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This year, the mathematics department’s annual Math Bowl is going to have a new twist: It won’t be just for Lafayette students.

The competition will be held April 16 during the Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Section of the Mathematical Association of America Spring 2005 Meeting. The event will include four teams of four students each from Lafayette, Lehigh University, Moravian College, and Muhlenberg College.

Lafayette will be represented by last year’s Math Bowl champions: mathematics major Trent Mohney ’05 (Binghampton, N.Y.), mechanical engineering major Varun Mehta ’06(New Delhi, India), Prince Chidyagwai ’05 (Marondera, Zimbabwe), who is pursuing a B.S. in mathematics and an A.B. with a major in computer science, and Rob McEwen ’05 (Morgantown, Pa.), who is seeking B.S. degrees in mathematics and computer science. Mathematics professors Gary Gordon and Liz McMahon will be the judges.

The format and rules are based on those of College Bowl competitions. Correct answers to toss-up questions earn 10 points. Buzzing in early is allowed, but the team loses five points if it’s wrong. Correct answers earn a chance at a bonus question, usually worth 20 points. The winners receive a Math Bowl Champion T-shirt.

Potential questions come from pop culture — movies about math or that use math words in the title, such as The Matrix and A Beautiful Mind, cars with math-related names like Infiniti and Maxima, and TV shows such as “The Simpsons”; local culture — match the faculty member to his paper, or graduate school, or previous employer, or spouse or first language; and mathematics — arithmetic, history, number theory, etc.

Sample questions from last year’s competition:

  • Today (April 28) is an “all-even” day: 4/28/2004 — every digit is an even number. When will the next “all-even” day be? [6/2/2004]
  • When will the next all-odd day be? [1/1/3111]
  • Put Professors McMahon, Reiter, Traldi, and Yuster in chronological order, from earliest to latest, based upon when they received their Ph.D.s [Yuster, Traldi, McMahon, Reiter]
  • The number 10! can be expressed as 2^a*3^b*5^c*7^d. For five points apiece, find the values of a, b, c and d [a=8, b=4, c=2 and d=1]

Unfortunately, amusing questions such as “what shape are the faucet handles in the bathrooms of Pardee Hall, home of Lafayette’s math department?” will have to be eliminated in this year’s competition, along with those about Lafayette professors, to make the game fair to the teams from other colleges.

Categorized in: Academic News