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Who Wants to Be a Mathematician on Pi Day 2013

Joseph Zurier, a sophomore at Classical High School, won $3,000 from the AMS and a TI-Nspire CX from Texas Instruments playing Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at Providence College on Pi Day. Joseph and his fellow contestants played before the largest crowd ever assembled for Who Wants to Be a Mathematician in Rhode Island, a little over 250 people. Below is a video taken of Joseph just after his victory, along with videos of many of the questions from both rounds. Also see a slideshow from that day and a description of the games.

A slideshow:

Description of the games:

Audience Audience

"My students were so excited to be a part of it. We all really enjoyed the day."

"Thanks to you and AMS for putting on another great game show. I can tell that the audience, which probably includes kids who say they don't do math, really gets into it. If they aren't trying the problems at least they can tell how challenging it is for the contestants and they seem genuinely awed by the spectacle."

Audience Some of the Prout contingent

"Thanks for the fun day and Andrea had a great time. Yes those bananas are quite the bunch."

"We had such a wonderful time - thank you for all that you did to make the day so much fun for the kids. Ben had a great time! I hope to see you again next year!!"

The contestants:

Benjamin Bradley, Cumberland High School

Bonirath Chhay, Woonsocket High School

James Chow, North Providence High School

Cassidy Laidlaw, Barrington High School

Dan Liu, Bishop Hendricken High School


Kyle Myerson, Portsmouth High School

Max Saccone, The Wheeler School

Andrea Vuono, The Prout School

Joseph Zurier, Classical High School

Five of the nine contestants played game one of Who Wants to Be a Mathematician and four played game two.


Game one contestants At the halfway point of the first game, Joseph and Benjamin were tied for first. Joseph broke that tie by being the only one to answer question five (a question about the the Fibonacci numbers) correctly and held the lead until question seven. Benjamin moved into first by being the only contestant to answer question seven correctly. (Since there was only one question left, this would be the time when a TV station would show a few ads to build the suspense, but the game proceeded to the last question without interruption.) Joseph, Dan, and Andrea all answered the last question correctly, so Joseph won first place, $500, a TI-Nspire, and a berth in the Square-Off Round against the game two winner. Dan and Benjamin tied for second.


Game two contestants

At game two's halfway point, Cassidy was in the lead having answered all four questions correctly. He is no stranger to Who Wants to Be a Mathematician, having qualified for the 2013 national contest in San Diego. Although Max was the only contestant to answer question five correctly, Cassidy held the lead throughout and earned a spot against Joseph in the Square-Off Round.




Joseph and Cassidy were no strangers to each other, having competed against one another in several math contests. They are more friends than rivals and so were happy to be together in the Square-Off Round (one question to see who goes to the Bonus Round). It took three chances at it, but Joseph was the first to answer the Square-Off Question correctly, earning himself another $500 and a chance at the $2000 Bonus Question, which was about prime numbers. Since it was Pi Day, Joseph was allowed 194 seconds in the round, but didn't even need the usual three minutes--he signaled in early and said he would stay with that answer. Judge Bill Butterworth stopped the clock and revealed that Joseph was correct, which earned Joseph a total of $3000 for the morning. Square-Off Round



Below are the prizes won by the contestants (Dan and Benjamin settled their tie by opting for different prizes):

  • TI-Nspire CX from Texas Instruments and $3000 from the AMS: Joseph Zurier
  • TI-Nspire CX from Texas Instruments and $500 from the AMS: Cassidy Laidlaw
  • Maple 17 from Maplesoft: Dan Liu and Max Saccone
  • Calculus by Anton, Bivens and Davis, from John Wiley and Sons: Benjamin Bradley and Bonirath Chhay
  • What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, from the AMS: Andrea Vuono and Kyle Myerson
  • Five-Minute Mathematics, from the AMS: James Chow

Joseph's victory was covered in the April 8 edition of The Providence Journal (but no online version seems to exist). Articles about James Chow and Cassidy Laidlaw were published in the Valley Breeze (page 7) and East Bay RI, respectively.

Thanks to Lynne DeMasi, Frank Ford, and Jeff Hoag of the Providence College Department of Mathematics and Computer Science for making all the arrangments for the event; and to the teachers and students who made up our biggest Rhode Island audience ever! (Thanks also to the Providence College crew who set up all the chairs.) The AMS also thanks sponsors Texas Instruments, Maplesoft, and John Wiley and Sons for supporting Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.

Photographs by AMS Public Awareness Officer Annette Emerson. Text by Mike Breen (Who Wants to Be a Mathematician host and AMS Public Awareness Officer). Quotes from some of the participating teachers.

Find out more about Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.