Occupation: Math Ninja
Bio: Born and raised in Glovertown, Andrew wrote his first mathematics competition in the seventh grade. In the eleventh grade, he finished third in the province and in the top four per cent in Canada. He recently wrote a competition exam to qualify for MUN’s team for the Putnam Mathematics Competition, a six hour long (!) exam written annually by over 3,000 of the continent’s best math students. It’s been called the hardest test in the world (almost half of those who write it score 2 out of 120 or less) and first prize is tuition for graduate school at Harvard. John Nash, the subject of the movie A Beautiful Mind, couldn’t crack the top five. Andrew’s hoping to break the top hundred. He is currently one year away from an honours degree in Pure Mathematics at MUN. Oh, and he’s also into sea kayaking, Ultimate Frisbee, weightlifting and he plays classical guitar.
Why subject yourself to a six hour long math exam?: “Free lunch!” he laughs. “I enjoy mathematics and I really enjoy competitions and problem solving. This is the hardest competition I’ve written so far and probably the hardest one I’ll ever write.”
What are the questions like, anyways?: “Think of doing a brain teaser or a puzzle like that. Now add undergraduate Mathematics to it and then make the brain teaser really hard. The problems take a lot of creativity to solve, and usually there are anywhere from one to four or even five different ways to solve them.”
Why do you think there is so much romanticism and awe surrounding mathematical ability?: “Well, if you’re not doing well in a Math course, people will say ‘you’re not good at it so just do something else’, whereas if you’re not succeeding in Physics, they’ll tell you to study harder. People think it’s something that you’re just born with and you either have it or you don’t.”
Do you agree with that?: “No.”
Favorite mathematicians: Euler and Erdös.
— Sarah Smellie