It is great that the AMS is able to conduct this competition which values and encourages mathematical talent. While sports are usually celebrated, it is wonderful that students interested in mathematics can also be encouraged. I sincerely hope that many more students gain the opportunity to participate in this competition.
Below are the 11 contestants from across the country who have qualified for the 2015 national Who Wants to Be a Mathematician, which will take place on Monday, January 12 at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio. If you can't be there, you can watch live (9:30-11:00 a.m. Central).
Senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics
Michael enjoys running on his school's cross-country team, has perfect pitch, and plays the violin and piano.
He's a two-time USAMO (USA Mathematical Olympiad) qualifier and two-time USA Physics Olympiad qualifier with a bronze medal.
He says that life would be very interesting "if he had the ability to convert matter into energy (without violating the conservation of energy, of course) ... many of our world's problems would simply go away."
Sophomore at Mission San Jose High School (CA)
When given a math problem, he doesn't stop until he gets a solution.
His favorite thing about school is swimming and, although he has been on a competitive team for ten years, he still enjoys the sport.
Once Tomas starts laughing, he can't stop.
Junior at Berkeley Preparatory School (FL)
His favorite non-school activity is surfing. Nicholas says that he is "a gnarly surfer who can tame any maverick."
He is an intern in the Integrated Mathematical Oncology Department at the Moffitt Cancer Center applying mathematical modeling to fundamental problems in cancer biology. He hopes to make math cool again: "I'm bringing Leibniz back."
Junior at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy (TX)
John enjoys playing baseball and playing the viola.
He was on the school's 2014 National History Bowl national championship team and also competes in Quiz Bowl, both of which are highly competitive academic competitions.
Senior at Glenbrook North High School (IL)
Sam's is active in debate but his favorite activity is Ultimate Frisbee, which he says is "easily the greatest sport ever invented."
If there were one talent that he could have it would be being a better writer: "The practical advantages are massive--a dissertation or even an e-mail to one's boss is made ten times better by good concise writing and has a real impact on the average person's life."
Junior at Greenwich High School (CT)
His favorite thing about school is singing in the choir. Michael can sing in Chinese, even though he can't speak Chinese.
He has a black belt in karate and is a Notre Dame football fan.
Following the competition, Michael participated in the Romanian Master of Mathematics Competition and won a gold medal. Read more about Michael and his performance in the competition.
Senior at Blue Valley West High School (KS)
This is the fourth time that Shyam has qualified for the national Who Wants to Be a Mathematician. He won the 2012 contest as a ninth grader, finished second in the 2013 contest and just missed the finals of the 2014 contest.
Some of the money that Shyam has won in the game has gone to help build up the school's math club, which Shyam says became very big this year.
He is a pianist and composer and is part of a music troupe called dBass, whose name comes from the initials of the members' first names.
Senior at Little Rock Central High School (AR)
His favorite thing about school is being with friends. Zen says that school and education in general have tremendous value and yet have no charge. He loves to challenge himself academically.
One exceptional talent he'd like to have: the ability to form light, including bending it. Then he "could conjure up math diagrams in the dark without a projector" when teaching the middle school students in his math outreach program.
Freshman at Dulles High School (TX)
Shreya is only the second 9th grader to qualify for the national Who Wants to Be a Mathematician (Shyam Narayanan, above, was a 9th grader when he won the contest in 2012). She plays the cello in her school's orchestra program and also enjoys soccer and tennis.
Shreya says that the most interesting thing about her is that she changes her mind easily.
Senior at The Charter School of Wilmington (DE)
He would like to have the ability to detect hidden patterns easily and automatically.
David says that if he won the big prize he would buy a high-performance computer to further his tuberculosis research. He "would also purchase a few interesting (but expensive) math books."
Senior at Fairview High School (CO)
Jesse also qualified for the 2014 national Who Wants to Be a Mathematician and made it to the finals. He likes to play poker, ping pong, and chess.
He has an asteroid named after him.
His favorite non-school activity is playing basketball. He likes to dunk "...on an 8-foot tall rim. Unfortunately, I'm still working on producing the same results on a real hoop but hey, it's all about having fun, right?"
The contestants were selected based on scores on two rounds of qualifying tests (see the test for round one and for round two) and will compete for up to US$10,000 (total) for themselves and their school's math department. Most of the more than 1,500 students who took the first test, did so online using Maple TA, which was provided courtesy of Maplesoft, Who Wants to Be a Mathematician's technology sponsor.
In addition to the cash prizes in the competition, there are also prizes donated by: Texas Instruments, Maplesoft, John Wiley & Sons, and the AMS. The game is a program of the AMS Public Awareness Office and was developed by Mike Breen (AMS Public Awareness Officer) and Bill Butterworth (DePaul University).
Read about--and see video from--the 2014 contest, won by Vivek Miglani of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Pictured below is Vivek with the school principal Ty Thompson and the check for $5,000 for the school's math department that Vivek earned as a result of his first-place finish.