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8th graders visit Van Vleck Hall

Responding to a request from mathematics teacher Matt Rose of Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin, the Department of Mathematics hosted a group of 8th-graders (and some 7th-graders) last November. Mr. Rose teaches a double accelerated program for 8th graders at Homestead and wrote to Dan Shea asking about the possibility of visiting the Department. The students, among the very brightest and gifted math students at Homestead, were currently studying Geometry and would be in Calculus BC as juniors. Mr. Rose wanted to expose his students to career possibilities in mathematics and research activities here in Madison.

Dan Shea and others put together a full program for this visit: (1) morning gathering in the 9th floor conference room; (2) presentation by Dan Knopf and two undergraduates, Creighton Hogg and Ryan Croke, working in his Minimal Surfaces Lab (coincidentally, Ryan was a 1997 graduate of Homestead); a talk on ``My Favorite Polyhedra'' by VIGRE graduate fellow Matt Bloss; and a talk by Marty Isaacs about the Talent Search, including working through some of the solutions of its problems. Following a light lunch, there was a conversation with undergraduates Matt McGinley (a graduate of Minnesota's UMTYMP 4-year high school program, and UW Math/Physics/Biochem major) and Sara Childs. The program ended with a visit to the Soils Science Building to meet with Professor Jerry Tyler and his students Jenny Erickson and Keith Schiller, who showed some computer simulations of problems in soil science that can be studied via quantitative methods.

With the increasing need for mathematical training in more and more disciplines, a very important goal is to get talented young students interested in mathematics as early as possible and to sustain that interest. We hope that some students will go on to earn PhDs in mathematics, while others will use their mathematical knowledge and training in other ways. Programs like that at Homestead High School are very important, and we hope that the time invested by people in the Department of Mathematics contributes to this goal as well.

Talent Search Honors Day
Don Passman and Honorees

The Honors Day for the Mathematics Talent Search was held on May 9, 2001 with 17 students invited to attend (seven from West High here in Madison). The Van Vleck Scholarship winners ($6,000 for each of four years at UW-Madison) were Chad Koch of Appleton's West High and Alec Li from Madison's West High.

The program for these gifted students consisted of talks ``Basketball and Statistics'' by Professor Bob Wardrop of the Statistics Department and ``Kenneth Arrow shows that the Tsar knows" by Professor Steve Bauman of the Mathematics Department. After the lunch in the 9th floor conference room and the awards ceremony, students, their teachers, and their parents were treated to a tour of the new Chemistry building.

Here are a couple of problems from this year's Talent Search.

1. For how many integers n is the quantity n2-20n+244 equal to a perfect square?
2. Let S be a finite set and let X be a nonempty collection of subsets of S. If each of the sets in X contains more than half of the elements of S, show that there is some element of S that is in more than half of the subsets in X.