WWTBAM

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

It is great that the AMS is able to conduct this competition which values and encourages mathematical talent. While sports are usually celebrated, it is wonderful that students interested in mathematics can also be encouraged. I sincerely hope that many more students gain the opportunity to participate in this competition.

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The 2016 National Who Wants to Be a Mathematician at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Seattle

"It is great to see so many teenagers taking pride in their mathematical skills and battling against each other so brilliantly and politely. And, of course, in addition to those who made it to the final of Who Wants to Be a Mathematician, there were thousands of high school students who were brave enough to enter the completion--well done to all of them, too." Simon Singh, math and science writer and winner of the 2016 JPBM Communications Award for Expository and Popular Books, who attended the competition and gave a public lecture afterwards.

Ankan Bhattacharya won $10,000 in the 2016 national Who Wants to Be a Mathematician on January 7 at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Seattle. Ankan, a junior at International Academy East in Michigan, astounded the audience in the finals, answering very quickly and offering wonderful explanations. Ankan will receive $5,000 for his win. The math department at International Academy East will also receive $5,000. Below are some videos, photos, and descriptions of the game.

Here is Ankan just after his victory:

Ankan was also interviewed by Seattle TV station KOMO

Karthik Karnik, a senior at the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science, is the 2016 runner-up. He won $3,000 for himself and $3,000 for the academy. Ankan and Karthik were joined in the finals by Kelly Zhang of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. Kelly and Karthik tied in their semifinal game, so both moved on to the finals. As you would expect, they are both pretty sharp, but because Ankan was so quick with his answers, they didn't get many chances to signal in. (Photo below of Karthik, Ankan, and Kelly in the finals, by Steve Schneider/JMM.)

Karthik, Ankan, and Kelly in the finals


If you weren't at the game, you can still watch the webcast (not an if and only if).

Here's a slideshow of photos from the game and the lecture by Simon Singh:

2016 National Who Wants to Be a Mathematician

(Photos by Steve Schneider/JMM and AMS Public Awareness Officer Annette Emerson.)

And videos of all the action:

Contestants
Left to right: Kelly Zhang, Allison Wang, Casey Zhang, Sameer Pusapaty, Ankan Bhattacharya, Abishek Hariharan, Harry Xi, Junhee Lee, Nicholas Pipitone, and Karthik Karnik. Photo by Steve Schneider/JMM.

The above 10 contestants, chosen from over 2300 students who took the qualifying tests, were split into two groups (of five) for the semifinals.

Game one contestants
Photo by Steve Schneider/JMM.

Junhee and Harry answered the first six questions correctly, which tied them for first place at that point, just ahead of Kelly and Karthik. The latter two then answered question seven correctly, which put them in a tie for first. Everyone missed the last question, so Kelly and Karthik earned a spot in the finals (in the national game, when two contestants are tied for first, both make it to the finals). Kelly became the first young woman to advance to the national Who Wants to Be a Mathematician finals.

 

Game two contestants
Photo by Steve Schneider/JMM.

There was no tie in the second semifinal. Ankan won this game by answering all of the last four questions correctly. Abishek was in first place at the halfway point because he answered each of the first four questions correctly, but Ankan moved ahead on question five and never relinquished the lead. Thus he joined Kelly and Karthik in the finals.

As mentioned above, Ankan was incredibly quick in the finals (in which, unlike the semifinals, only the first contestant to answer correctly receives points) and won the 2016 national championship. The audience, recovering from the blitz put on by Ankan, then watched the awards ceremony and the lecture by Simon Singh. (Photos by Steve Schneider/JMM.)

 

Audience  Audience

Trophies  Ken Ono

 

The trophies were given out to Ankan and Karthik in a ceremony hosted by Ken Ono (Emory University, above right). AMS President-elect Ken Ribet and Simon Singh gave the awards to the deserving recipients. (Photos by Steve Schneider/JMM.)

 

Ken Ribet, Karthik Karnik, and Ken Ono  Simon Singh, Ken Ribet, Ankan Bhattacharya, Ken Ono, Mike

Simon Singh
Afterwards, Singh gave a lecture "Fermat's Last Theorem vs. The Simpsons," which was open to the public. The lecture was a delight for the audience as Singh talked about the history of Fermat's Last Theorem, Andrew Wiles's proof of the theorem, the gap in his first proof that he and Richard Taylor fixed, and how mathematics (including Fermat's Last Theorem) often sneaks into the TV shows The Simpsons and Futurama. Many writers for the shows have math backgrounds.

