The Science Survey

The Third Time’s the Charm: Students Win Big at The New York Math Fair

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Ajeya Shiva '18. “The joy of finding a problem and solving it is an experience like no other. This is the one competition which is truly open ended and does not place a premium on speed or ‘correct answers’,” Shiva said.

Ajeya Shiva '18. “The joy of finding a problem and solving it is an experience like no other. This is the one competition which is truly open ended and does not place a premium on speed or ‘correct answers’,” Shiva said.

Alexa Asch

Alexa Asch

Ajeya Shiva '18. “The joy of finding a problem and solving it is an experience like no other. This is the one competition which is truly open ended and does not place a premium on speed or ‘correct answers’,” Shiva said.

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Bronx Science was widely represented in the Spring 2017 annual Greater New York Math Fair (judged in April 2017 at Brooklyn Technical High School); this is the largest high school math competition in all of New York. There were ten Bronx Science winners all together; five students won gold medal prizes, three won silver medals and two won bronze medals. Ajeya Shiva ‘18, earned his third consecutive gold medal in this competition for a presentation investigating discrete distributions of numbers in an Asian ladder/lottery game.

As a freshman, Shiva competed in this event for the first time with a project addressing a game called SET, a type of lottery game involving cards. “Math games interest me a lot,” Shiva said, “and since we had many packs of the game at home, I spent many pleasurable hours supposedly “researching” my topic!”

“The common themes in all of my projects has been combinatorics and probability. It made me realize that I enjoy discrete mathematics, which is typically not covered in high school curricula.”

For his second time entering the Math Fair, Shiva drew inspiration from a newly released film called ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity.’ The main character, a number theorist from a part of India that Shiva is familiar with, sparked Shiva’s interest in Number Theory. “As I was interested in the work of Ramanujan, the number theorist, I decided to write my paper on ‘understanding partition’,” Shiva said.

For his third win in April 2017, Shiva returned to his love for challenging games and researched an Asian variation of the classic “rock, paper, scissors.” When the time to present arrived, Shiva confessed that he was able to tackle the nerves of presenting his project due to the skills he adapted as a member of the Bronx Science Public Forum debate team. “The debate team definitely helped me in the actual mechanics of presenting to a serious audience,” Shiva said.

Something that has held true for all of Shiva’s projects is that he takes his love for mathematics and applies it to more abstract topics, rather than doing direct computational research. “The common themes in all of my projects has been combinatorics and probability. It made me realize that I enjoy discrete mathematics, which is typically not covered in high school curricula,” Shiva said.

Shiva attributed much of his success with his project to the help and constructive criticism that he received from his Bronx Science math teachers. In working on his paper last Spring, Shiva recalls, “Mr. Chen patiently read through my paper and gave me valuable feedback which I incorporated in my final presentation to the judges committee at the event at Brooklyn Tech.”

While the many gold medals Shiva received may suggest his ideas came easy to him, during the actual process of researching and writing his paper, Shiva struggled at times and needed to work hard to earn his success. “I remember Mr. Cheung, returning my first proposal with red marks all over, during my freshman year, saying I had not explained what the problem really was,” Shiva said. “I realized that creating a tight question is key in mathematics, unlike in the case of less exact sciences.”

Outside of the math classes and symposiums, Shiva’s interests extend to singing on the New York City multicultural chorus, which hesaid “has given me music training and the ability to appreciate a broad range of music.” He also has participated in the New York City Century Bike Tour, a 100 mile activity that showcased his interest in long distance biking.

Through all of this, Shiva anticipates competing in the math fair in the Spring of 2018 as well.  “The joy of finding a problem and solving it is an experience like no other. This is the one competition which is truly open ended and does not place a premium on speed or ‘correct answers’,” explained Shiva.

Aside from Shiva, gold medalists included Claire Glendening ‘18, Shadman-As-Sami Jahangir ‘18, Aaron Ng ‘18, and Michelle Wong ‘18. The silver medalists were Alexandra Skorobogatova ‘18, Wataru Takada ‘18, and David Weisberg ‘18 and the bronze medalists were David Ologan ‘18 and Richard Wang ‘18.  

“The other students there were eager to share their projects with us, and the fair served as a learning experience for us all,” Ologan said. Skorobogatova added, “The fair made me feel like I was surrounded by the brightest minds and by future Einsteins.”

While the students were all originally nervous to present their projects to a panel of judges, after having found out that they won, they were all beyond excited. It made all of their hard work worthwhile. It was also a humbling experience. The Math Fair left students eager for more and ready to participate again in the Spring of 2018.

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The Third Time’s the Charm: Students Win Big at The New York Math Fair