Mathday test challenges participants

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Tate Banks

OU Mathday spokesperson talks to students about the schedule of mathday events

tan(x)=sin(x)/cos(x). tan²(x)+1=sec²(x). And, of course, x= (-b[b2-4ac])/2a.

Formulas like these were of great importance to students who attended the 2013 University of Oklahoma Mathday event on Nov. 14. This annual outreach program challenged higher-level math students to exercise their mental math muscles with tests, a math bowl and other arithmetic exercises.

According to many of the participants, it was a very difficult day of numbers, operations and functions.

“The math test was very difficult; it was very challenging,” said senior Spencer Tolle. “It was an interesting event.”

The mathematical exercises started off with each attendee taking a test in either the Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 or Trigonometry categories. After that, each attending school divided their students into 4-person teams to compete in the math bowl, a head-to-head competition in which the teams were given questions to solve.

“When it got to the math bowl, that was very fun. [I] got to hang out with friends and kind of math together,” Tolle said.

The bowl went on until lunch, during which students were given a math problem to solve. After the midday meal, some teams were eliminated from the math bowl. The remaining teams competed through two more rounds until a winning team was selected. After that, a guest speaker, Liz Stanhope, gave a lecture over math and physics.

According to many of the student attendees, the difficulty of the problems at the event was far beyond that of ordinary class work. In fact, only one team from DHS, nicknamed Raw Talent, made it past the first round of the math bowl, as the others were eliminated during the first round. Raw Talent included senior Spencer Tolle, juniors Abbie Stewart and Warker Hyunn and sophomore Tate Banks. In addition, only one DHS student, Banks, placed in the test scores. He won third place in the Trigonometry test and was also one of the three winners of the lunchtime math problem.

In all, 19 Duncan students went to the event. Amber Johnson, an upper-level math teacher at the high school, and Sam Holthe, another math teacher, took the students to Norman for the academic throwdown.

“I think there were some that got their eyes opened quite a bit [to advanced math],” Johnson said. “Several did really well.”

The first year Johnson went to Mathday, she underestimated the level of difficulty that the competition would present.

“I first heard about Mathday last year,” she said. “We took kids that we thought maybe needed some reinforcement in math, and after being there you can see that it needs to be kids with an interest in math, and so that’s why we decided to offer it to just the advanced math classes this year,” she said.

According to Ameya Pitale, a math professor at OU and the chairman of the Mathday committee, the mentally challenging exercises are meant to boost students’ interest in math.

“The one main thing that we want the students to take back is that math is fun. If they have fun, they are very happy,” Pitale said.

The Mathday event has been going on for 11 years, and Pitale says that it is scheduled to go on indefinitely.

“I think our response from schools and students is increasing every year. We used to be 100 people, and now we are more than 300 students,” Pitale said. “I think, as long as the students want it, and there are enough faculty to run it, we are going to do it.”

Students are going to be taking their trigonometric identities to Norman for a long time to come.