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UW Students Participate in Monthlong Pi Day Competition to Solve Unique Math Problems

May 6, 2021

For a good month, some University of Wyoming students enjoyed the life of pi.

Fourteen UW students participated in the first-ever Pi Day Competition, a series of weekly mathematical problems for which students provided solutions. The problems ranged over various topics -- such as geometry, combinatorics and probability -- to appeal to the different majors represented by the student participants.

The Pi Day Competition, hosted and sponsored by the UW Department of Mathematics and Statistics, was an event for undergraduate students of all majors interested in mathematics. As an homage to the number pi, which is approximately 3.14, the competition started March 14 and ended April 13, lasting exactly 31 days. All participants who provided solutions were eligible to receive a shirt and mathematics book to commemorate the event.  

“The main goal of the Pi Day Competition is to strengthen the mathematics culture provided to undergraduates in the mathematics and statistics department, and in the university as a whole,” says Jorge Flores, an assistant lecturer of mathematics and statistics, and one of the coordinators of the Pi Day Competition. “We hope that creating a competition -- in which students receive prizes for working on interesting mathematics problems -- will increase their enthusiasm for mathematics; expose them to new problem-solving techniques; motivate them to study new mathematics; and apply this new knowledge to their own work.”

Other event coordinators were Tyrrell McAllister and Zhuang Niu, both associate professors in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

The coordinators of the event discussed outstanding submissions and recognized the following participants:

Casper -- Andrew Ker, a junior majoring in mathematics and statistics.

Cheyenne -- Parker Spires, a senior majoring in computer science.

Parker, Colo. -- Jason Fantl, a senior majoring in mathematics and computer science.

Rock Springs -- Ian Fletcher, a junior majoring in mathematics and economics.

The four students each received a certificate acknowledging their “first-class performance” and an oloid figure, Flores says. An oloid is a three-dimensional, curved geometric object constructed as the convex hull of two circles that intersect in a specific way.

Bryan Shader, a UW professor of mathematics and statistics, provided most of the problems that participants worked. Eric Moorhouse, a UW professor of mathematics and statistics, managed the competition’s shirt creation process, including creating the shirt design.  

Our goal for the competition is for it to become a yearly tradition at the university,” Flores says. “We also are hoping to expand the scope of the competition for the next iterations.”

For questions or more information on the Pi Day Competition, email Flores at jfloresm@uwyo.edu.

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