February 04, 2011

SIUC to host annual math field day competition

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- Young mathematicians will again compete for prizes while testing their skills during the annual Mathematics Field Day Competition at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next month.

Students from about 50 high schools in four states -- Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee -- will participate in this year’s competition, set for Tuesday, March 8, at the SIU Arena, said Kathy Pericak-Spector, professor in the SIUC Department of Mathematics and chair of the event.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the Mathematics Field Day Competition. Photos and video may be taken during the initial portion of the testing period at the SIU Arena beginning at 10 a.m. Reporters may conduct interviews following the testing, which finishes at noon. Organizers will present awards starting at 2:15 p.m. at Shryock Auditorium. For more information, contact Kathy Pericak-Spector at 618/453-6573 or Mathfd@siu.edu.

“When competing comes up in a conversation, it is implied that people are competing in a sporting event. You don't realize that mathematics can be as exciting and fun and competitive as sports,” Pericak-Spector said. “There are actually quite a few competitions out there and students will come in knowing the competition. They have seen many of the same students before as well as schools.

“Many students will spend hours going over old Math Field Day exams. Although no one will every pay a top mathematician millions of dollars as the different sports do, mathematicians enjoy solving math problems for the fun of it,” she said.

Being proficient at mathematics is a crucial skill in today’s world, Pericak-Spector said.

“Mathematicians think logically. Corporations like mathematicians because they can always train one in their particular industry but they can't train a non-mathematician to think logically,” she said.

The competition, which SIUC has hosted for more than 50 years, pits math whizzes against each other using a morning of tests. The tests, designed, presented, and scored by SIUC mathematics faculty, begin at 10 a.m. and last until noon.

Organizers will begin presenting awards at 2:15 p.m. at Shryock Auditorium.

A maximum of 36 students -- nine per grade from each school -- may compete.

The top award is partial tuition waiver scholarship to SIUC. The waiver, offered through the College of Science, provides $500 in tuition costs per semester, and is renewable for up to eight semesters for a possible $4,000 value. The University has offered the prize for the previous six years.

The University also will award trophies and ribbons to top teams in three divisions based on enrollment. Class A schools have fewer than 250 students, Class AA 250-750 students and Class AAA more than 750 students. Top individual contestants in each division will receive certificates.

Organizers also will offer a program for teachers during the event. The teachers’ program is set for 10:30 a.m. in the E.T. & Katy Simonds Alumni Lounge, room A131 in the Engineering Building. The featured speaker is Lingguo Bu, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at SIUC.