Math whizzes integrate knowledge, intuition

A student studies for the math competition in the library.

A student studies for the math competition in the library.

Megan Shen, Staff Writer

The sounds of scribbling pencils filled the University of Houston’s (UH) science auditorium as students furiously wrote out equations and punched calculator buttons.

On Feb. 8, students from the Mathematical Problem Solving Club (MAPS) ventured across town to participate in UH’s annual math contest. Based on high school course curriculum, individual tests spanned a variety of topics, from Algebra I and Geometry to Calculus and Physics.

“I liked that they had individual events that were based on specific educational standards rather than simply general problem solving skills,” freshman Aileen Zhang said.

Zhang, who competed in Mathcounts and number sense contests in middle school, placed fifth in Geometry.

“When I placed, I felt a mixture of shock and elation,” she said.“I hadn’t felt very confident because the questions were challenging.”

MAPS decided to participate in the UH competition in lieu of the Rice Math tournament, which coincided with Winter SPC this year.

“The questions were definitely easier than those at Rice, although we didn’t win as many accolades,” MAPS co-president Luke Kramer said.

In addition to individual exams, the contest also featured a team project event, raffle, t-shirt giveaway and the Smackdown, a fast-paced competition in which students answered questions displayed on the auditorium screen.

“I thought the Smackdown was inclusive and put less pressure on students since everyone could participate,” sophomore Margaret Trautner said.

After the 30-second interval given to solve each question, students held up colored cards with their response. Those with incorrect answers were eliminated, while those with correct answers moved on to the next round.

“The Smackdown was very exciting and adrenaline-filled,” Kramer said. “But it was amusing how easily we made mistakes on eighth-grade level math.”

MAPS members enjoyed the chance to tackle the challenging and intriguing problems presented at the contest.

“It’s an opportunity for a student to do well and gain more confidence in math,” Zhang said.