Nebraska Union experienced a population boom Nov. 21 as more than 1,500 high school students made the campus hub their own gathering place during the 24th annual Math Day.
Students traveled up to eight hours to attend the competition, which features both individual and group contests. Participants represented 122 Nebraska high schools.
Fifty students from Scottsbluff High School made an eight-hour trip Nov. 20 to compete. They earned their trip by working concessions at high school games or by putting in community service hours at school. For many of the students, including freshman Sarah Woodward, this was their first trip to UNL.
“I was excited and nervous to come,” Woodward said. “I’ve been to Lincoln before, but I’ve never been to UNL.”
Woodward was taking time between events to peruse the Nebraska Union and speak with UNL students. Woodward, who is considering pre-health programs, said she decided to use Math Day to see what UNL had to offer.
She said that so far, she was impressed.
“It’s a really nice campus and the people are really nice,” she said. “And I’ve been told they have a really good program here.”
The Nov. 21 weather wouldn’t cooperate with much sightseeing, but the brisk winds and intermittent rain were the only hiccups students encountered.
“This is the best Math Day I go to,” said Kimball High senior Matt Heng, who attends three or four similar events a year.
Heng, who plans to study astrophysics in college, is considering UNL for his undergraduate degree and said Math Day has influenced that decision. Heng has attended Math Day all four years of his high school career.
Math Day grew by more than 100 students this year. With a change in where events were held, the event could accommodate more students. The previous record number of participants was 1,434 in 1999.
Competitors spent Thursday taking the individual, multiple-choice exam, PROBE – Problems Requiring Original and Brilliant Effort – and working in teams of three to knock out problems in a Quiz Bowl format.
The top 40 scorers on the individual exam moved on to take an essay exam. The top 10 following the essay exam were awarded scholarships to UNL, totaling $34,000. Trophies were awarded to the top three teams in each class.
Winners or not, Kimball mathematics teacher Fred Williams said Math Day is invaluable to students and educators alike.
“This is a benefit to the educational system across Nebraska and for its students,” Williams said. “Not only is it beneficial to give these students a chance to compete and think critically, but it also provides an opportunity to take a good look at campus and think about going to college. These kids see who they’ll be competing with in the future when they go to college.”