Calculus can be fun. At least that is the opinion of Keith Mellinger, chair of the University of Mary Washington’s Department of Mathematics. Mellinger and his colleague Randall Helmstutler recently hosted the university’s fifth annual high school calculus tournament at UMW.
Teams from Fairfax to Orange counties competed against local high school mathematicians in a Jeopardy-style competition for top-team honors. On an individual level, students were given calculus challenges that would help them prepare for college advanced placement (AP) exams.
“This has really taken off,” said Helmstutler. “We are seeing a lot of interest from high school teachers who want to showcase their most talented students. And it doesn’t hurt that we award some really cool prizes to the winners courtesy of support from GEICO and Texas Instruments.”
This year’s winning team was the “Ubiquitous C’s” from Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, and the top individual, Matt Whitlock, also hails from the school. Whitlock won an Nspire hand-held calculator. Second-place team honors went to Fredericksburg Christian Schools, and the individual runner-up was Chris McIntosh from Mountain View High School in Stafford County.
All participating students and their advisors took home math challenge T-shirts, and the winners received cash prizes and high-tech, hand-held calculators or software on both the team and individual levels.
Steve Grodek and Michelle Welcher, former math students at UMW and alumni of Paul VI, helped organize the first tournament in 2007. “This year we had 34 students and eight team advisors participate,” said Mellinger. “The competition helps us show that calculus can be fun, but it also gives us the opportunity to share with the students what potential opportunities are for those who choose mathematics as a career.”
“We have a great location to host teams from throughout Northern Virginia. We bring the high school students to campus, and they get to experience how they could fit in and excel at the university level. We think that’s inspiring,” Helmstutler said.
Along with Mellinger and Helmstutler, members of the UMW student chapter of the Mathematical Association of America, planned and staffed this year’s tournament. The competition is held annually in the spring. For more tournament information contact Mellinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 654-1333, or visit the website at www.umw.edu/cas/math.