackson.

He’d sit in the corner and be quiet and do his work. He stuck out because he was soft-spoken and very polite.

Jermaine was sent to the alternative school because he became withdrawn after being bullied at his other school and used a derogatory term toward a student with a learning disability. But he was bored at his new school. Jermaine wasn’t homeless but his mother, a single parent, wasn’t supportive. He reached an agreement with her that he would attend school once a week.

Keith began working with Jermaine when Jermaine was a junior at the alternative high school. Keith passed out a flood of papers seeking students interested in Academic Games.

Forty signed up. But at the first practice there was only one kid, Jermaine. I had wondered how smart he was. Now’s my chance to find out.

Determining that Jermaine hoped to go to college, Keith convinced him that, to do so, he had to learn math. So, in addition to teaching him Equations, he also worked with him on his times tables, fractions—all the basics. By the end of his high school career, Jermaine was the #4 rated player in MLAG.

He’d stay up all night working on Equations. “I gotta find new goals.” He’d call me at 2 AM wanting to know if he could mix i and log together. “Go to bed, Jermaine. Go to school.”

Stuck in Pre-Algebra, Keith convinced a guidance counselor to give Jermaine a chance in regular math classes. So he took Geometry and Algebra II simultaneously so that he could take Pre-Calculus as a senior. With lots of help in seeking a scholarship and other financial aid, Jermaine enrolled at Western Michigan University, where he immediately caught the eye of the math professors.

He’s driving them nuts like he used to drive me nuts.

It’s a success story centered around Academic Games because I had this screwy idea to teach Academic Games in a culture that had no desire for it.

No movie has been made about Jermaine, but he was the subject of a 2010 article on


Down Memory Lane

The original Propaganda Tournament Rules included this requirement.

Each player must provide his/her own Prediction Dial and his/her own Answer-Score card.

This satement referred to items found in the Propaganda game kit. In addition to a booklet explaining the techniques and a set of cards with sample examples, each kit included four Technique Cards with the list of techniques on one side and the Prediction Dial on the other as shown below. When told to reveal answers, each players turned the Prediction Dial toward opponents with the number of the selection showing.


Each kit also contained the chart below as well as four dime-sized disks of various colors. Each player moved his/her colored disk from 0 up or down after each question to keep score.


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