At 9:37 a.m. Thursday, a hush fell over the Main Ballroom of the Lory Student Center.
About 350 students fell silent as pencils hit paper and all eyes fixated on the Problems Requiring Original and Brilliant Efforts, or PROBE, exam â€“â€“ the first of a series of tests students completed on the 34th annual Math Day.
Those with the top 10 scores receive scholarships that pay between $3,000 and $6,500 for each year they attend CSU.
The competition, where students tack prime numbers, square roots and algebra, is a chance for CSU to bring the stateâ€™s â€“â€“ and some of the countryâ€™s â€“â€“ best math minds to the campus.
Dan Bates, an assistant professor of mathematics who also organized the dayâ€™s events, said the event gives the department the venue to reach out to high school students and build the undergraduate population.
â€œStudents who excel in math donâ€™t get to travel for competitions near as much as athletes,â€ said Christie Franklin, a professor in the CSU Math Department who helped put on the dayâ€™s events. She said Math Day gives them that rare opportunity.
â€œMathematics applies to everything,â€ Bates said. â€œIt isnâ€™t always fun, but itâ€™s very broad and there is an area in math for everyone. Math touches everything in the world, from data storing technology, to biomedical engineering, to ecology and communications.â€
Cherri Spencer, a math teacher from Englewood High School, has attended Math Day since 1993.
â€œTo be able to hear a math problem out loud, then visualize the concept and solve the problem â€“â€“ that takes a rare kid,â€ she said.
Del Ebadi, a math teacher from Fairview High School in Louisville, said 18 students came from his school this year.
â€œTheir enthusiasm for the day is so high. Our students like math a lot and they look forward to facing a challenge and winning,â€ Ebadi said. â€œThey get to explore and see the beauty of mathematics.â€
Some students even coordinate their attire for the event, including four boys from Rocky Mountain High School, or RMHS, who wore matching fake â€œnerdâ€ glasses.
Several teachers said creating a suitable learning environment where kids can learn math is the biggest challenge of teaching the subject. Students are easily deterred from being math literate because they think it is too difficult.
Brad Avery, a math teacher at RMHS, said fostering an attitude of openness and patience is critical to motivating students to keep trying.
â€œMath teaches people to understand the data and pay attention to the trends in economics and other fields,â€ Avery said, adding that math literacy is just as important as reading and writing.
Staff writer Jennifer Saylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.