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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

Middle-school students fight it out through mathematics

For the fourth time UC Riverside hosts popular mathematics competition

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Nearly 90 inland Southern California students in grades 6, 7, and 8 attended a mathematics competition at the University of California, Riverside yesterday (Nov. 20), the fourth year in a row that the contest has taken place on campus.

Sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America, the American Mathematics Competition (AMC) was hosted by the UC Riverside Department of Mathematics.

Accompanied by their teachers and parents, students arrived on campus from Riverside, Upland, Corona, Redlands, and Alta Loma to compete in "AMC 8," a 40-minute, 25-question multiple-choice contest for middle-school students in grades 8 and below.

Vyjayanthi Chari, a professor of mathematics and a former chair of the Department of Mathematics, warmly welcomed the middle-schoolers at the event, assuring them that being a "math nerd" is actually a wonderful thing for their future.

Fourteen schools participated in AMC 8 yesterday at UCR. For the past four weeks graduate student tutors from the Department of Mathematics traveled to regional middle schools to help prepare the students for the test.

AMC 8 covers material included in the middle school mathematics curriculum, such as probability, estimation, percentages, spatial visualization, everyday applications and reading and interpreting graphs.

The exam results will be known in three to four weeks. Students who receive a perfect score (a student's score is the number of problems correctly answered) will receive a Certificate of Distinction. The Department of Mathematics provided a surprise prize raffle at yesterday's event as well as a certificate of participation and a "goodie bag" for each student.

"It was wonderful to see how enthusiastic the students were to compete in AMC 8," said Gerhard Gierz, a professor of mathematics and the chair of the Department of Mathematics. "We are grateful that the Mathematical Association of America, through such contests, fosters the development in these students of healthy attitudes towards mathematics and gets them to appreciate how mathematics, in some form or other, gets used by people every day."

Administered in schools in November, the national competition seeks to increase interest among young students in mathematics and to develop problem-solving through a fun competition. The participants also learn and achieve through competition with students in their school and around the world. Teachers and schools benefit from challenging their students with interesting mathematical questions aligned with curriculum standards at all levels of difficulty.

The competition provides an opportunity to apply the concepts taught at the junior high level to problems which not only range from easy to difficult but also cover a wide range of applications. Many problems are designed to challenge students and to offer problem-solving experiences beyond those provided in most junior high school mathematics classes.

Yesterday, the Highlander Union Building, where AMC 8 took place, was abuzz with the excitement of the visiting students. After the exam, several students were seen "high-fiving" proctor and graduate student tutor Jeffrey Wand.

Participating students in each school across the country with the highest score will receive an AMC 8 Winner Pin. The top three students for each school section will receive, respectively, a gold, silver, or bronze Certificate for Outstanding Achievement. High-scoring students will be invited to participate in the AMC 10, which takes place in February. An AMC 8 Honor Roll Certificate will be given to all high-scoring students. An AMC 8 Achievement Roll Certificate will be given to high scoring students who are in the sixth grade or below.


The UCR Department of Mathematics is one of the few mathematics departments in the country that offers diversity in research, small hands-on classes and the unique opportunity to learn from prominent mathematicians.

The Mathematical Association of America is the largest professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level. Members include university, college, and high school teachers; graduate and undergraduate students; pure and applied mathematicians; computer scientists; statisticians; and many others in academia, government, business, and industry.

The University of California, Riverside (http://www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus will open a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.