By Rachel Dapp
Editor @ The Mirror
Most students, if given the opportunity, would prefer a take-home test to sitting in class and completing a "blue book" essay in a 50-minute class. But a group of Drury students recently took a take-home test of a different sort…and are still waiting on their results.
The Mathematical Contest in Modeling was held from Feb. 2 to 6. The contest entails a real-world problem involving mathematics to which students are responsible for developing a solution.
According to Dr. Keith Coates, assistant professor of mathematics and Drury faculty advisor for the contest, the annual contest typically brings in more than 1,000 institutions worldwide.
The teams are given a choice of two problems, of which they choose one to take back to their home institution to solve. The students then submit a paper as their entry into the contest.
Drury students started researching their problem on Feb. 2, developed a solution and wrote a paper, submitted on Feb. 6. The students are hoping to hear the results near the end of March.
Coates says that while the math involved may not be "very deep," the open-ended problems are very demanding and apply common sense and knowledge about the particular subject.
"For example, this year, one of the problems dealt with the most efficient way to irrigate a field, given certain constraints on the field size and available equipment," Coates says. "This problem necessitated students' researching physics formulas about fluid flow rate and incorporating them into their solution."
Coates says the problems are reflective of those that engineers or mathematicians working in industry might one day face, giving the students practical experience.
This year, four Drury teams participated in the contest, 10 students total. Though the contest has been around for more than 20 years, Coates says this is only the second year Drury has entered teams. In its inaugural year last year, Drury received Honorable Mention.
Coates and Dr. Bruce Callen, associate dean of the college, shared the responsibility of acting as advisors, a role that Coates said he was happy to fulfill. "This is a great way to work with motivated students who are interested in seeing how their education and critical thinking skills can be applied to actual problems outside the classroom," Coates says. "And I've had experience building mathematical models to solve problems both in industry and government work, so I was a natural choice to be an advisor."
And the students involved in the contest say they were grateful for the opportunity.
"I enjoyed the intensity and devotion which people possess during the competition," Cody Pace, junior, says. "I decided to participate in the math modeling contest in the hopes of improving my ability to apply math to real world problems."