Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Math Prize for Girls contestants community: who are they and where are they from?

Thanks again to Advantage Testing Foundation for its vision and generous lead sponsorship of the Math Prize for Girls in 2009 and again this year. Thanks as well to the additional sponsors who have now joined Advantage Testing Foundation in supporting the event: Akamai Foundation, Canada/USA MathCamp, and Wolfram Mathematica.

This past weekend's Math Prize for Girls event provided even more opportunities for girls from all over the United States and Canada to forge new friendships and renew old ones based on their shared enthusiasm for mathematical challenges. This year's event added a lunch for contestants on Saturday as well as a "Games Night" event Friday evening for distant students whose travel plans had them staying overnight in the Big Apple.

There's a wonderful camaraderie of kindred spirits at all the mathematical events I've ever attended, but the atmosphere at the Math Prize for Girls stands out even more for all the sparkling smiles and laughter and friendly hugs. Students did not even seem to mind the long lunch lines--taking that as yet another opportunity to make new friends they might not otherwise have met. The purple hats and t-shirts were apparently major hits.

Veteran students returning for a second year welcomed the opportunities to reconnect with friends they met last year, as well as to make new friends with first-timers. Students, volunteers, and fans who knew one another from ARML or other contests like HMMT or summer programs such as Canada/USA MathCamp and HCSSiM reunited and connected up their intersecting networks of friendships.

For students from remote outposts who had never participated in a math event outside their own schools, this event was a particularly special opportunity to make new friendships with girls who shared their passion for mathematical challenges. Some girls reported that they had so much fun talking to students from all over that they have been inspired to form local math circles to recruit more kindred spirits to work together to keep that enthusiastic mathematical community experience going throughout the year in their hometowns.

So, how about a little friendly rivalry?

Which states and provinces had the most girls participating this year?

Top States and Provinces
Based on Raw Numbers of Participants

1) California and New York (tie 28 girls each)
2) New Jersey 22 girls
3) Massachusetts 18 girls
4) Connecticut 16 girls
5) Illinois 9 girls
6) Pennsylvania and Virginia (tie 8 girls each)
7) Maryland 7 girls
8) Georgia, North Carolina, and New Hampshire (tie 6 girls each)
9) Michigan, Texas, and Washington (tie 5 girls each)
10)Indiana and Ontario (tie 4 girls each)
11)Florida and South Carolina (tie 3 girls each)
12)Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin (tie with 2 girls each)

Other states and provinces represented at 2010 Math Prize for Girls: Alberta, Arizona, British Columbia, Colorado, Kentucky, Manitoba, New Mexico, Utah (1 each)

Of course, reasonable people may object that the rankings above do not take into account population or distance from New York City. It's hardly fair to compare New York State to Manitoba!

So I generated some alternative rankings below by adjusting for population and/or distance, using Wolfram Alpha's handy data retrieval features to get statistics on the distance of each state or province's capital from New York City as well as its population.

Top States and Provinces at Math Prize for Girls
Adjusted for Population

(Ranking based on raw numbers divided by state or province population)

1) New Hampshire
2) Connecticut
3) Massachusetts
4) New Jersey
5) New York
6) Maryland
7) Virginia
8) Manitoba
9) California
10) Washington
11) Illinois
12) Iowa

Top States and Provinces at Math Prize for Girls
Adjusted for Distance from New York City

(Ranking based on raw numbers multiplied by number of miles from state or province capital to NYC)

1) California
2) Washington
3) Texas
4) Illinois
5) Georgia
6) New York
7) Massachusetts
8) Michigan
9) Florida
11)North Carolina
12)British Columbia

Top States and Provinces at Math Prize for Girls
Adjusted for Population and Distance from New York City

(Ranking based on raw numbers multiplied by miles from capital to New York City divided by state or province population)

1) California
2) Washington
3) Manitoba
4) New Hampshire
5) New Mexico
6) Utah
7) Iowa
8) Alberta
9) British Columbia
10) Illinois
11) Massachusetts
12) Georgia

Of course, reasonable people can differ about the appropriate methodology. Perhaps it is better to multiply by the square root or logarithm of the distance in miles to take into account the fact that travel times are not linear in distance. Perhaps states with boarding schools that recruit from national or international pools should have an adjustment to the population divisor to take that into account.

Can you come up with a methodological approach that puts your state or province on top? Feel free to post it in the comments below.

Put your state or province on the mathematical map next year!

And a shout-out and note of friendly encouragement to students in states and provinces that did not participate at all this year: if your state or province is small and/or far-away, it would only take one or two participants to make it rise to the top of the adjusted rankings above!

What's the first step?

If your high school does not offer the Mathematical Association of America's American Mathematics Competitions AMC10/12 contests offered each February, this is an excellent time to approach the head of your school's math department to ask about taking it. The AMC10/12 can lead to many opportunities--not just the Math Prize for Girls, but also the American Invitational Math Exam, the USA Math Olympiad, the Math Olympiad Summer Program, and even the International Math Olympiad as well as the China Girls Math Olympiad.

The per student cost for the AMC10/12 is very reasonable if you can persuade a number of your friends to join you in taking it. If your school takes advantage of the early registration discount and signs up before December 18, it works out to less than $6 per student if ten students take it at your school, about $2 per student if 100 students take it, and the cost goes asymptotically down to $1.60 per student if an infinite number of students take it at your school!

Best of all, you and your fellow students can have a lot of fun and learn a lot by preparing together. The best way to learn is to help others prepare as well. Create a mathematical community at YOUR school! Here is a resource website I've put together to help students prepare.

Photo credits: Joy Mingalingading (photo at top); Dr. Madhu Boppana (other photos)

1 comment:

lz said...


Indeed, the camaraderie at MPFG was quite excellent. It was awesome getting to spend the day with some pretty cool people. I think it's great that MPFG acknowledges and emphasizes this camaraderie aspect - making the event so much more memorable beyond the test itself.
Thanks for the blog post, Mary!