 

Following the lecture, the contestants gathered with their parents, and luminaries Diane Davis, Jordan Ellenberg, Ken Ono, Ken Ribet, Simon Singh, Who Wants to Be a Mathematician Technology Sponsor Maplesoft's representatives Louise Krmpotic and Heather Zunic, and Who Wants to Be a Mathematician Online Community Sponsor Art of Problem Solving's David Patrick for the awards luncheon. Here's are a couple of videos and a slideshow of photos (video by Samantha Faria; most photos by Steve Schneider/JMM, others by Annette Emerson, AMS):

Congratulations from the sponsors:

 

The contestants get their awards:

 

Photos of the awards luncheon:

2016 WWTBAM Awards Luncheon

 

Below are the cash and prizes awarded to the 10 contestants. For each cash prize, the math department of the student's school receives a matching amount.

  • TI-Nspire CX graphing caclulator from Texas Instruments and $5,000 from the AMS: Ankan Bhattacharya, International Academy East
  • TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator from Texas Instruments and $3,000 from the AMS: Karthik Karnik, Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science
  • Maple 2015 from Maplesoft and $1,000 from the AMS: Kelly Zhang, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and Allison Wang, The Harker School
  • Calculus with Early Transcendentals by Anton, Bivens and Davis from John Wiley and Sons and $1,000 from the AMS: Abishek Hariharan, Tesla STEM High School
  • Calculus with Early Transcendentals by Anton, Bivens and Davis from John Wiley and Sons and $750 from the AMS: Harry Xi, Upper Dublin High School
  • Mathematical Understanding of Nature: Essays on Amazing Physical Phenomena and Their Understanding by Mathematicians and $750, both from the AMS: Junhee Lee, Iowa City West High School (Note: Junhee and Harry tied for third in game one)
  • Mathematical Understanding of Nature: Essays on Amazing Physical Phenomena and Their Understanding by Mathematicians and $500, both from the AMS: Sameer Pusapaty, Liberal Arts and Science Academy
  • What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 10 and $500, both from the AMS: Nicholas Pipitone, Suncoast High School, and Casey Zhang, Fairview High School

Below are photos of some of the math departments receiving their matching amounts.

Ankan with IAE faculty

Nicholas and teachers
Above left: Ankan after an assembly honoring him, with (l to r): associate principal Ryan Brinks, and teachers Emily Beski and Jeff Watson. Above right: Nicholas with his IB Math teacher, Mrs. Suzanne Martin, math team coach, Jeff Laufer, and the check for Suncoast High School. Suncoast plans to use the money to sponsor Nicholas to compete at the 2016 Mu Alpha Theta Convention in St. Louis.

 

Karthik and Tom Regele

Left: Karthik and Thomas Regele of the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science. The department plans on using the prize on materials that help the math program grow and to encourage future students to participate in math events.

 

Thanks very much to our sponsors: Maplesoft, the Who Wants to Be a Mathematician technology sponsor; Art of Problem Solving, the Online Community Sponsor; Texas Instruments and John Wiley and Sons. Thanks also to our judges: Bill Butterworth (also Who Wants to Be a Mathematician co-creator and show runner), DePaul University, Caren Diefenderfer, Hollins University, and Stephen Davis, Davidson College, and to Colin Adams of Williams College who did a video about knot theory for the game.

Thanks as well to Thomas Dick, Oregon State University, the late Thomas Gazzola, formerly of Washington State University Vancouver, Bernard Madison, University of Arkansas, Harold Reiter, University of North Carolina Charlotte, Tara Smith, University of Cincinnati, and Carl Yerger, Davidson College, for writing questions, and to AMS staffers Annette Emerson, Robin Marek, Nancy Hoffman, and Samantha Faria, for helping that day. Nancy also directed the live webcast.

Find out more about this year's contestants and Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.

Qualifying for the 2017 competition, which will take place at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta next January, begins in early September (of 2016). Teachers who would like their students to participate should email the AMS Public Awareness Office (at any time) at: paoffice at ams dot org, subject line: 2017 WWTBAM. Include your name, school, and courses taught this semester.

 

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