Students Square Off in Math Tournament

Undergrads from across Lebanon gathered at LAU to test their knowledge.

By Hanan Nasser

Thirteen teams from universities across Lebanon competed at LAU’s 2nd Mathematics Tournament (LAU-MT 2018) on Byblos campus this month, which coincided with the annual Lebanese Society for Mathematical Sciences (LSMS) conference on May 11 and 12.

Organized by the Department of Computer Science and Mathematics, the two-hour tournament comprised three exams: algebra, analysis and combinatorics.

The questions were drafted by a 15-member scientific committee, chaired by LAU Associate Professor of Mathematics Chadi Nour and made up of faculty from LAU and participating universities.

The two-person teams included two from LAU, and 11 from other universities. Students from the Lebanese University took first place, Saint Joseph second and LAU third.

First-place winner Ayman Zein said the questions “pushed us to critically think about the solution and not just try to implement an equation. They show you how beautiful math is, and that it is more than just a set of equations.”

Second-place winner Mariam Abou Daher described the tournament as a “beautiful experience, because it allows us to meet students studying math but from other universities.” She said the tournament was also a platform to meet with math professors and discuss ideas and future plans.

“As for the exam itself, with the questions you have, it allows you to work as a team and to develop your critical thinking,” she added.

The tournament was the “ideal event to attend as a graduating student,” said LAU senior Christopher Antoun, “as it wrapped up the mathematical knowledge I’ve gained during my undergraduate studies.”

He said the contest pushed the students to “think of challenging questions on the spot and to collaborate with colleagues. It also gave me the opportunity to get to know students all around Lebanon who share similar interests.”

For principal organizer and Associate Professor of Mathematics Rony Touma, the tournament “is not meant to be a challenge between institutions; it’s a challenge between students. It’s an opportunity to motivate them and tell them more about recent studies in mathematics, and hopefully get them attracted to research.”

LSMS – a sponsor of the tournament – played a supervisory role “to ensure transparency in the entire process from writing the questions, through the grading to the generation of the results.” Touma said that its involvement also gave the tournament a nationwide credibility. “We see them as our partners,” he added.

At the end of the competition, all participants received an accredited certificate of participation endorsed by LSMS, while the winning teams also received gifts, which included tablets, smart watches and smart earphones.

Nour said the students were “better prepared compared to last year, and the reason was the availability of last year’s questions online on the LAU-MT website. This was reflected in the better grades obtained this year.”

Nour, who is also on the LSMS conference’s organizing committee, said, “It was a challenge to hold both events in parallel,” but added that both proved to be a great success.

The conference, sponsored by the National Council for Scientific Research and Byblos Municipality, featured speakers Giovanni Colombo from the University of Padua, Italy; Bernhard Lamel of the University of Vienna; Adélia Sequeira of Instituto Superior Técnico, Portugal; and Vera Zeidan of Michigan State University.