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Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at the University of Montana

"Thank you so much for the opportunity of Who Wants to Be a Mathematician. We had a GREAT time. What a cool way to promote mathematics."

"In the far reaches of Montana, it seems we do a lot of traveling. The trip was wonderful, and we certainly enjoyed the competition."

"Thank you for the fun competition. The cheering section loved it, also!"

"We had a blast!! I've been teaching for 28 years now and this was one of the best times in my teaching career."


University of Montana landmarks

Eight students came from all over Montana to play Who Wants to Be a Mathematician and to hear Ken Ono (University of Wisconsin) talk about some higher-level mathematics. The talk and game took place on September 17 at the University of Montana in Missoula.

Contestants and Mike

Pictured above, left to right are:

  • Casey Donoven, Havre High School
  • Courtney Peck, Sidney High School
  • Glen Dower, Great Falls High School
  • Jack Stringfield, Gardiner High School
  • Mike Breen, AMS Public Awareness Officer and Who Wants to Be a Mathematician host
  • Steven Green, Joliet High School
  • Alec Patterson, Hellgate High School
  • Trevor Bennett, Whitefish High School
  • Kallen Konen, Butte High School

Ono began the morning by telling the crowd of over 150 students and teachers that mathematics is a vibrant subject into which many people are doing research. Ken explained some of his research in number theory.

Ken Ono at the start of his talk

Who Wants to Be a Mathematician



Game one contestants: Casey, Glen, Kallen, and Jack


Both games were decided on the last question. In game one, Casey Donoven won by answering the final question - about prime numbers - correctly. Many of the contestants brought large rooting sections from their schools, which added a lot of excitement to both games, but Casey's contingent from Havre High School was the most vocal. Thus, a large number of Havre Blue Ponies expressed their happiness with the outcome of game one.


Game two contestants: Trevor, Alec, Steven, and Courtney

In game two, Steven Green got off to a slow start, but came on strong late in the game to win and earn his way into the Bonus Round and a chance at the $2000 question with Casey.


Trevor's rooting section from Whitefish

Casey's rooting section from Havre

Alec's rooting section from Hellgate


Rooting sections from (left to right) Whitefish High School, Havre High School, and Hellgate High School





The two game winners had three suspenseful minutes in which to make their decisions. At the end of the three minutes, the audience members were polled for their preference, but there was no clear favorite among the choices. Both Casey and Steven made the same choice and it was not correct, so unfortunately neither student won the $2000.

Casey and Steven in the bonus round

They each won the new TI-Nspire CAS graphing calculator, however.

Steven, Mike, and Casey

Here are the prizes won by all eight contestants:

  • TI-Nspire CAS graphing calculator from Texas Instruments: Casey Donoven and Steven Green
  • Maple 11 from Maplesoft: Glen Dower and Alec Patterson
  • Calculus by Anton, Bivens and Davis from John Wiley and Sons: Kallen Konen and Courtney Peck
  • What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences from the AMS: Jack Stringfield and Trevor Bennett

Although many students, teachers, and rooting sections have come a long way to take part in Who Wants to Be a Mathematician in the past six years, the distance traveled by Courtney Peck, her teacher, and sister - more than 600 miles - is believed to be a record.

The AMS thanks David Patterson of the University's Department of Mathematical Sciences who made all the local arrangements for the game; the National Science Foundation for the Distinguished Teaching Scholar's Grant held by Ken Ono which provided travel for this outreach event; and sponsors Texas Instruments, Maplesoft, and John Wiley and Sons for their continued generous support of Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.

Photographs by Who Wants to Be a Mathematician judge and co-creator Bill Butterworth of the DePaul University Department of Mathematical Sciences.

Find out more about Who Wants to Be a Mathematician