At MIT, 268 take part in world's largest math competition for girls

Three women are putting questions, rapid fire, at Ken Fan PhD ’95, the founder of Girl’s Angle, a non-profit math club for females.

“Is it logical?”


“Is it transcendental?”


 “could it be pi?”


“Is it age?”


 “could it be some mixture of pi and age?”

“Too vague.”

They’re trying to resolve a collaborative puzzle developed by Fan, and another regarding the steps requires asking him yes-or-no concerns in order to find out the number they require for the next action. After a few attempts, they’ve first got it (it’s -e/2), plus they come back to all of those other team trying to get the combo for the closed package which contains their particular prize. According to Fan, the award is just a case of candy, but he hopes the girls will need something else from the online game: an awareness that math is collaborative and fun.

Playing 20 questions

The girls are among the 268 middle and high school math lovers which descended on campus the weekend of Oct. 12-13 for mathematics Prize for women event. The math competitors, hosted at MIT the ninth time, is the world’s biggest mathematics award for young women high school age or more youthful. On Sunday, they settled within their seating to resolve 20 mathematics questions, nevertheless the night before they bonded over dessert and games.

Game night happened when you look at the Lobdell Dining Hall in the Stratton pupil Center (Building W20) with tasks designed to incorporate the contestants. At one end of dining hall, Meena Boppana, a longtime volunteer of Math Prize, led a speed-dating-style get-to-know-you place, where participants and alumnae associated with the program could become quickly familiarized. Throughout the hallway, sitting at tables or on the ground, contestants built purple, 3D rhombic hexecontahedron puzzles, then stacked these into tall towers. At another section, Jeannine Mosely PhD ’84, a software engineer at Akamai Technologies, demonstrated simple tips to develop among the woman curved-edge origami styles.

For Maria De Vuono-Homberg, the connect director of mathematics reward for females, the focus on community building is the reason why this competitors unique. “Out of very nearly 300 girls, perhaps 10 will receive a trophy, another 25 can get an honorable mention, but that is not why they’re here,” says De Vuono-Homberg. “They’re right here to blow time together.”

“i prefer it since it’s bringing together many people with comparable passions and backgrounds. And it also’s all women, that is not at all something the truth is everyday,” claims one contestant from Canada. “whenever you think about what amount of various locations these people are via, it is just really nice,” she adds.

According to De Vuono-Homberg, whenever participants submit the post-competition study, they highlight the necessity of becoming enclosed by individuals who share their passion for mathematics. As well as for the lady, that’s your whole point associated with the competition. “At Math reward, your to belong is never questioned,” states De Vuono-Homberg.

Growing a supporting community

Math Prize for women had been started 11 years ago by Ravi Boppana PhD ’86, a research affiliate marketer in Department of Mathematics, and Arun Alagappan, the founder of Advantage Testing, to address the sex gap in math. Inspired by their particular daughters — Boppana has actually one (longtime volunteer Meena), and Alagappan has actually three — they created the competitors to commemorate girls’ passion for mathematics and to build a neighborhood of alumnae that encourage females to pursue math. “Ravi and I founded mathematics reward, realizing that providing they were supported, women would persevere,” stated Alagappan at prize ceremony.

Justina Yang ’19, attended mathematics Prize for Girls for four years whenever she was in high school, however it was whenever she became an alumna volunteer that she understood the significance of the supporting system it builds. “Over recent years, I’ve grown to essentially enjoy and value conversing with individuals who visited mathematics reward,” she says. For Yang, one reason why she continues to volunteer at mathematics reward is the hope that she can be useful toward participants, a lot of whom are deciding on university and figuring out their particular after that steps.

Through the competitors, the collaborative nature of math had been showcased. “We realize mathematics is naturally collaborative,” claims Alagappan, with breakthroughs from teams and through colleagues that help mathematicians approach issues in new techniques. Giving the Maryam Mirzakhani Keynote Lecture — named honoring Mirzakhani, initial lady to win the Fields Medal — Gigliola Staffilani, the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of Mathematics, contrasted mathematical proofs to a heap of washing. “When I have a look at a problem, it’s such as for instance a stack of laundry — it is in pretty bad shape,” she says. But as each small product is collapsed, the problem becomes better. “And after that you will find the big things, like sheets, for which you need assistance, hence requires collaboration,” Staffilani describes.

After Staffilani’s keynote lecture, the very best 10 honors had been listed. The first prize, with 14 away from 20 questions answered correctly, went to Jessica Wan, an 8th grader from Puerto Rico, just who also obtained the Youth Prize, which will be awarded toward highest-scoring contestant in 9th quality and here. A full selection of the champions and honorable mentions can be found within Art of Problem Solving website.

As participants built-up their bags and said their goodbyes, the text of Emma Kerwin ’19, Math babes alumna and awards service emcee, moved together with them: “We are happy with you, we rely on you, therefore we certainly expect great things away from you.”