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Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at the 2008 SACNAS National Conference

Salt Lake City Convention Center

Patrick Cesarz of Villanova University won $2000 playing Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at the 35th national conference of the Society for the Advancement of Native Americans and Chicanos (SACNAS) in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The game took place on October 11 during the conference’s Saturday morning breakfast and was attended by over 800 people.


The six undergraduates who played Who Wants to Be a Mathematician that morning are (left to right in both pictures):

  • Ana Berrizbeitia, University of Texas at Austin
  • Patrick Cesarz, Villanova University
  • Ricela Feliciano-Semidei, University of Puerto Rico
  • William Garcia, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Gerard Koffi, University of Massachusetts-Boston
  • Justin Walbeck, Tulane University 

Game contestants

Game contestants

Patrick answered every question correctly to amass 4500 points and win the game. Ricela and Ana both got off to a slow start in the game but both rallied in the last half of the game, which featured the more difficult questions, and finished in second and third places, respectively. Patrick's victory in the game earned him a chance at the Two Grand Prize bonus question.


Ricela, Mike, and Patrick


Patrick during the bonus question

The subject of the bonus question was related to the theme of the conference: the International Polar Year, specifically dealing with percolation, which is important in the study of the properties of sea ice. Patrick sailed through the bonus question as well, answering correctly and winning $2000.


Patrick and Mike

Below are the prizes won by all six contestants:

  • $2000 from the AMS and a TI-Nspire graphing calculator from Texas Instruments: Patrick Cesarz
  • TI-Nspire graphing calculator from Texas Instruments: Ricela Feliciano-Semidei
  • Maple 12 from Maplesoft: Ana Berrizbeitia
  • Calculus by Anton, Bivens and Davis, from John Wiley and Sons: Gerard Koffi
  • What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, from the AMS: William Garcia
  • Five-Minute Mathematics by Ehrhard Behrends, from the AMS: Justin Walbeck

Thanks to Ricardo Cortez (Tulane University) and Ivelisse Rubio (University of Puerto Rico) who helped with the many logistics necessary to hold the game at the SACNAS national meeting, and to the terrific audio-visual crew there. The AMS also thanks Texas Instruments, Maplesoft, and John Wiley and Sons for supporting Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.

Downtown Salt Lake City

Photographs by Who Wants to Be a Mathematician judge and co-creator Bill Butterworth of the DePaul University Department of Mathematical Sciences, and by AMS Public Awareness Officers Annette Emerson (judge) and Mike Breen (emcee).

Find out more about Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.