Springfield, Ohio – Thirty-six students from around Ohio descended on Wittenberg University on Feb. 14 to participate in the annual Four College Mathematics Competition.
This annual competition allows students from Wittenberg, Ohio Wesleyan University, Denison University and Kenyon College to work as three-person teams to solve 10 math problems in two hours. Three teams represented Wittenberg, comprised of Marshall Zarecky, class of 2009 from Enon, Ohio; Alyssa Armstrong, class of 2009 from Hamilton, Ohio; Ben Scott, class of 2009 from Strongsville, Ohio; Amanda Furness, class of 2010 from Strongsville, Ohio; Aaron Dugger, class of 2010 from Newburgh, Ohio; Nam Vu, class of 2010 from Ha Noi, Vietnam; Alex Sitarik, class of 2011 from East Liverpool, Ohio; Michael Doerschuk, class of 2011 from Louisville, Ohio; and Savannah Kiser, class of 2012 from Warren, Pa.
"We try to keep it as low-key as possible and give students a chance to meet and socialize with like-minded students from other schools," said Adam Parker, Wittenberg assistant professor of mathematics. "While the students are working on the problems, the faculty members get to socialize or try the problems themselves, which is fun for us."
In addition to Parker, Wittenberg faculty members Al Stickney, professor of mathematics, Doug Andrews, professor of statistics and chair of the department, and Brian Shelburne, associate professor of computer science and chair of the department, attended the event.
The location of the exam rotates among the four schools. In addition to providing lunch and a physical space to take the exam, the host institution is responsible for recruiting an individual from outside the four competing colleges to write and grade the exam. This year's writer from Minnesota put together an exam with problems from areas such as geometry, calculus, number theory and trigonometry, among others.
According to Parker, while the problems are challenging, they rarely require any advanced mathematics to understand or figure out. Usually a clever insight will allow the student to solve them.
"It was a lot of fun working in teams to solve the problems," said Zarecky, who is a math major and computational science minor. "Most math competitions have you working individually, but it's nice to have teammates to bounce ideas off of."
In December 2008, seven Wittenberg students also participated in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition, the largest and most prestigious mathematics competition in the United States. Designed to test technical competence, problem-solving ability and originality, the event attracts more than 2,000 students who spend six hours attempting to solve 12 questions. The institutions with the five winning teams are awarded a monetary prize for their mathematics department, with the top team receiving $25,000. The 20 highest-scoring individuals are also awarded monetary prizes.
Wittenberg math students will continue to participate in competitions during the 2008-09 academic year. In April, students will travel to Bowling Green State University for the spring meeting of the Ohio Section of the Mathematical Association of America. There, they will participate in another problem-solving competition, as well as attend a pizza party and talks. In addition, senior mathematics majors will also present the results of their senior thesis research.