Iolani Kicks Asymptotes…Again!

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The ASSETS Mathematics Team gets ready to get Cartesian.

This was a month ago, but since some OML Alumni crawled out of the woodwork on my last math-related entry, I thought I’d give a little summary of this year’s Math Bowl.

The twenty-seventh Hawaii State Mathematics Championships were on May 7 this year at the campus of Brigham Young University Hawaii. Twenty-five schools from around the state showed up in Laie for an intense eight rounds of arcs, slopes, and roots.

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The arena floor, an hour before the madness begins.

The nature of this competition is quite different from the usual Oahu Mathematics League format. Rather than teams of ten, with each student competing alone in three events, the Math Bowl competitors are teams of three students from each school, working collaboratively on problems that get more difficult as the meet progresses. An OML event is usually as specific as “Algebra II: Radical Expressions,” while a Math Bowl round can feature a problem from just about any math from Alg I to Pre-Calculus. The unpredictable nature of the problem-sets combined with the only-your-best-three-competitors setup means that just about anything can happen at the math bowl.

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A strange tradition at the Math Bowl is the display on a long row of projection screens the congratulatory letters sent by such prominent figures as the governor, the mayor of Honolulu, and all four Hawaii delegates to Congress.

My team met at six in the morning that Saturday morning; it’s a long drive to Laie, and you never know what might happen on the way. About a mile outside Punalu`u, our bus slowed to a halt. A pickup truck had hit a utility pole and a power line hung over the road, high enough for most cars to pass beneath, but low enough to keep buses waiting.

There were already police officers on the scene, waving cars through while the buses lined up on the shoulder. “Great,” I said to myself even while assuring my team that everything would be fine. I got on my cellular phone and called coaches at another school, telling them that if they hadn’t left yet, they’d probably want to get going. They had packed students into cars instead of getting school buses, so I figured that when they came along, we could squeeze in with them and get to the Math Bowl in time.

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Our host, Dr. David Furuto of BYU-H, welcomes us to Math Bowl XXVII.

The traffic-directing cop figured out that the line wasn’t dangerous, and after only a twenty-minute delay, he’d snapped the line in two with bolt-cutters, and we were on our way. It turned out that I’d gotten the check-in time wrong, so we were still more than an hour early.

The opening ceremonies dragged on a bit, as Waiakea and Maryknoll had called to say they were running behind, but once everyone was in place, the games began. The format looked like this:

Round 1 (10 minutes, 15 points): Three problems, one worth 4 pts, one worth 5, and one worth 6.
Round 2 (5 minutes, 5 points): One problem.
Round 3 (6 minutes, 6 points): One problem.
Round 4 (7 minutes, 7 points): One problem.
Round 5 (8 minutes, 18 points): Three problems, 6 points each.
Halftime (short break)
Round 6 (9 minutes, 9 points): One problem.
Round 7 (15 minutes, 20 points): Three problems, 4, 6, and 10 points.
Round 8 (10 minutes, 10 points): One problem.

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The post-competition lunch: Everyone’s favorite part of the competition.

Iolani jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Several customarily strong schools seemed to struggle early; one theory espoused by the coaches in the correcting room was that this particular Saturday probably hit several teams hard–Saturdays in May are usually crammed with end-of-year activities such as proms, fairs, awards banquets, and SATs. Indeed, as happy as I was with my own team, six of the original six students I invited to participate in the Math Bowl were also athletes and four of them had already committed to attending the school’s athletics banquet.

When the eraser-dust settled after eight rounds and one tie-breaker (for second place), it was Iolani taking first in the large-schools division (for the seventh time in the last ten years), followed by Kamehameha and Roosevelt. In the small-schools division, Maryknoll took first, followed by St. Andrew’s and Sacred Hearts. My own team tied for second-to-last in the small-schools division, but scored a respectable 33–good enough to beat two schools in the large-schools division.

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Note the grapical use of a vertical perpendicular and a parabolic curve!

The competition was followed by a quite-good buffet lunch, catered by Mariott and funded largely by the corporate sponsors, including two local banks, one public utility, and one of the major daily newspapers. I savored my team’s strong showing much more than the meal, though, as I’d had trouble sleeping the night before, unable to keep images of being shut-out from invading my thoughts. We accomplished our team goal of not finishing in last, but standings notwithstanding, I was enormously proud of this team’s ability to hang in there with veteran competitors in this, our first year of participation. We were right in it until the last couple of rounds!

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We took advantage of our earliness and our proximity to the trophy table to snap this impressive-looking picture.

If you’d like to see what this year’s problems looked like, I’ll post a link to sample PDF files from the Math Bowl later this week.

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