It is great that the AMS is able to conduct this competition which values and encourages mathematical talent. While sports are usually celebrated, it is wonderful that students interested in mathematics can also be encouraged. I sincerely hope that many more students gain the opportunity to participate in this competition.
Ten students from Maricopa and Pima counties qualified to play Who Wants To Be A Mathematician on January 9 at the 2004 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Phoenix. The special event drew an overflow crowd of mathematicians, contestant classmates, teachers and parents, as the game's emcee Mike Breen (a Public Awareness Officer at the American Mathematical Society) encouraged the contestants facing him in the "hot seat" and drew laughs from the audience.
The two students who answered various questions in the shortest time in the pre-event "fastest finger" competition, Kenneth Chen of Mesquite High School in Gilbert and Jonathan Lo of Canyon Del Oro High School in Tucson, qualified to play in two rounds of the game. Chen made his way up to #14 of 15 progressively-difficult pre-calculus questions, while in the second round Lo made it to question #15--the most challengingquestion. After an impressive performance of quick answers, accurate calculations, fine reasoning and excellent explanations along the way, Jonathan--or "J Lo", as his classmates call him--unfortunately missed out on the $2000 Grand Prize donated by the American Mathematical Society (AMS). Both contestants, however, won a series of prizes including t-shirts, books and journal subscriptions. The other contestants, who did not get to play a full round, also received prizes.
The qualifying students were:
All of the students (and their teachers and parents) should be proud to have qualified and are thanked for participating in this event. Also to be thanked are the prize donors--the Mathematical Association of America, Maplesoft, Texas Instruments, and John Wiley and Sons.
The major Phoenix newspaper, The Arizona Republic, sent a writer and photographer to the event. "It all adds up in math game," by Anne Ryman, was published in the paper on January 10, 2004, and included a description of the game, a photograph of the cheering audience, and a profile of contestant Jake Gottlieb, who told the reporter that his advice toyounger students is to "look for the real-life applications of math whenever possible rather than doing pages of drills." (Two days earlier, Gottlieb had attended Stephen Wolfram's address at the meeting.) The following week, The Arizona Republic also published an article on the game in its Education section: "Winning the math game," by Anne Ryman (January 14, 2004) mentioned contestants Jonathan Lo, Niko Warner, and Gottlieb, and included a photograph of some of the contestants. The articlefeatured the following sidebars: "Ways to encourage math at home," "Math Websites," (recommended by the AMS Public Awareness Office), and "Try this math brainteaser."
Who Wants To Be A Mathematician, created by Mike Breen (AMS) and Bill Butterworth (Barat College of DePaul University), is an outreach program of the AMS Public Awareness Office. Read about WhoWants To Be A Mathematician games that were held at past Joint Mathematics Meetings, on Pi Day, and at the Arnold Ross Lectures for young scholars.
---Annette Emerson, AMS Public Awareness Officer