Please note: this page is current as of Spring 2010
The Annual Austin Area Problem Solving Challenge
The Austin Area Problem Solving Challenge is a fun, friendly math competition for students of high school age (and younger) in and around Austin. Students are invited to form teams of five to work on a set of five challenging problems that encourage exploration, experimentation, and creative thinking. Teams that turn in outstanding solutions will receive fabulous prizes, including topological toys, books from The Art of Problem Solving, and gift certificates to Amazon.com.
The AAPSC is a marathon, not a sprint. The problems are challenging, and students will have six weeks (from the time the problems are posted) to work on them. The students who are most successful will be the ones who start working on the problems early and keep chipping away at them for the entire month.
How Do I Get Started?
Easy - if you're a student who has not yet graduated from high school, the first thing you'll want to do is to organize a team. You can have up to five people (including yourself) on your team, but it's okay if you prefer to work with fewer people (or if you want to work alone, although the problem set will be very difficult for any one student to handle!).
One unique aspect of the AAPSC is that we don't care what school you're from - that means you can work with students from your own school, students from other schools, or homeschooled students - however you want to do it. There is no limit on the number of students from a single school who can compete, so forming a team is completely up to you. If you have friends who enjoy challenging math problems and puzzles, call them, e-mail them, send carrier pigeons - do whatever it takes to get them involved!
If you're a teacher, parent, college student, or other adult, you're not allowed to compete officially - sorry! But you're still welcome to take a look at the problems and try working on them on your own, as long as you don't discuss them with anyone who might be competing. (But please feel free to encourage your school-age kids and/or students to participate!)
(The following is a summary; please see the front page of the problems packet for specific information.)
Simply put, there aren't many things you aren't allowed to do while working on the AAPSC. The most important restriction is that you are not allowed to discuss the problems with anyone outside your team (this includes teachers, math coaches, parents, etc.). Of course, you may discuss the problems with your teammates as much as you like. You can also use books, notes, calculators, and computers (including the Internet) to do research and run experiments, as long as you don't use these things to ask other people for help.
Solutions are due April 11 by 1pm and should be emailed to Neil Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org. It will help if you have the subject AAPSC 2010 as your subject.
Technology-assisted solutions are allowed in certain situations, but in most cases, a solution that can be recreated by hand will receive more credit than a solution that requires lots of calculations or computer testing.
This is a six-week competition, so take the time to write beautiful solutions! This means writing in complete sentences and explaining your steps carefully. If you think of an interesting generalization or extension of something on the test, feel free to discuss it; we will give extra credit to teams that go above and beyond the call of duty!
Most importantly, keep it fun, keep it friendly, and enjoy the problems.
Thanks to support from the National Science Foundation, we are able to offer some terrific prizes for students who turn in outstanding solutions:
First place team
Each team member receives his/her choice of a large glass Klein bottle, a Klein bottle hat with matching Mobius scarf, a chrome tangle, Volumes 1 and 2 of The Art of Problem Solving (with solutions), or a $60.00 Amazon.com gift card.
Third place team
Each team member receives a plastic tangle or a $20.00 Amazon.com gift card.
At the discretion of the contest director, other teams that turn in outstanding solutions may receive assorted books of math problems and puzzles.
The Fine Print
Contest director and problem author Cody L. Patterson is a veteran of numerous regional and national math competitions. During the years 2002 through 2005, Cody ran an informal math competition called Cody Bowl / The National Online Math League, which developed into a successful online math league with over 100 regular participants.
All decisions made by the contest director relating to the AAPSC (including the evaluation of solutions) are final and cannot be appealed.
We will make a reasonable effort to return your solutions to you after the conclusion of the contest; however, we cannot make any guarantees. If you want to keep your solutions, please make a copy for yourself prior to sending your submission.
The Saturday Morning Math Group wishes to thank Prof. Dan Freed for his support and guidance during the development of this contest. Also, thanks to Nathan Savir of Princeton University, Landon Jennings of Rice University, Nickolas Reynolds of Fidelity Investments and Robert Nix of The University of Texas at Dallas for their feedback on the problem set.