# The 2017 National *Who Wants to Be a Mathematician* at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta

*"Thanks again for hosting the *Who Wants to be a Mathematician* contest. It was great to see the contestants and the talent of the students at the high school level." *

*"We were all watching here from Iowa City and cheering him [Junhee Lee] on! What a great competition. Thanks for all of your enthusiasm and efforts."*

*"I had a great time competing, meeting the other contestants, and seeing what the overall conference was like! I look forward to trying out again next year!"*

**Graham O'Donnell** won first place in the 2017 national *Who Wants to Be a Mathematician* on January 7 at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta. Graham, a junior at Lincoln High School in Florida, will receive $5,000 and a TI-Nspire CX for his win. The Pi Mu Epsilon chapter at Lincoln will also receive $5,000.

If you weren't at the game, you can still watch the webcast. Below are videos and photos from the game and from the awards breakfast.

### Here is Graham just after his victory

(video by Kelsey Houston-Edwards, former AMS-AAAS Media Fellow and star of the online PBS show *Infinite Series*)

### Game Contestants

(Left to right: **Andrew Hwang**, Adlai E. Stevenson High School (IL), **Oliver Song**, Southside Christian School (SC), **Aadil Bhore**, The Lawrenceville School (NJ), **Patrick Lei**, Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science, **Kalen Patton**, Chattahoochee High School (GA), **Kevin Wang**, Fairview High School (CO), **Shreyas Balaji**, John Foster Dulles High School (TX), **Graham O'Donnell**, Lincoln High School (FL), **William Luo**, Lynbrook High School (CA), and **Junhee Lee**, Iowa City West High School

#### Videos of all the questions and contestant responses from the semifinals and finals

#### Flickr photo gallery of game action

#### Game One

The ten contestants were split into two groups of five for the two semifinals. In game one, Shreyas, Junhee, and William were tied in the early going, but Shreyas moved ahead by being the only one to get a math history question right. He held the lead until question six when Junhee moved into first, just 100 points ahead of Andrew. That tight margin held for the last two questions as both answered correctly on questions 7 and 8. The win earned Junhee $2,000, a TI-Nspire CX, and a spot in the finals against the game two winner.

#### Game Two

Game two had no lead changes. All five contestants answered the first two questions correctly, but Graham kept his streak of right answers going until the last question, which everyone missed. So Graham advanced to the finals against Junhee (and won the same cash and prizes that Junhee had won in the first semifinal.)

#### Finals

The game format changes for the finals: only the first person to answer correctly gets points. In the finals, Graham answered seven of the eight questions correctly, while Junhee answered first correctly once, so Graham was the winner of the 2017 National *Who Wants to Be a Mathematician*.

#### Awards Breakfast

Before the game, the contestants and their families gathered with AMS President **Robert Bryant** (Duke University), 2017 Schafer Prize winner **Hannah Larson** (Harvard University), **Lillian Pierce** (Duke University), AMS President-Elect **Ken Ribet** (University of California, Berkeley), AMS Executive Director **Catherine Roberts**, **Alice Silverberg** (University of California, Irvine), the *Who Wants to Be a Mathematician* staff, and game sponsors for a breakfast and awards ceremony, hosted by **Ken Ono** (Emory University). Also at the breakfast were three of the Spirit of Ramanujan Math Talent Initiative awardees, **Kendall Clark** (Maryland), **Martin Irungu** (Kenya), and **Ishwar Karthik** (Qatar). Here are some videos and photos from the breakfast.

#### Videos

#### Flickr photo gallery of the awards breakfast

Below are the cash and prizes awarded to the 10 contestants. For each cash prize, the math department of the student's school, or a math organization at the school, receives a matching amount.

**TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator**from*Texas Instruments***$5,000**from the:**AMS****Graham O'Donnell**, Lincoln High School**TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator**from*Texas Instruments***$3,000**from the:**AMS****Junhee Lee**, Iowa City West High School**Maple 2016**fromand*Maplesoft***$1,000**from the:**AMS****Andrew Hwang**, Adlai E. Stevenson High School, and**Patrick Lei**, Massachusetts Academy of Math and Scienceby Anton, Bivens and Davis from*Calculus with Early Transcendentals*and*John Wiley and Sons***$1,000**from the:*AMS***William Luo**, Lynbrook High School, and**Oliver Song**, Southside Christian Schooland*Mathematical Understanding of Nature: Essays on Amazing Physical Phenomena and Their Understanding by Mathematicians***$500**, both from the:*AMS***Shreyas Balaji**, John Foster Dulles High School, and**Kalen Patton**, Chattahoochee High School (note: Kalen and Aadil tied for fourth in the second semifinal)and*What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 10***$500**, both from the:*AMS***Kevin Wang**, Fairview High School, and**Aadil Bhore**, The Lawrenceville School

Thanks very much to our sponsors: **Maplesoft**, the *Who Wants to Be a Mathematician* Technology Sponsor; **Art of Problem Solving**, the Online Community Sponsor; **Texas Instruments**, and **John Wiley and Sons**. Thanks also to our judges: **Bill Butterworth** (also *Who Wants to Be a Mathematician* co-creator and show runner), DePaul University,** Stephen Davis**, Davidson College, and **Katherine Socha**, the Park School of Baltimore. Thanks also to stand-up mathematician **Matt Parker** who did a very entertaining video about twin primes for the game.

Thanks as well to **Thomas Dick**, Oregon State University, **Dan Kennedy**, Baylor School, **Harold Reiter**, University of North Carolina Charlotte,** Tara Smith**, NSF/University of Cincinnati, **Byron Walden**, Santa Clara University, and **Carl Yerger**, Davidson College, for writing questions, and to AMS staffers **Robin Aguiar**, **Anita Benjamin**,** Annette Emerson**, **Samantha Faria**, and **Tongtong Wang**, for helping that day. Samantha took most of the videos and directed the live webcast. Thanks also to **Dorris** and **Ray Gann**, who brought supplies and distributed goodies to the crowd.

### Math departments/clubs get their checks

#### Graham O'Donnell gets his check

Graham O'Donnell, with Lincoln High principal Allen Burch (left) and Lincoln High math teacher Randal Stowers (right).

#### William Luo at a meeting of the Lynbrook math club

Left: William Luo (center, standing) at a meeting of the Lynbrook math club, with Rita Korsunsky (left) and assistant principal David Erwin (right); first row: Math Club officers.

#### Patrick Lei with his teacher, Thomas Regele

#### As exciting as the national game was, the lead-up to it may have offered even more drama

Snow and ice were forecast for Atlanta from Friday night to late Saturday morning, which caused many flights to be cancelled or rescheduled, and caused many Atlanta residents to stay home (once they had bought bread). Fortunately, the reality didn't match the forecast and all the contestants were able to make it to Atlanta for the game. For one contestant, though, Andrew Hwang, it wasn't easy. He and his family live near Chicago and their Friday flight was cancelled, so they drove, starting Friday morning and arriving in Atlanta after midnight. Although it's early in the year, this effort should earn Andrew's parents the *Who Wants to Be a Mathematician* MVP (Most Valuable Parents) Award for 2017.

Find out more about this year's contestants and see stories about Aadhil Bhore, Andrew Hwang (pre-game and post-game), Junhee Lee, Patrick Lei, William Luo, Kalen Patton, and Kevin Wang.

Find out more about *Who Wants to Be a Mathematician*.

Mike Breen, AMS Public Awareness Office.