We all have a story or two about how we ended up working in the work we do. For me, it was a job during high school. The short story is I lucked into a job writing and preparing advertising for a Sears store in Malone, N.Y. I’m still in the communication business.

For you, maybe that job in high school showed you what you didn’t want to do. I have two uncles who worked for IBM. Farming, their father’s and my grandfather’s good work, wasn’t for them.

The ‘Aha’ Moment

Sometimes it’s not a job that opens your eyes. It may be a class in high school or college, or a specific project, or a special event. You think, “This is for me.”

Front Range Regional Math Contest

One of those special events is coming up at our Westminster Campus. It’s the Front Range Regional Math Contest that Marcus Szwankowski of the math faculty has, with help from colleagues, organized for the past five years.

This event is a great opportunity for mostly high school students – sometimes a middle-school student competes – to stretch and challenge their math skills. And it can be competitive.

“The point of it is it gives kids who are good at math and like math a chance to compete,” Marcus says. “When you see them in the ‘College Bowl’ segment or the team competition, all working together trying to score points, you can feel the excitement. They’re really getting into it.”

Geometry and Algebra Problems

Geometry and algebra are the fields that the students work in. Marcus and colleagues create word problems, logic puzzles, geometry-based spatial problems, and assorted other brain teasers.

The day starts with 10 questions that teams of four have 40 minutes to answer. The day progresses to a bracket-based College Bowl competition.

Critical Thinking, Teamwork

Critical thinking and teamwork are needed to succeed, along with math skills and problem solving. It’s good experience for later in life. With all the concern these days about graduating with employable skills, what employer doesn’t look for critical thinking and teamwork in new hires?

Demonstrations from the Electrical Engineering Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder are an added highlight to the day. Professor Ruth Dameron brings other faculty and graduate students to give demonstrations during a lunchtime showcase.

Experiential Learning

It’s through exposure to these kinds of experiences that some young people may choose a field of study or even a career. Marcus has seen at least three of the participants in the math contest as students later in his college classes. Marcus teaches transfer-level math, mostly Calculus III.

Who knows? Maybe there are some math educators, scientists, or engineers among this year’s participants.

This year’s event is from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 4. Interested? Registration closes March 14. Register now.


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