Last month, nearby Augustana College hosted the 90th annual meeting of the Illinois section of the Mathematical Association of America (ISMAA). Six Knox students and three professors drove out to Rock Island to attend the first day of the event on Friday, April 9. While attractions ranged from lectures to the chance to converse with colleagues, the main draw was the student math competition.
Knox entered two teams of three, one of which won first prize with 35 out of 40 possible points. The winning team was comprised of senior Katherine Williams, sophomore Amy Miller, and freshman Kasandara Sullivan.
Knox has been sending students to ISMAA on a variable basis since about 1996. The meeting moves each year and driving as a group is not always feasible. The location for ISMAA 2010 was especially convenient.
Associate Professor of Mathematics Andrew Leahy was pleasantly surprised by this year’s good results. Leahy commented that this was the first win for Knox in over ten years, adding, “I think back in ’97 we actually won…That was a very special occasion.”
The competition took the form of an exam. Students solved difficult questions ranging from the best way to slice a rectangular pizza to how to fill a boat with fruit. The team found the questions challenging, as well as somewhat humorous.
“As a possible physicist, fruit loading has been one of my major concerns…How many Higgs Bosons can you fit in a boat?” said Sullivan.
“It’s certainly not the plug-and-chug sort of math,” said Miller.
“I actually got to go to some of the talks, which was nice,” Williams said, who arrived at ISMAA earlier than the others. “I thought the best part was the math. It’s a good collection of problems.”
“[Williams] got pretty much all of them,” said Sullivan. “She’s an ace.”