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Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at the 2009 SACNAS National Conference

DFW rental car lobby Registration

Six undergraduates who were attending the annual SACNAS (Advancing Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) national conference in Dallas, Texas played Who Wants to Be a Mathematician. Approximately 1000 people saw Cory Colbert of Virginia Commonwealth University win US$2000 from the AMS and a TI-Nspire graphing calculator from Texas Instruments.

The game was held during the breakfast session on Friday, October 16. There was talk of a college football game being held the next day between Sooners and Longhorns (not Laters), which must have been quite an anticlimax for the city after the great show put on by the six contestants.


Leyda Almodóvar, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez

Alexander Barrios, Brown University

Cory Colbert, Virginia Commonwealth University

Jonathan Gonzalez, University of California, Santa Cruz

David Jones, College of the Sequoias

Cynthia Wood, University of California, San Diego

At the halfway point in the game, Leyda led the field. Then David held first place for two questions, before Cory took over first place. Cynthia made a nice comeback, being in sixth place with only two questions left and winding up in second place. She gave a nice explanation about a question involving an improper integral.

Since Cory won the game, he had a chance at the bonus question worth $2000. He did a lot of figuring during the three minutes, but not enough to solve the problem completely, and admitted that he was not sure of his choice. He did, however, feel good about it. The audience also favored that choice, proof that the early hour had not affected people very much at all, because as you can guess, both Cory and the audience were right and Cory won the big money. Many people came to the AMS booth later that day to say they had been rooting for him and how happy they were to see him win. This may have contributed to his good feeling for the correct choice and could be the first instance of ESP in the Who Wants to Be a Mathematician bonus round.

Alex and Leyda

Ready for breakfast

Breakfast, finally

Below are the prizes won by all six contestants:

  • $2000 from the AMS and a TI-Nspire graphing calculator from Texas Instruments: Cory Colbert
  • TI-Nspire graphing calculator from Texas Instruments: Cynthia Wood
  • Maple 13 from Maplesoft: David Jones
  • Calculus by Anton, Bivens and Davis, from John Wiley and Sons: Leyda Almodóvar
  • What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, from the AMS: Alexander Barrios
  • Five-Minute Mathematics by Ehrhard Behrends, from the AMS: Jonathan Gonzalez

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, including helping with the qualifying test. Thanks also to the SACNAS staff, especially Lin Hundt and Jenny Kurzweil, 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.

Nice room number
There are advantages to being a perfect square

Photographs by AMS Public Awareness Officers Annette Emerson (judge) and Mike Breen (emcee).

Find out more about Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.