Talent X Tennessee = T2

Math Contest

The contest is sponsored annually to promote interest in mathematics among Tennessee high school students, to encourage their interest in careers in mathematics and mathematical sciences, and to recognize students’ mathematical abilities by awarding scholarships, trophies, tee shirts, and certificates

Now in its seventeenth year, the contest is presented by UT’s mathematics department together with UT alumnus Barry Goss and his company, Pro2Serve Project Services, Inc.

This is Pro2Serve’s 15th year supporting the contest. The company provides technical and engineering services that support the infrastructures of government and private industry and help ensure the nation’s security.

Math Contest“As a Tennessee-grown business, we think it’s important to develop and retain the intellectual talent of our state,” Goss said. “We want the best and brightest minds in Tennessee high schools to further their education, hopefully at UT, and live and work in Tennessee upon their graduation from college.”

April Conner, senior lecturer in the mathematics department, is in her second year as coordinator of the contest. The contest has become so popular that more students register than can be accommodated. Resource limitations have made it necessary to cap participation at 500 Tennessee students.

Registration for the 2015 contest opened on August 25. Within twenty four hours a total of 264 students had registered—more than half of the contest’s capacity.

Planning, promoting, and hosting an event that brings 500 students and several teachers and chaperones to campus for a day requires a team effort to achieve success. Conner, former mathematics teacher at Sevier County High School, leads the effort with enthusiasm and a passion that stems from having experienced the contest firsthand with her students.

“[As a math teacher] …I always enjoyed bringing my students to UT for the contest.  It was truly the highlight of my AP Calculus class.  My students would get so excited about the event, even making their own contest tee shirts,” Conner remembers. “It was always an exciting and enjoyable day for me and the students. Now that I am at UT coordinating the contest, I want future contest participants to experience what my students and I experienced—a fun day of celebrating mathematics!”

Fortunately for Conner, her colleagues are deeply invested in the contest, and   dedicated to doing their part to ensure the event is a success. From its inception, the annual math contest has been the major outreach program of the Department of Mathematics and involves close to 150 faculty, staff, and graduate students in various supporting roles.

In addition to the math student contestants, math teachers and parent chaperones accompany the students and are treated to faculty talks and a reception. Everyone involved is part of the celebration of mathematics and student achievement.

The Department of Mathematics began the contest in 1999. UT Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek funds the scholarships for the Top 10 FERMAT II scorers, offering each a scholarship of $6,000 per year (any major) for each of their four years at UT Knoxville.

“The math contest provides an opportunity for some of Tennessee’s brightest high school students to have fun, compete and become acquainted with the University of Tennessee,” said Conrad Plaut, head of the Department of Mathematics. “We hope that many of these students will eventually arrive on our campus as incoming freshmen.  Past contest participants have done excellent undergraduate research as UT students and have gone on to top graduate schools in their fields.”

Students pay a modest registration fee of fifteen dollars (reduced to ten dollars for Title I schools) which includes lunch. Support for travel and awards to attending schools is provided by the corporate sponsor of fifteen years, Pro2Serve Professional Project Services Inc. (p2s.com). The Knoxville News Sentinel, media sponsor of the contest, has sponsored advertisement for the last five years.

The 2015 contest will be held in Knoxville, Tennessee, at the Holiday Inn, World’s Fair Park, on Tuesday, October 27.

Details about the contest are available at www.math.utk.edu/MathContest.