MIT hosts Math Prize for Girls
The competition’s generous cash awards — first place is $25,000, second place $10,000 and third place $2,000, with the remaining $12,000 of prize funds divided among the rest of the top 10 participants — make it the largest monetary math prize for girls in the world. Currently in its third year, the prize offers mathematically gifted young women a chance to showcase their talent and draw inspiration from a community of peers and mentors.
“Our goal is to encourage young women with exceptional potential to become the mathematical and scientific leaders of tomorrow,” the organizers write on the competition’s website.
Created and run by the Advantage Testing Foundation, the Math Prize for Girls is open to any female student from the United States or Canada who attains a qualifying score on the American Mathematics Competition exam. (Most participants are in high school, but some are as young as seventh grade.)
In previous years, the competition was held in New York. This year’s event is the first to be held at MIT, the graduate school alma mater of Dr. Ravi Boppana, who is the competition’s founding director and co-director of mathematics at Advantage Testing.
“It’s about competition, yes, but it’s also very much about community,” says Mary O’Keefe, a co-organizer and longtime math coach. “We think it’s important for girls who like math — and are good at it — to meet one another, and also to see how many doors math can open for them.”
The first round of competition will be held Saturday from 9:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., during which contestants will be given 20 short-answer math questions to complete to the best of their ability. Meanwhile, a panel presentation beginning at 10:15 a.m. in Kresge Auditorium will be available for parents and members of the community interested in learning more about math enrichment programs for their students.
After lunch, courtesy of MIT’s Department of Mathematics in Lowell Court — giving graders a chance to score the first-round exams — a final round for the top 10 scorers will be held during the awards ceremony from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Kresge. The exciting tiebreaker will feature participants solving problems on stage in a timed format, with problems projected on a large screen for audience members to follow along.
Prior to the tiebreaker, MIT President Susan Hockfield will welcome participants and their families with a brief speech, followed by a keynote address delivered by MIT professor Shafi Goldwasser titled “Secrets and Proofs: The Power of Randomness.” Checks will be presented to the top 10, and trophies to the top 30.
For those who are able to make it to Cambridge early, Friday night will feature a Games Night party, with math-based games, origami and refreshments, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Le Méridien Cambridge Hotel. The Akamai Foundation is sponsoring travel costs for many participants, and all are invited to stay with MIT undergraduate hosts in dormitories to help them defray costs as well as get a taste of life at MIT.
Michael Sipser, head of the Department of Mathematics at MIT and a co-organizer of the event, stressed the social, supportive environment of the competition: “We’re trying to dispel the stereotype of the lonely mathematician and show that math is fun, especially for young women.”