Good memories sum up years of math competition

After organizing Trine University’s annual high school mathematics competition for more than half of its 43-year history, Emily Chancellor is handing off her slide rule.

Chancellor, who has been part of the event since the early 1990s, recently moved to a new position with new responsibilities as administrative assistant for the Rinker-Ross School of Health Sciences, the competition that took place Jan. 31 will be the last under her supervision. Teresa Davidson, Chancellor’s successor as administrative assistant for Jannen School of Arts and Sciences, will direct future events, though Chancellor plans to remain involved.

“I will be back next year helping Teresa and Dr. (Haseeb) Kazi, and hopefully working at the registration desk for many more years,” she said.

When she first began working with the competition during the early 1990s, it was held on a Saturday in Best Hall classrooms. The mathematics faculty and Dolores Tichenor, Ph.D., dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, encouraged the move to a weekday as well as expanding the competition to more schools.

“This was a very bold and scary prospect at the time,” Chancellor said.

The move quickly generated an increased response, and the competition moved to Hershey Hall in order to handle the larger numbers. The Regional Science Fair loaned project tables to accommodate the student competitors.

“The tables were rough plywood, so we had to roll out paper to cover them,” she said. “This was done on the third floor of Best Hall in an evening and the math department had a lot of fun. I wish I had pictures or could describe this better; it is a great memory.”

With teams travelling to the competition from high schools in Ohio and Michigan as well as Indiana, Chancellor said winter weather was always a concern.

“Sitting in the department chair's office and watching weather maps for days, pondering the safety of travelers, it was tense,” she said. “We had several years we had to postpone. We had only a couple years we canceled completely due to ice and bad weather.”

There have been other snags over the years as well. One year Chancellor handed out the wrong medallions and had to get them switched back. Another year the food for the event was delivered to the wrong building and she had to get it moved while the participants were arriving.

“This was in the years before cell phones, so it was not so simple,” she said.

However, most of her memories have been positive.

“Mostly I remember lots of fun and hard work putting it all together, lots of support from math faculty past and present, and encouragement to make it a successful admission tool,” she said. “Meeting teachers who graduated from our math education program has been a real treat. I heard many stories about our faculty that awed and inspired me.”

“I enjoy encouraging math in the high schools,” she said. “To hear immediate feedback from our competing schools that our math competition was a success and has inspired students makes me proud to have been an integral part of the competition for over 25 years.”

Photo by Dean Orewiler.