"Mathletes" flex mental muscle

CHARLOTTE – After students from eight high schools turned in their final answers at the eighth annual Numbers Crunch math competition Tuesday at Bank of America Stadium, Dr. Harold Reiter of UNC Charlotte suggested to Panthers tight end Jeff King that the players form their own team for next year's competition.

"I don't think we would have many volunteers for that," King said before rethinking his answer. "Could we get the questions ahead of time?"

King mingled with the students following the competition, during which the five-person teams had 10 minutes to solve each of five football-related math problems as well as a tiebreaker question (which appears at the bottom of the article).

From linebacker Jon Beason's rate of closing speed on an opposing running back to the probability of rain falling sometime over a three-day period to help out the stadium grounds crew, the competition challenged the students' "mathletic" ability.

In the end, Charlotte Providence Day took the title, with East Chapel Hill coming in second place and Academic Magnet from Charleston, S.C., finishing third.

"I think they did real well," said King, who graduated from Virginia Tech in three-and-a-half years with a degree in finance before earning a master's in health promotions. "These kids are going to take what they learn in school, and that foundation is going to carry them for years to come.

"Using their mind for problem solving – and not just in math but in real-life situations as well – is a real key to success."

The Numbers Crunch test curriculum was developed in cooperation with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and math professors from area colleges and universities, including Davidson College, Clemson University, Queens University, UNC Charlotte and Winthrop University.

Dr. Reiter, who wrote this year's exam along with Davidson professor Dr. Robert Whitton, said the competition provides an opportunity to "glamorize" math.

"I really like working with these kids," Dr. Reiter said.

The competition is sponsored by the Panthers and Microsoft. The winning team will be recognized during an on-field presentation at Carolina's game versus the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 24.

Here's that tiebreaker question: Each time the Panthers score, Sir Purr does one push-up for every point the Panthers have scored in the game. At the end of the game, the Panthers' mascot has done exactly 100 push-ups. How many points did the Panthers score? Assume the Panthers score only seven points or three points at a time. (There are actually two possible answers).

The answer will be posted on the Panthers' official Twitter page, http://twitter.com/panthers, around noon on Wednesday.

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