Math Week at Asbury University – Asbury University
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February 14, 2020

a group of math studentsThis weekend, students in Asbury University’s School of Science, Health & Mathematics are taking on questions like this one as part of the worldwide COMAP Mathematical Contest in Modeling. More than 8,000 teams of three students each are participating across the globe, each hoping to take home the top prize while solving real-world issues using mathematics.

It’s problem-solving on a massive scale, answering that age-old question asked by everyone who barely scraped through their math classes in school: “How will I ever use this in the real world?”

Reid Matheison ’21 and two of his classmates worked together in last year’s contest to determine if dragons could exist, given their physiology and interaction with other species. (Spoiler: They think it’s possible, mathematically speaking.) That problem may have been more theoretical than practical, but another team of Asbury students used their math skills in the same competition to redesign the evacuation plan at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, earning a Meritorious score and a place in the top eight percent of teams worldwide.

Math can be used in the real world and Asbury’s students know how to do it.

The contest began on Thursday and runs until the deadline on Monday evening. Asbury has fielded teams for more than 30 years and has five working all weekend to solve this year’s problems. The students will have to create computer and math models, verify that their models work, write articles that are both informative and engaging to read, and give live presentations on their findings, all within the span of one weekend.

“It gives a microcosm of everything you do in the real world,” said Dr. Dave Coulliette Ph.D. ’81, faculty overseer for Asbury’s teams. “You have to play well with others, you have to write it up, and if you don’t write it well, then no one knows if it’s a good answer or not.”

Asbury’s teams will be modeling solutions for the migration of fish populations as a result of climate change, evaluating teamwork strategies for a basketball team and analyzing the rising levels of plastic waste worldwide and its effect on the environment. Previous years’ questions have included the Louvre evacuation, the outbreak and spread of HIV, and, of course, determining if dragons could exist in the real world.

“It’s a cool opportunity to get real-world experience. The questions we’re given are like those we’d get if we were out working in the industry,” said Matheison. “You’ll be given these kinds of data, and you have to come up with a solution for whoever you’re working for.”

The Asbury community is invited to stop by Hamann-Ray over the weekend. Each team has an assigned work room, and an open door means visitors, encouragement and snacks are welcome