3rd annual Pi Day Puzzle Hunt allows students to solve challenging math problems

From March 20 to March 24, RM students from all grade levels will participate in the 3rd annual Pi Day Puzzle Hunt. Organized to celebrate Pi Day, the hunt features a series of math puzzles that require a multitude of problem-solving skills and cooperation between team members.

The hunt was first arranged two years ago during the 2014-2015 school year. It was inspired by the Pi Day Hunts at MIT and Blair High school, as well as the Post Hunt held by the Washington Post Magazine. “The year 2015 continued the digits of Pi from just 3.14 to 3.1415, so the Math Honor Society captains at the time really wanted to commemorate the special day,” said senior Jason Zhao, officer of the Math Honor Society.

“The purpose of the Pi Day Puzzle Hunt is mostly to give students an opportunity to solve challenging problems in a team environment and have a fun time solving some cool math problems along the way,” said math teacher Matthew Davis, sponsor of the Math Honor Society and the RM Math Team.

Similar to a scavenger hunt, the puzzle hunt answers will serve as clues to the next puzzle and lead students to locations around the school or the Internet. With a total of eight puzzles this year, the team that finishes first will receive the grand prize of a $100 Amazon gift card and the opportunity to sign the Wall of Fame. The second place team will receive $60, and the third place team will receive $40.

Puzzlers will also be able to earn “stars,” or bonus points, along the way by completing bonus puzzles, or even by correctly predicting the outcome of the Teacher Pi Eating Contest. By also focusing on collecting stars, teams that do not place in the top three teams will still have the opportunity to win prizes.

Although many of the puzzles have a mathematical basis, all students, regardless of math level, are encouraged to participate in the event, as creativity and thinking outside of the box are also crucial to discovering solutions to the puzzles.

“This year, the hunt was designed with a gentler learning curve to allow beginners an easier start. A greater emphasis was also placed on flexibility and general knowledge, so hunters will need to focus more on their creativity and attention to detail, rather than overspecialization” said junior Andrew Mao, who is helping to organize the hunt this year.

By participating in the hunt, students will be able to further develop a variety of social and academic skills that may be useful in various aspects of their lives.

“I think that students will benefit from this experience because they will be forced to exercise their critical-thinking skills and flexibility of their minds. They will be exposed to a wide range of mathematical and academic fields, and of course, the chance to win the grand prize or become engaged with the Math Honor Society,” said Mao.

“One thing that I noticed is that the most successful people are the ones who work in teams,” said Mr. Davis. Participating in this event really encourages the development of teamwork skills because working in teams allows the team members to bounce their ideas off of one another in order to solve the puzzles. So, I think that the team dynamic in this is really the most important and biggest key to being successful.”

“Students often claim that they won’t ever use the mathematical concepts that they learn in real life, and to some extent there is some truth in that. But math can help you become a better problem-solver and find new ways to get past obstacles,” Zhao added. “It’s similar to doing research. You don’t really know what’s coming next, but you still have to tackle all sorts of problems with what you have.”

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