Young mathematics whizzes, get ready.
In a sure sign that fall has officially arrived, the Texas A&M University Department of Mathematics is gearing up to host its 25th Annual Texas A&M High School Mathematics Contest, set for Saturday, Oct. 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the John R. Blocker Building.
Each year for the past quarter century, the event has brought hundreds of area high school students to campus for a daylong competition featuring a series of team and individual competitions and exams in subjects ranging from Algebra I through Calculus.
Registration is available online until noon on Monday, Oct. 17, and also onsite on the day of the competition. There is a $3.50 per student fee for each individual test and a $10 fee for any number of teams from any school.
Texas A&M mathematician and event organizer Oksana Shatalov notes that the Mathematics Contest is one of the department’s most beloved outreach events, attracting several hundred high school students each year, including more than 400 every fall since 2010. Cumulatively, it’s a lot of work, but she says the effort is well worth being able to witness firsthand the students’ delight for math.
“The event is always highly rewarding,” Shatalov said. “I enjoy seeing so many bright, hardworking students who enjoy mathematics so much. Their eagerness is very contagious.”
Dr. Paulo Lima-Filho, professor and associate head for operations and undergraduate programs in Texas A&M Mathematics, credits the competition’s popularity to its ability to foster the exploration of mathematics in teens and to provide a platform for them to connect with others who enjoy the subject in the name of friendly competition.
“This is one of our most far-reaching outreach activities, and its existence gives our program a distinctive feature that stays imprinted in the minds of the participants who, hopefully, will choose our program one day to pursue their higher education,” Lima-Filho said.
More than 80 Texas A&M Mathematics students, faculty and staff members have volunteered to write exams, organize the events and serve as graders for various competitions covering subjects such as Algebra, trigonometry, geometry and advanced mathematics. In addition to being recognized and given awards in individual categories, each winner earns points for his or her school. The school with the most points tallied by day’s end also will be recognized and receive awards.
In one of the primary events, the Power Team competition, groups of six students collaborate on one or more open-ended math problems in the week leading up to the event. Each team has until the day of the contest to formulate its response, which includes work indicating how the group members arrived at their conclusion.
Top contest honors, however, are reserved for the two students with the highest scores in the Best Student Exam, a series of multiple-question, short-response problems designed to test their critical thinking skills. Each receives a $1,000 scholarship to study mathematics at Texas A&M.
All students also can participate in what has become the tournament’s highlight event and grand finale — a lightning-fast, integer-factoring game known as the Buzz Contest described as the equivalent of a mathematical spelling bee.
The Mathematics Contest was started in 1991 by Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Arthur Hobbs, who recently made a $1,000 donation to help fund this year’s event. Shatalov has been involved with the Mathematics Contest since 2012 but assumed responsibilities as director in 2015, succeeding Associate Professor of Mathematics Michael Stetcher, who had organized the event since 2002.
Visit the Texas A&M High School Mathematics Contest website for additional information, including rules and a complete schedule of events.