Card Sharks Win Math Contest at WPI
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Contact: Arlie Corday, WPI Media & Community Relations
MATH WHIZZES: Roger Jaeger of Bethpage, N.Y., a senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute majoring in actuarial mathematics, and Patrick Dingle, a high-school senior from Charlton, Mass., who attends the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI, will share a $500 prize for winning a math contest based on calcuations using a deck of cards.
WORCESTER, Mass. - Robert Jaeger of Bethpage, N.Y., a senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute majoring in actuarial mathematics, and Patrick Dingle, a high-school senior from Charlton, Mass., who attends the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI, will share a $500 prize for winning a rather unusual contest. The two students came up with the best campuswide solutions to mathematical problems using a deck of cards.
Math Awareness Month, celebrated in April, was kicked off with a special event sponsored by the WPI chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national honorary mathematics society. S. Brent Morris from the National Security Agency performed fascinating card tricks, explaining his techniques mathematically. While amazing his audience, Morris established surprising connections between card shuffling and dynamic computer memories (a technical term that describes a change of physical storage location of computer data).
Based on Morris' book, "Magic Tricks, Card Shuffling and Dynamic Computer Memories," published by the Mathematical Association of America in 1998, four questions were then posed to WPI students, who had the month of April to solve these problems. Many contestants who started to shuffle cards and make calculations soon realized the problems were more complex than they may have seemed. Sponsored by United Technologies, the contest not only offered $500 in prize money, but also an autographed copy of Morris' book for further research and practice.
WPI's winners both take a class in combinatorics, which Dingle describes as the "science of counting. It deals with combinations of data."
To work out the problems, both students said they spent the month occasionally applying themselves to the task. "Whenever an idea popped into my head, I'd write it down," Jaeger said.
Dingle looks forward to beginning his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, while Jaeger will return to WPI to complete the final term of his senior year.
Founded in 1865, WPI is renowned for its project-based curriculum. Under the WPI Plan, students integrate classroom studies with research projects conducted on campus and around the world.