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Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting

Ryan wins

Who Wants to Be a Mathematician made a return appearance to Boston (the most recent trip had been for the 2012 national championship during the Joint Mathematics Meetings) and the big winner was Ryan Lee a sophomore at St. Mark's School (Ryan is pictured above with host Mike Breen and fellow contestant Graham Van Goffrier). Ryan won $2500 from the AMS and a TI-Nspire CX from Texas Instruments in a half-hour version of the game. The game was part of Family Science Days at this year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Here are videos of the action, followed by photos and a description of the game:

Family Science Days sign contestants

The contestants (above right) who played the game, all from the Boston area (left to right) are:

  • Graham Van Goffrier, Norwell High School
  • Ryan Lee, St. Mark's School
  • Pay no attention to the man in front of the curtain
  • Yonah Borns-Weil, Commonwealth School
  • Hannah Kim, Brimmer and May School
game All the contestants answered the first two questions correctly. Yonah was the only person to answer question three correctly and Ryan was the only one to answer number four correctly. So at roughly the halfway point of the game, Ryan led Yonah by 100 points. That continued until the last question, which Ryan and Hannah answered correctly. The win gave Ryan $500, a TI-Nspire CX, and a chance at the $2000 Bonus Question.


Ryan used up almost all of the allotted three minutes on the question, signaling in with about 10 seconds left. The audience listened intently as Ryan explained his reasoning in arriving at the answer, which was correct, earning him another $2000.

Bonus round
autograph Following his big win, Ryan signed autographs for members of the audience, who were delighted by him and his victory. Below (left), Ryan displays his winnings, and (right) the autograph seekers gleefully display their prizes. The list of prizes won by all the contestants follows.

Ryan with his TI and his check Bonus round


  • TI-Nspire CX from Texas Instruments and $2500 from the AMS: Ryan Lee
  • Maple 16 from Maplesoft: Yonah Borns-Weil
  • Calculus by Anton, Bivens and Davis, from John Wiley and Sons: Hannah Kim
  • What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, from the AMS: Graham Van Goffrier

Hannah may merit a special Who Wants to Be a Mathematician Comeback Player of the Year Award. As the game was about to start and the contestants sat in their places on stage, Hannah's arm rested on what was later discovered to be "quadruple-strength hydrogen peroxide," which was left over from the previous Family Science Days performance, and which gave her quite a burning sensation on her arm. She took a few minutes to wash it off with a good amount of water and, fortunately, was able to play the game.

Thanks to Linda Cendes (AAAS) for help arranging and promoting the game (and helping to coordinate Hannah's rescue). The AMS also thanks sponsors Texas Instruments, Maplesoft, and John Wiley and Sons for supporting Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.

Read about some of the other mathematics events at the 2013 AAAS meeting.

R2D2 Mat
A droid from the Missing Hyphen Division patrols for nonsensical notices.

Photographs by AMS Public Awareness Officer Annette Emerson (judge), Bill Butterworth (Who Wants to Be a Mathematician co-creator and judge) of Depaul University, and AMS Public Awareness Officer Mike Breen (Who Wants to Be a Mathematician emcee). Text by Mike Breen.

Find out more about Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.