Brain TeasersGAMBIER, Ohio (February 7, 2006) Indirect proofs, googolplexes, and nonnegative integers will come to the fore on Saturday, February 11, as college math students from across Ohio gather at Kenyon to challenge themselves and each other in a friendly annual competition. The stakes aren't high, but the level of enthusiasm is. Relying on sheer brainpower and armed with only paper and pencil, teams of up to three students tackle problems devised by an outside mathematician.
Juniors Matt Zaremsky, Lee Kennard, and Ed Ceaser have been on a team together since they came to Kenyon. "This will be my third year participating in the contest," Kennard explains. "I'm in it for the fun. Contest problems are unlike problems you work on for class. They are usually tricky and always have neat solutions."
The day starts at 9:00 a.m. Saturday, February 11, when participants gather in Hayes Hall for coffee and doughnuts. At 10:00 a.m., teams fan out to empty classrooms across the science quad, and spend the next two hours trying to crack the code of the brainteasers. After turning in their solutions at noon, all of the teams will meet for lunch in Lower Dempsey--still talking about the exam, Kennard says. "We've continued working on the test long after the time was up. We would talk over the problems we solved and those we couldn't."
Since the number of math majors at Kenyon is increasing, there may be four or five teams from Kenyon alone, says Associate Professor of Mathematics Judy Holdener, who is organizing this year's contest. Typically, the exam has about ten questions. At least half are designed to be accessible to underclassmen, and the questions are more logic-oriented than sheer number-crunching. "As long as the students have fun playing with the questions, I think it's a success," Holdener says. "It's more about tackling challenging questions than winning."
There's no trophy, but the winning teams splits the $75 prize. "Last year, it was only $50," Holdener recalls. "And the students immediately knew it wasn't evenly divisible by three."