Students Present Solution at MathFest


Truman students gather with several people following their presentation at MathFest (front row, left to right) Bach Ha, a Truman graduate; Betty Mayfield, MAA chair of undergraduate student activities; and Ben Fusaro, founding director of the Mathematical Contest in Modeling; (back row, left to right) Joe Gallian, president of Mathematical Association of America; Spencer Tipping, a Truman student; and Dan Matheny, a Truman graduate.

Three Truman undergraduates were invited speakers at this year’s MathFest in San Jose, Calif. MathFest took place from Aug. 3-5 and is the summer meeting of the Mathematical Association of America. Spencer Tipping, a junior computer science and mathematics double major from New Boston, Mo., Bach Ha and Dan Matheny were invited to present their Mathematical Association of America winning solution to the 2007 Mathematical Contest in Modeling Discrete Problem. Truman solved the discrete problem this year, which was to determine the mathematically optimal procedure for boarding passengers on a commercial plane.

The worldwide contest is sponsored by Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP). This year 949 teams (283 United States teams and 666 foreign teams) were entered representing a dozen countries.

Each team consists of three students and the contest is grueling. Each team is presented the same two problems from which they must choose one to solve and they have 96 continuous hours to produce a solution which the adviser mails in at the end of the contest. Once the contest starts, the teams cannot receive help from any people other then their own team of three. They are allowed to reference any material and use any technology to solve their problem.

Fourteen total solutions were judged to be outstanding, and of those 14, six are picked out as prize recipients and winning solutions. Six are picked out because there are three organizations that choose one solution to each of the two problems as their favorite. In Truman’s case, Truman had a team with a solution judged to be outstanding and it was the favorite solution for that problem of the Mathematical Association of America. Truman’s team won the contest and was the “MAA prize recipient.” That team consisted of the students Ha, Matheny and Tipping. Their solution with their names on it will be published in the journal Undergraduate Mathematics and its Applications.

The six schools that earned the designation of both winner and prize recipient were: University of Washington (Wash.), Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Prize; Harvard University (Mass.), Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) Prize; MIT (Mass.), Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Prize; University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), SIAM Prize; Truman State University (Mo.), MAA Prize; and Duke University (N.C.), INFORMS Prize.

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