Students devote 36 hours to solving an extremely complex math problem

Dr. Vondracek teaches his Chem/Phys class.

Zinnia Schwartz

Dr. Vondracek teaches his Chem/Phys class.

Meredith Herrick, News Editor

36 hours.

It’s a race against the clock as you and a team of three others compete in the 36 hour math challenge that demands skill, precision, and creativity.

The challenge is sponsored by the Math and Science Depts., allowing there to be as many teams as necessary to give every student a chance to solve the complex problem.

Teams choose when they would like to complete the challenge. Teams may begin during the last week of October, and are able to participate until the week before Thanksgiving. The teams choose everything from where they meet and when, to how they want to solve the problem. They also have the freedom to use any online resources, the only limitation being that they can’t talk to anyone outside the team about the challenge.

“It depends on the team, but it’s hard to prepare in the sense that we don’t know what the questions will be and what topics they’ll be on,” sponsor Mark Vondracek said. “We’ll have some meetings where we go through some old papers to get a sense of style and structure.”

The teams used to only have 24 hours to complete the challenge, but the challenge then took a toll on students, so they changed the challenge from 24 to 36 hours. It was found that students wouldn’t take breaks, and some teams wouldn’t sleep in order to solve the problem.

“Breaks are important, otherwise the stress really gets to you,” senior Leo Loubieres explained. “Last year, we even took a break to go see a movie.”

The 36 hour challenge is also a great learning opportunity for students. The problems that are given are very open ended, which is a lot different than the traditional way students are taught in math classes, meaning that there is more than just one correct answer to these problems.

What the students love is getting to be with their friends and have fun with the problem.

Senior Arthur Brown explained, “my favorite part was the submission of the solution, and explaining it. Besides that though, it was so much fun to hang out with my three closest friends for 36 hours.”

However for the sponsors, the creativity is the best part of the competition.

“I just like seeing the papers they come up with. To come up with these solutions you have to make assumptions and justify them, so the creativity is really cool,” Vondracek said.

In the past there have been up to 18 different teams. The top two get presented with another opportunity to strut their stuff. These teams have the option to participate in the 14 hour Mega Math Challenge.

“The other thing that we do is called the Mega Math Challenge. That one’s only 14 hours, and everyone in the country has to do it at the same time,” Vondracek said. “It’s a really unique chance.”

This event is a way for students to get their skills recognized on a national level.

“I offer it to all of my classes and Mr. Gordon offers it to all of his classes, but anyone who wants to can join a team,” Vondracek said.

There are no requirements to join a team. If anyone wants to geek out and devote a weekend to the challenge they can join or create a team by contacting Vondracek.