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Published May 05, 2023
Applying basic algebra skills and a healthy dose of logic, some University of Wyoming students recently took a crack at solving some challenging math problems.
Twenty-eight UW students participated in Wyoming Pi Days, a series of three “Pizza and Problem Solving” evenings in which students got together, ate pizza and worked on a series of mathematics/logic problems.
These evenings -- March 23 and 30, and April 6 -- culminated in an examination called Pi Day Competition: a three-hour exam consisting of eight problems of varying difficulty that took place April 8. The problems in the exam are similar in complexity to those tackled during the “Pizza and Problem Solving” evenings. Fifteen of the 28 students took the exam.
“The main goal of Wyoming Pi Days is to strengthen the mathematics culture provided to undergraduates in the university. We hope that the ‘Pizza and Problem Solving’ evenings will expose students to interesting mathematics problems and clever ways of approaching them, and motivate them to learn new mathematics,” says Jorge Flores, an assistant lecturer of mathematics and statistics, and one of the coordinators of the Pi Day Competition. “As they work in groups, we aim to create and nurture a sense of community between the participants. The exam serves as a way for participants to apply what they have learned, with the added incentive of receiving a grand prize for an exemplary performance.”
Wyoming Pi Days was hosted and sponsored by the UW Department of Mathematics and Statistics. The event, for UW undergraduate students of all majors interested in mathematics, is an homage to the number pi, which is approximately 3.14.
Other event coordinators from the department were Tyrrell McAllister, an associate professor, and Christina Knox, an assistant lecturer.
The coordinators of the event discussed outstanding submissions for the Pi Day Competition and recognized the following participants, listed by hometown:
Cheyenne -- Connor Gililland, a senior majoring in chemical engineering and statistics, with a minor in mathematics.
Fredericktown, Ohio -- Carissa Van Slyke, a junior majoring in mathematics and mathematics education, with a minor in honors.
Rock Springs -- Alison Jensen, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, with a minor in mathematics.
The competition winners each were given a certificate and a grand prize, which was an oloid structure. An oloid is a geometric object created by taking the convex hull of two congruent circles intersecting in perpendicular planes. Oloids have interesting properties. For example, when rolling, every point on the surface of the oloid touches the ground.
“Since the main goal of the exam is for students to test how their problem-solving skills have improved, we emphasize that it shouldn’t be a stressful event,” Flores says. “Whether a participant answered none or all problems, what matters is that they learned from the experience.”
All registered participants who took the Pi Day Competition exam received participation prizes. The participation prizes were a math/problem-solving book and a T-shirt commemorating the event.
Eric Moorhouse, a UW professor of mathematics and statistics, created the T-shirt design. Jason Williford, department head and a UW professor of mathematics and statistics, provided financial and moral support.
For questions or more information about Wyoming Pi Days, email Flores at firstname.lastname@example.org.