2007 Spelling Bee winner wins math competition

January 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
If you ever wondered what people might do at a math convention, we found and answer today in San Francisco. They play 'stump the kids' and then those kids turn the tables.

When dealing with a spectator sport, it is all about the action and that is what the PhDs ordered in San Francisco.

"The crucial thing is to recognize that it has to be a three digit number, so like two to the fourth times five isn't any good," said the moderator, Mike Breen, Ph.D., with the American Mathematical Society.

If that made sense to you, then maybe you needed to be up on stage on Thursday, as the American Mathematical Society and Mathematical Association of America sponsored a "Who wants to be a mathematician?" contest.

"As far as we are concerned this is the Super Bowl of mathematics for high school students," said Breen.

Seventeen-year-old Ben Zauzmer and his mother, Jan came all the way from Philadelphia.

"If he had a piece of paper when he was 2, instead of scribbling, he was making up mathematical formulas," said Jan.

Back home, Ben likes to do video restaurant reviews.

In the finals, he faced formidable competition -- 17-year-old Evan O'Dorney from Danville.

"I want to become a mathematician, do research and become an university professor," said O'Dorney.

O'Dorney is no stranger to national competitions. In 2007 he won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

"Well for the spelling bee I prepared for two years and all we did was study the dictionary, so it was really different," said O'Dorney.

Thursday, Evan's math appeared to be second-nature.

Ben had game, but when your opponent answers almost every question and finds that the judges made a mistake in another, then results become foregone conclusions.

Evan won total of $10,000 and Ben received $6,000. Those are nice rewards for a couple of kids who actually like to do their math homework.

"Evan did a great job and he really deserves it. He is an impressive mathematician and it was a lot of fun up there," said Ben.

"I'd like to get into Harvard," Evan said.