Academics & Research

Math competition brings local whizzes to campus

3V2A0833The Department of Mathematics hosted its annual Mathematics Contest, which attracted hundreds of high school and middle school students from about 60 different schools to meet and compete.

The competition, which is overseen by Jeff Morgan, math professor and associate provost of Education Innovation and Technology, received $10,000 and 30 to 40 volunteers to bring the competition to fruition. Sophomore Sara Mughal volunteered at the contest and said the competition could change people’s perceptions of the subject.

“It’s a competition, so it creates an interest in math instead of the thought that it’s a boring subject,” Mughal said.

The students competed in eight exams: algebra I and II, geometry, pre-calculus, calculator usage, AP-level calculus, statistics and physics. Afterward, there was a “smackdown competition,” a Jeopardy!-style game that had students racing against each other to answer timed algebraic problems.

All the participants were enthusiastic during the morning. Teacher John Cocharo, from Oakridge School in Arlington, has a long connection with Morgan and the contest.

“I’ve come to this contest for several years now,” Cocharo said. “I just think it’s a well-run contest. I know Jeff, the professor who runs the contest, from his days at A&M. When he moved over here to the University of Houston, I knew that it was going to be a well-run contest when he started having it, and it’s always proven to be that way.”

Team Project Competition, which had groups of up to four students who had worked on long and complex questions for a week, was the last presentation. Eisenhower High School student Brian Nguyen competed in algebra and calculus, and he was excited about the event.

“I really liked the fact that the tests challenged us,” Nguyen said. “I liked when they threw the T-shirts at us and made us catch it.”

UH student and faculty volunteers tossed more than 700 T-shirts into the crowd. The teachers and sponsors of the attending students also received Amazon and iTunes gift cards.

The Department of Mathematics embraced the opportunity to encourage students to enjoy mathematics, have fun and discover the campus as well.

“I hope they just have a great time, I really do, and it gives them an opportunity to see the University of Houston,” Morgan said. “There are a lot of students that just aren’t aware that there’s this incredible university right here in the middle of our city. We have an amazing university here, and I want people to know about that.”

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1 Comment

  • Wow. That group of math whizzes in the picture looks as diverse as the basketball team. We need more diversity!

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