‘Prime’ competition

Students solve problems in annual U.P. Math Challenge

Janel LaPalm, a senior at Escanaba Area Public School School, competes in Saturday’s U.P. Math Challenge. The event took place at Jamrich Hall at Northern Michigan University. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Prime numbers, polygons and probability, oh, my!

Making math fun and exciting was a goal of Saturday’s Ninth Annual U.P. High School Math Challenge held at Jamrich Hall on the campus of Northern Michigan University.

High schoolers from around the Upper Peninsula met to take part in solving problems, but not in a typical “take a test” way.

Daniel Rowe, assistant professor of mathematics at the NMU Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, oversaw Saturday’s event.

“It’s just supposed to be a fun-loving, math event,” Rowe said.

Hannah Erickson, principal secretary in the Northern Michigan University Mathematics and Computer Science Department, passes out papers for the relay segment of the U.P. Math Challenge. The event took place Saturday at NMU’s Jamrich Hall. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

The idea is that “fun-loving” and “math” don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

“We’re trying to do it differently than just a boring math test. It’s supposed to be something exciting,” Rowe said.

He said the approach was similar to that made with a hockey or football game, and that approach was a single-question one.

“You answer it, and then the answers gets projected on the screen Everyone can high-five or say, ‘Darn it. I screwed that up.’ It promotes conversation. It gets the students thinking about math.”

Teachers also accompanied students.

“It might be inspiring for the high school teachers for problem-solving groups or things to look at in class later,” Rowe said.

A total of 96 students on 24 teams from six schools took part in this year’s event. The schools were: Ishpeming High School; A.D. Johnson High School, Bessemer; Escanaba Area Public High School; Houghton Central HIgh School; Lake Linden-Hubbell High School; and Munising Baptist High School.

In individual competition, 10 problems were distributed one at a time, each with a time limit ranging from three to five minutes. For the team competition, a packet of five problems was given to each team. Each team worked in a private room for 45 minutes and attempted to solve as many of the problems as it could.

For the relay, the players arranged themselves in a row. Each player on the team was given a different question. Player 4 needed Player 3’s answer to solve the problem, Player 3 needed Player 2’s answer and so on.

The top top three teams with the highest aggregate school were recognized, as were the top three scorers in the individual round.

The winning team was team was “Houghton” from Houghton Central High School. The team consisted of Samuel Fang, Shweta Pati, Irene Ra and Yvonne Wang.

The second-place team was “Number Ninjas” from Escanaba Area High School. Team members were Christer Carne, Michael Karen, Rushil Kassetty and Luke LaFave.

The third-place team was “Team 12” from A.D. Johnston High School. Team members were Andy Aspinwall, Devon Byers, Byron Hooyman and Abbey Johnson.

The top three individuals were, respectively, Kassetty from Escanaba Area Public High School, Wang from Houghton Central High School and Shweta Pati, also from Houghton Central High School.

Janel LaPalm, a senior at Escanaba Area Public High School, was one of the participants in Saturday’s Challenge, representing her school’s “We’re Keeping It Real” team.

“It’s really fun,” LaPalm said. “You come, and even if you’re not acing the math, there’s just a great spirit of competition and teamwork.”

High school staff loves getting students to do extra math, she said, but that’s OK by La Palm, who joked she was one of the “nerd group” at school.

“It makes it fun to get to be able to come here and compete against so many teams who all are having a good time too,” LaPalm said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.