Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at Providence College on Pi Day

Stephen Lamontagne, who attends Barrington High School, made Pi Day 2011 memorable by winning US$3000 from the AMS and a TI-Nspire graphing calculator from Texas Instruments playing Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at Providence College on March 14. Stephen and the seven other high school students from Rhode Island competed in front of a packed house and at the end of the contest received congratulations from Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.


(Photo by Terry Coes)

Front, left to right:

  • Allie Breggia, North Providence High School
  • Justice Driscoll, Cumberland High School
  • Dylan Gastel, The Wheeler School
  • Michael Reeves, Lincoln High School

Back, left to right:

  • Oscar Perez, Bishop Hendricken High School
  • Stephen Lamontagne, Barrington High School
  • Jamie Ryan, Portsmouth High School
  • Steven Petteruti, Rocky Hill School
Governor Chafee Part of the audience
(Photo at right by Terry Coes)

Part of the packed house was made up of two extremely enthusiastic rooting sections from Portsmouth High School--rooting for Jamie Ryan--and North Providence High School--rooting for Allie Breggia. Some of the Portsmouth contingent sported the digits of Pi on their t-shirts.

Portsmouth Daniel during the Bonus Question

(Photo on the left by Terry Coes.)

Not to be outdone, AMS employees Sheila Rowland and Shirley Hill sported t-shirts from their Spring Pi collection:

Sheila and Shirley

In game one, Michael and Stephen answered all of the first five questions correctly. Michael was correct on question six to take the lead going into the last two questions. Oscar used his Help on question seven, calling on his teacher, Tom Morey, for help with a combinatorics question. Morey recommended one of the choices, but as he was explaining his reasoning, he immediately realized he hadn't counted all the possibilities and amended his answer right before time expired. Oscar agreed with his teacher on what turned out to be the correct answer. Stephen also answered this one correctly, which put him in the lead by 100 points. No one got the last question correct and so Stephen won the first-place prize of $500 and a TI-Nspire. Game one contestants


Game two started as game one had, with Jamie and Dylan answering the first five questions correctly. Steven used his Help early, on question three, which concerned math history and answered correctly. Dylan used his Help on the next question, hitting the Help buzzer with about two seconds left (causing the Who Wants to Be a Mathematician staff to increase their next order of Grecian Formula). His helper was the 2010 Who Wants to Be a Mathematician Rhode Island champion, Seth Neel. Seth and Dylan agreed on their choice, which was correct. Later in the game, Dylan answered questions six and seven correctly to pull ahead of Jamie and win the game. Steven was the only player to anser the last question correctly, which moved him into second place. Dylan's win earned him $500, a TI-Nspire and a spot in the Square-Off Round against Stephen. Game two contestants



Stephen, a junior, and Dylan, a freshman, went head-to-head on one question for another $500 and a chance at the Bonus Question, worth $2000. Stephen won by signaling in first with the correct answer.

Square-Off Round

Stephen had three minutes to answer the Bonus Question, which involved geometry. He used all his time, making sure of his answer, and--once time was up--listened as members of the audience expressed their preferences among the choices. The audience and Stephen agreed and were correct, so Stephen tripled his winnings to $3000. Bonus Round

Stephen, Governor Chafee, and Mike

Seth, Dylan, and George Lewis
Photo of Seth Neel, Dylan, and Wheeler math teacher George Lewis, by Terry Coes

Videos of the contest

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee then handed out awards for the contestants. Here are all the prizes and money won that day.

  • TI-Nspire graphing calculator from Texas Instruments and $3000 from the AMS: Stephen Lamontagne
  • TI-Nspire graphing calculator from Texas Instruments and $500 from the AMS: Dylan Gastel
  • Maple 14 from Maplesoft: Michael Reeves and Steven Petteruti
  • Calculus by Anton, Bivens and Davis from John Wiley and Sons: Oscar Perez and Jamie Ryan
  • What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences from the AMS: Justice Driscoll and Allie Breggia

More images from the competition:

The AMS thanks sponsors Texas Instruments, Maplesoft, John Wiley and Sons, and LaSalle Bakery for their generous support of Who Wants to Be a Mathematician. Thanks also to Lynne DeMasi of the Providence College Department of Mathematics and Computer Science who helped arrange things for the Pi Day competition.

Uncredited (until now) photographs by Who Wants to Be a Mathematician judge and co-creator Bill Butterworth (DePaul University Department of Mathematical Sciences), AMS Public Awareness Officer Annette Emerson, and Managing Editor of the "Notices of the AMS" Sandy Frost Breen. Videos by Bill Butterworth. Text by AMS Public Awareness Officer and Who Wants to Be a Mathematician host Mike Breen.

Find out more about  Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.