Skip to Main Content

Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at the National Math Festival

National Math Festival banners Cherry blossoms

"We really do appreciate having our students be able to compete in WWTBAM! They love it!"

"The festival was outstanding!"

Erica Lin, a sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School, won $3,000 playing Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at the first National Math Festival in Washington, DC on April 18. Here's Erica just after the game:

Erica won a wild game in which 100 points separated the top four (of six) contestants at the end.

Contestants on stage

Left to right: Thomas Wrona, Poolesville High School, Cynthia Liu, Montgomery Blair High School, Jack Lindsey, St. Albans School, Erica Lin, Richard Montgomery High School, Stefan Greenberg, Walt Whitman High School, and Kyle Gatesman, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Here's a video of much of the action, as well as a slideshow of photos from the game and festival. A description of the game follows the slideshow.


Created with flickr slideshow.

This was a very smart group of contestants. After question four, the halfway point, five of the contestants had answered each question correctly. Kyle, Stefan, and Jack answered number five correctly, which moved them into a three-way tie for first place. Then Cynthia and Erica were the only two contestants to answer question six correctly, so they took over first. Five of the contestants were right on question seven and four on question eight. Both Erica and Cynthia were in those two groups, which meant they were tied for first at the end of the game.

On the tie-breaking question, Erica signaled in first and was correct. This earned her \$1,000, a TI-Nspire CX, and a chance at the \$2,000 Bonus Question.

Erica used up almost all of her allotted three minutes before signaling in. When the audience was polled about its preference, one person noted that the diagram for the question wasn't complete, which made the question ambiguous. Fortunately, Erica figured out what the diagram was supposed to be and answered correctly to bring her total cash winnings to $3,000. Unfortunately, there's no extra cash awarded for ESP skills.

Erica and Mike

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

  • TI-Nspire CX graphing caclulator from Texas Instruments and $3,000 from the AMS: Erica Lin, Richard Montgomery High School
  • Maple 2015 from Maplesoft: Cynthia Liu, Montgomery Blair High School
  • Calculus with Early Transcendentals by Anton, Bivens and Davis from John Wiley and Sons: Kyle Gatesman, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and Jack Lindsey, St. Albans School (Jack and Kyle tied for third)
  • The ARML Power Contest from the AMS: Thomas Wrona, Poolesville High School
  • What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 9: Stefan Greenberg, Walt Whitman High School

Kyle, Mike, Cynthia, and the next guest The previous day, Cynthia and Kyle appeared with AMS Public Awareness Officer and Who Wants to Be a Mathematician host Mike Breen on the local news/talk show Let's Talk Live on Newschannel 8 to promote the game and the festival. Cynthia and Kyle chatted with co-host Melanie Hastings about the courses they're taking now (differential equations--as a junior--and BC calculus--as a freshman--respectively) and their preparation for the game.


Thanks very much to our sponsors: Maplesoft, the Who Wants to Be a Mathematician technology sponsor, Texas Instruments, and John Wiley and Sons.

Video by AMS Public Awareness Officer Annette Emerson. Most photos by Annette Emerson and Mike Breen. Slideshow photo of Erica in the Bonus Round courtesy of MSRI, National Math Festival. Text by Mike Breen.

Find out more about Who Wants to Be a Mathematician and the National Math Festival.