St. Olaf News

 

Math students win problem-solving competition

St. Olaf students (from left) Nick Gantt '15, Warren Shull '13, and Boyang Wei '13  captured the coveted "pizza trophy," a granite sculpture of the "pizza" theorem and its proof.

St. Olaf students (from left) Nick Gantt ’15, Warren Shull ’13, and Boyang Wei ’13 with the coveted “pizza trophy,” a granite sculpture of the “pizza” theorem and its proof.

A team of three St. Olaf College students won this year’s Konhauser Problemfest, an annual mathematics problem-solving competition.

Warren Shull ’13, Boyang Wei ’13, and Nick Gantt ’15 captured the coveted “pizza trophy,” a granite sculpture of the “pizza” theorem and its proof.

Twenty-five teams from five Minnesota colleges took part in this year’s contest, which was the hardest in the event’s 21-year history, according to St. Olaf Assistant Professor of Mathematics Adam Berliner. The competition is named for the late Joe Konhauser, a Macalester College faculty member who was an active problemist.

A total of 22 St. Olaf students (forming eight teams) entered the competition, including the third-place team of Skylar Zhang ’16, Hao Du ’16, and Guanlu Guan ’14.

Curious how would you fare in the Konhauser Problemfest? Try out the question below. Only the winning St. Olaf team earned a perfect score for their solution to this problem, which they reached using ideas learned in one of their upper-level mathematics courses.

A standard die is rolled until either a “six” appears or two consecutive “ones” appear. What is the probability that the process stops after exactly “n” rolls?