Midwest Math Lovers Compete at the University of Iowa

by Reid Chandler, KCRG-TV9

Elizabeth Han isn’t your average high school athlete; she would rather use her speed and endurance on calculations that pop up everyday.

“My parents started teaching me math when I was pretty young,” she said. “And at first, I didn’t appreciate it, but afterwards I really liked the way that numbers worked together.”

This Iowa City West sophomore says that’s what brought her to this year’s American Regions Mathematics League.

“Sometimes, when I’m walking around town, I’ll look at the numbers on license plates and just factor them or do other calculations,” she said.

She’s one of 400 students, split into 30 teams representing regions of the Midwest, competing today for the grand title.

“It’s really the top kids from all around the nation,” said Steven Condie, the Iowa site coordinator for the league. “It’s really a high-level mathematics contest.”

Three other competition sites in Las Vegas, Pennsylvania and Georgia - all holding events simultaneously - calculate scores among each other digitally to rank the nation’s top mathematicians.

“I think it’s been at least 10 years since we’ve had a winner here,” he said.

But Indiana team-member Mark Sellke’s perfect 10-out-of-10 score today sets the bar pretty high.

“It’s great to be here and have fun with other kids who really enjoy math, but winning is definitely something that would be really nice too,” he said.

Regardless of placement, these students all seem to have professions of teaching math in their dreams.

“I’ll probably be a math professor, like my father,” Han said.

And Steven says there’s a high probability a handful of these 400 mathletes will one day change the world.

“These are the leaders of our next generation,” he said. “These are the kids who are gonna come up with solutions to our really vexing problems.”

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