Schools bringing record numbers of students to UNL Math Day

2015 UNL Math Day
2015 UNL Math Day

More than 100 Nebraska high schools will bring 1,657 students to the 26th annual University of Nebraska-Lincoln Math Day on Nov. 19, hosted by the UNL Department of Mathematics.

Math Day is a competition that recognizes high school students, and exceptional middle school students, who are interested in mathematics. Math Day consists of both individual and team competitions. All students participate in a multiple-choice, preliminary exam called PROBE I (Problems Requiring Original and Brilliant Effort). The top 40 students then move on to take the essay exam, PROBE II. The PROBE top 10 Nebraska high school students (sum of PROBE I and II) are awarded a total of $34,000 in four-year scholarships to UNL. One hundred teams also compete in the Math Bowl, a double-elimination tournament pitting three-member teams against one another.

Lincoln Southeast High School is bringing a record number of 119 students to Math Day this year.

“We got students interested originally by appealing to their desire for a challenge. They like the difficulty of the PROBE exam and a chance to try to do well,” Alan Holdorf, a mathematics teacher at Southeast, said. “The students also get a chance to see what a college campus is like on a school day, and they really enjoy that experience. For many of our younger students, Math Day is their first experience with hearing about some of the programs available at UNL and what might lay in store for them in college. Between the competition activities and the other activities we schedule throughout the day, Math Day is a fun and worthwhile time for all of our students.”

Omaha Central also has nearly doubled the number of students it usually brings, from 45 to 80.

“We've always wanted to send more, because we had the interest,” mathematics teacher Greg Sand said. “The issue has been having enough adult sponsorship to help deal with the logistics of bringing a large number of students. This year I've added two additional teachers into the program, which is allowing us to bring more kids. If I had my way, we'd bring all 186 kids we have involved in our Enrichment Mathematics course.”

Math Day begins at the Coliseum with an opening ceremony, then the students move to the Nebraska Union for the PROBE I exam and the start of the Math Bowl before lunch. In the afternoon, the bowl rounds conclude and students visit UNL department displays. It takes more than 250 volunteers to keep the events of Math Day running.

“My first experience with Math Day was as a timer in 2000 during my freshman year as an undergrad. I thought it was exciting to see the energy and excitement students brought with them. Just four years later, my Westside students won the 2004 Class A Math Bowl competition,” said Shelby Aaberg, who since 2011 has brought 45 to 50 students from Scottsbluff High School each year. “Driving 400 miles is a chore, but UNL Math Day is worth the trip year after year.”

Volunteers are still needed for this year. Those interested in helping should contact