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Wolfram Research to Sponsor ICTM State Finals Competition at UIUC

April 25, 2001--The finals for the 21st annual Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) State Math Contest will be held on Saturday, April 28, 2001, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Roughly two thousand high school students from two hundred high schools around the state will participate in this year's event, hosted by the University of Illinois Math Department.

Locally, individual students and teams from Champaign Central, Mahomet-Seymour, St. Joseph-Ogden, St. Thomas More, Urbana (UHS), and University High Schools have all qualified to compete in Saturday's events. Paula Rogers, one of four math teachers and coaches for the 23-student UHS team, says that despite the recent loss of UHS math department head Carl Smith, the students have competed well this year and placed second at the ICTM regional competition in February. Two members of the UHS team are also previous recipients of scholarships from Wolfram Research, Inc., a corporate sponsor of the ICTM State Math Contest, to attend the highly selective Canada/USA Mathcamp.

The ICTM state finals opening ceremony is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. at Foellinger Auditorium and will include a welcome by UIUC Provost Richard Herman, after which participants will fan out across the main quad for a variety of mathematical competitions. See the ICTM web site for a complete contest description and event schedule. In addition to individual written competitions, students compete in team events in which they pool their efforts to solve mathematical problems accurately and quickly. In the two-person event, for example, the first pair in the room to solve each problem scores extra points.

The two-person demonstration event--held at 3:30 p.m., also in Foellinger Auditorium--is an especially popular and exciting competition. On stage before a crowded auditorium, the top four teams compete against each other and against the clock. The problems are displayed on a screen so that the audience members can test their skills as well. This competition is followed immediately by the awards ceremony. This year, for the first time, Wolfram Research has donated over one hundred copies of the mathematical software Mathematica for Students, to be awarded to all first-place winners at the junior-senior level.

The state ICTM contest is staffed by hundreds of volunteers, including high school teachers, university faculty and staff, college students, and current Wolfram Research employees, many of whom participated in the ICTM contest during their own high school days and remember it as being a great experience. Says Rogers, "Some of our past students...have mentioned that the math contests they competed in were very helpful in preparing them for [college] engineering and computer classes. In a high school math class, they learn the material presented to them and give it back to their teacher on a test, but in math contests, almost anything might be given to them in a problem, so they really learn to become problem solvers."