Math Day comes to CSU

Oct 312007
Authors: Beth Malmskog

Many CSU students may think that this Thursday is primarily a day to recover from Halloween celebrations, but for around 400 high school students, their teachers, and the CSU math department, November 1st is Math Day. The annual regional high school math competition, featuring a college bowl-style team tournament and individual written exams, takes place Thursday on the second floor of the Lory Student Center.

Dr. Simon Tavener, Mathematics Department Chair and reader for the final rounds of the math day team competition, said that Math Day definitely increases the amount of time that that some high school students spend on math. “Lots of schools have clubs that prepare teams for Math Day throughout the year. A lot more math gets done as a result,” Tavener said.

This year’s prizes include three desktop computers, donated by Hewlett-Packard, and three laptop computers provided by the math department’s Yates Chair, Dr. Daniel Rudolph. Scholarships to study math at CSU are also given to top finishers.

Tavener said that he favors the team competition, “like everybody.” This year’s team competition will be held from 11:00 am to 2:50 pm in rooms on the second floor of Lory Student Center. The final rounds, followed by the awards ceremony and presentation of the math department alumni award, will take place at 2:50 in the LSC ballroom. All rounds are open to the public.

“Some of the kids on the panels are really impressive in the speed of their calculations. When I’m reading out the questions I don’t even try to figure out the answers as I go,” Tavener said.

The PROBE (Problems Requiring Original and Brilliant Efforts) exam, though less dramatic, gives students a chance to shine as individuals. Dr. Holger Kley, a math department affiliate who has compiled the PROBE exam for 6 out of the last 8 years, designs a difficult test that only requires a pre-calculus background.

“I know this is a hard exam. It’s always amazing to me that there are 2, 3, or 4 kids from around the state that get really close to a perfect score,” Kley said. “These kids are really good at problem solving.”

Ken Monks, a second-year graduate student in the math department, helped grade the PROBE exam last year. He still remembers last year’s winning test, belonging to then Poudre High School student Sam Elder. “Last year, I watched Sam Elder totally clean house. I watched his paper fill up with points as it went around the room-it was pretty great.”


Test yourself with these Math Day questions from previous years’ competitions.

Team questions:

1. A triangular section of Old Town is divided into a smaller triangle and two trapezoids by two streets parallel to one of the boundary streets. The heights of the two trapezoids are equal to the height of the small triangle, and the area of the middle trapezoid is 9 acres. How many acres are there in the larger trapezoid?

2. Brigitte plants a pumpkin seed. The area that is covered by the vine doubles every month. After 5 months the entire garden is covered. When was exactly half of the garden covered with the vine?

Probe questions:

1. In a group of cows and chickens, the number of legs is 14 more than twice the number of heads. What is the number of cows?

2. A builders store sells fence in units of 10ft and 3ft. Notice that it is impossible to build a 4 foot long fence from these pieces without cutting a piece. What is the greatest such length of fence (length being a whole number of feet) that can not be built from these pieces without cutting at least one piece?

ANSWERS (for another page perhaps?):

Team questions

1. 15 acres

2. One month earlier or after 4 months

Probe questions

1. seven cows

2. seventeen feet

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