TTU to host AMS's Who Wants to Be a Mathematician on Sept. 21

Do you know what a quadrilateral with all four sides congruent is called?

It’s a rhombus, and that’s just one of the facts Tennessee high school students had to know to be selected to compete in Who Wants to Be a Mathematician, which will be presented at Tennessee Tech University’s Derryberry Hall Auditorium at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21.

Sponsored by the American Mathematical Society, the entertaining and educational event is being hosted by TTU’s mathematics department and Oakley STEM Center, which works to enhance education of science, technology, engineering and math.

The adaptation of the popular Who Wants to Be a Millionaire game show will pit eight high school students from Middle and East Tennessee against each other for a chance to win $2,000.

“Contestants — who were chosen based on their scores on a qualifying test sent to area schools — will collect points by answering multiple choice mathematical questions, and the contestant who earns the most points then has a chance to answer a bonus question worth $2,000,” said Mike Breen, AMS public awareness officer.

“Most students say that if they win the money, they’ll use it to save for college, but one who will be competing at TTU said he may buy a trumpet, and another would like to fix a dent in the back of his car,” he said.

Breen, a former TTU math professor himself, hosts the game and worked with Bill Butterworth of DePaul University to develop it.
Both brought a substantial knowledge of game shows with them to the task. While still a professor at TTU, Breen was a contestant on both Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, while Butterworth is the math consultant to The Price is Right.

Who Wants to Be a Mathematician is entertaining and educational, but best of all — it’s free and open to the public,” he said.

The event will directly follow a 10 a.m. presentation also in Derryberry Hall Auditorium by Andrew Hetzel, assistant professor of mathematics at TTU. It is free and open to the public as well.

Participating in the game will be: Dalton Banks, Oak Ridge High School; Dylan Bunch, Baylor School; Brad Cagle, Bledsoe County High School; John Cooper, Oak Ridge High School; Kyle Davis, Montgomery Bell Academy; J.D. Ingraham, Lenoir City High School; and Gokul Mohan, Ravenwood High School.

All of the contestants are seniors, except for Banks, who is a junior.

Game sponsors are Maplesoft, Texas Instruments, John Wiley and Sons and the AMS.

The AMS was founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, and it has 30,000 members worldwide.

Who Wants to Be a Mathematician is just one of the programs and services that fulfill the organization’s mission of promoting mathematical research and its uses, strengthen mathematical education and foster awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and to everyday life.