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Frisch Mathletes Participate in Elite Competition at Yale University

April 5, 2016
Yale 2This past weekend, Mrs. Sabrina Bernath, the Chair of the Frisch Math Department, and a team of six juniors went to Yale University to take part in the “Math Majors of America Tournament for High Schools” (MMATHS). MMATHS is an annual event organized by students at Yale University, Columbia University, and the University of Florida. The goal of the competition is to “provide an engaging platform for high school students of all mathematics backgrounds to compete together and develop a deeper interest and appreciation for mathematics.”

Until this year, the MMATHS exam was given only on a Saturday but through the incredible efforts of Yale students Esther Issever, a freshmen, and Mitchell Harris, a graduating senior, students from Orthodox day schools were able to compete on Sunday.

What made this opportunity even more special was that the students and Mrs. Bernath were invited to be guests of the Slifka Center for Shabbos. All lodging was arranged by Esther and Mitchell and meals were sponsored by the Slifka Center. It was relaxing but busy Shabbos as the Frisch mathletes schmoozed with Yale students, learned from a scholar-in-residence from the Drisha Institute, played board games and ate amazing food.

After davening Sunday morning, Frisch was joined by teams from Yeshiva of Flatbush and Kushner. Each school had six students on their respective teams. In the first round of the competition, students worked individually and had seventy-five minutes to answer twelve questions.

Here is a question from the individual round:

“Let w, x, y, and z be distinct integers. Call an ordering statement any true statement of the form “a<b” where a and b are each one of w, x, y,and z. What is the minimum number of distinct ordering statements necessary to determine the correct ordering of all the numbers w, x, y, z?”

As you can see from this question, this was no standard math test!

Next was the “mixer” round, where the teams were scrambled.  Each of the new groups had seventy-five minutes to work on twelve challenging problems.  The students quickly got down to business with the members of their new teams. It was evident that the students from different schools were bonding quickly over the tough problems as the room started to fill with laughter. Mark A. and Alyssa S. were members of the winning mixer round.

 An example of a question from the “Mixer” round is the following:
“On the back of this page, prove there is no function f(x) for which there exists a polynomial p(x) such that f(x) = p(x)(x +3) + 8 and f(3x) = 2f(x).”
The final round was the “Mathathon,” with the original school team working as a group on seven problems sets, each consisting of three questions.  After completing a problem set, a runner brought up the team’s answers and got the next set of questions. It was a fast-paced round where the leading team changed minute to minute.

Yale 3Additionally, the five strongest students from the individual round were sequestered during the competition and given a proof-based test as a tie- breaker to see who ranked the highest scorer among the three schools. Dov G., a junior at Frisch, came in second place. Frisch lost by a small margin in the team category, but they were proud of their accomplishments in such a unique and elite competition and grateful to have spent Shabbat at Yale. It was an incredible and fun opportunity on many levels.