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A team of two sophomores and a junior took first place in last semester’s Team Barge Competition, a problem-solving challenge sponsored by the math department in which teams of three to five students attempt to solve a different weekly problem over eight weeks.

The winning group, which shared a $600 prize, included chemical engineering major Maria Azimova ’06 (Tashkent, Uzbekistan), Jacob Carson ’06 (New Richmond, Ohio), and Ekaterina Jager ’05(Tashkent, Uzbekistan), who is pursing a B.S. in electrical & computer engineering and B.A. in mathematics.

Second place went to Aydin Gerek ’07 (Istanbul, Turkey), Ko Ko Maung’07 (Tharkayta Yangon, Myanmar), and biochemistry major Myat Lin ’04 (Yangon, Myanmar), who split $450.

A total of $300 was awarded to third-place finishers Smathi Charanasomboon ’07 (Bangkok, Thailand), Teruhisa Haruguchi ’07 (Short Hills, N.J.), and Haotian Wu ’07 (Jiangsu, China).

“The student teams work hard on the weekly problems, and it shows in their submissions,” says competition organizer Ethan Berkove, assistant professor of mathematics. “I regularly receive clever and inventive solutions using methods that I hadn’t anticipated. I’m looking forward to seeing what the groups will come up with next semester.”

Competitors are permitted to consult with books, computers, and other resources to solve the problems, but not faculty. The problems usually involve some ingenuity or insight and generally do not rely on much background information from previous courses. The topics range over all areas of mathematics: probability, geometry, number theory, combinatorics, algebra, calculus, etc.

Sample problem (from week 1):

A Silly Sum: What is the sum of all the digits that make up the numbers in the list {1, 2, 3, 4, , 2001, 2002, 2003}?

Answer: 28,014

Last fall’s Team Barge Competition winners were computer science major Alex Balan ’03 (Bucharest, Romania), English major Lindsey Harkness ’03 (Bolder, Colo.), and economics and business major Michael Kotov ’03 (Philadelphia, Pa.).

The math department sponsors a Problem Solving Group that meets each week to discuss and solve mathematics problems, which helps students prepare for the Team and Individual Barge Competitions, the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC) Math Contest, and the William Powell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

For the past four years, a Lafayette team has taken first place in the LVAIC Math Contest. Lafayette finished 24th among 476 participating institutions — best among Patriot League schools — in the 2002-03 Putnam exam, described by Time magazine as “the world’s toughest math test.”

Categorized in: Academic News