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Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at Arizona State University West's Sonia Kovalevsky Mathematics Day

"She had a great time, met some new people, and used her mathematical skills to think about some questions she's never seen before. I was at the games and enjoyed watching the whole process. You are doing good things for the girls in our community. Thanks again."

"Michelle is so excited to have won, and our school is very proud. It was a great experience."

Arizona State West

Who Wants to Be a Mathematician traveled to Arizona State University's West campus for its Sonia Kovalevsky Mathematics Day on March 28. Michelle Coen, a junior at Apollo High School, was the big winner, winning $1000 from the AMS and a TI-Nspire CX from Texas Instruments.


Here's a very happy Michelle just after the game:

(More videos are below.)

Sonia Kovalevsky Mathematics Day was organized by Omayra Ortega of the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. She is pictured below with the eight Who Wants to Be a Mathematician contestants.

Contestants and Omayra Ortega

Left to right: Karaline Petty, Herberger Young Scholars Academy, Ranee Yan, Centennial High School, Sumaita Mulk, Herberger Young Scholars Academy, Angelica Pangan, Mesa High School, Jocelyn Mendoza, Trevor G. Browne High School, Jiayang Li, Desert Mountain High School, Talia Khan, Xavier College Preparatory, Michelle Coen, Apollo High School, and Dr. Ortega

Game one:

Game one contestants

Michelle won this game on the last question. Ranee was in first at the halfway point, followed by Sumaita. That order held for two questions but Michelle and Angelica moved into a tie for first after question six. That also held for two questions, and Michelle won by being the only one to answer the last question correctly. That victory earned her \$500, a TI-Nspire CX, and a place in the Square-Off Round against the eventual game two winner (for another \$500 and a chance at the $2000 Bonus Question).

In a Who Wants to Be a Mathematician first, a young audience member volunteered a very good explanation of one of the tough questions, on which two of the contestants had answered correctly by guessing. It was unusual to have an explanation come from the audience, but the reasoning and figuring were exactly right.

Game two:

Game two contestants

This game was not as dramatic. The order of finish--Jiayang, Jocelyn, Karaline, and Talia--stayed the same from the halfway point until the end. So Jiayang won the $500, the TI-Nspire CX, and a trip (a little shorter than trans-oceanic) to the Square-Off Round against Michelle.




Square-Off and Bonus:

Square-Off Round

In the Square-Off Round, Jiayang signaled in first, but was incorrect. Michelle later revealed that she had narrowed down the choices to two, one of which was the choice Jiayang made, so with that choice eliminated, Michelle signaled in a few seconds later with the correct answer (Jiayang had also narrowed the choices to the same two as Michelle). That gave her a chance at the $2000 Bonus Question. Unfortunately, Michelle didn't choose correctly on this question, about polynomials, but as you can see in the video at the top of the page, that did not dampen her enthusiasm at all, or her love of math.

Videos of the games:

Jiayang and Michelle

Here are all the prizes and cash won by the contestants:

  • TI-Nspire CX graphing caclulator from Texas Instruments and $1000 from the AMS: Michelle Coen, Apollo High School
  • TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator from Texas Instruments and $500 from the AMS: Jiayang Li, Desert Mountain High School
  • Maple 2015 from Maplesoft: Angelica Pangan, Mesa High School and Jocelyn Mendoza, Trevor G. Browne High School
  • Calculus with Early Transcendentals by Anton, Bivens and Davis from John Wiley and Sons: Ranee Yan, Centennial High School and Karaline Petty, Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy
  • What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 9: Sumait Mulk, Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy and Talia Khan, Xavier College Preparatory

Thanks very much to our sponsors: Maplesoft, the Who Wants to Be a Mathematician technology sponsor, Texas Instruments, and John Wiley and Sons. Thanks also to Omayra Ortega, who arranged everything for the game (and the whole day).

Slideshow of the game and some scenery:


Created with flickr slideshow.

Video by Bill Butterworth, DePaul University, co-creator and judge of Who Wants to Be a Mathematician. Photos by Mike Breen (AMS), co-creator and host of Who Wants to Be a Mathematician. Text by Mike Breen.

Find out more about Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.