Monday, November 16, 2009

Math challenges--No TurboTax for you!

I attended an amazing mathematics event in Manhattan on Saturday, the first annual Math Prize for Girls. Funded by a private donor who wants to encourage young women to challenge themselves mathematically, the event brought together 219 mathematically passionate and very talented young women from all over the country. They came to NYU's venerable Courant Institute of Mathematics to tackle some very challenging math problems during a 2.5 hour written test.

How hard were the problems?

Let's just say that these problems make the hardest SAT math problems look trivial by comparison. Indeed, I understand there were students who wanted to participate in this contest who had 800 on their math SATs but still could not even qualify for invitation. (Even the preliminary qualifying test necessary to receive an invitation to compete on Saturday was much harder than the SAT math test, and Saturday's test was MUCH harder still than the qualifying test.)

I have detailed posts on my math circle blog if you want to learn more about the event and the remarkable people involved or even tackle the actual problems. Tax professionals might enjoy the problems when they're looking for a break from tax drudgery. I enjoy spending my Friday evenings with high school students from all over the Albany area solving problems like these. I'd like to see some public officials try these problems. They are fun challenges and our government leaders who care about education might learn something important about the kind of challenges that engage some of our country's strongest students. They also might sharpen their thinking and logical problem-solving skills. I'd like to see Treasury Secretary Geithner try some these--and no, you can't use TurboTax--or even a calculator--on these problems!

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