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Release: Aug. 31, 2000

UI students represent U.S. in international math competition

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Four University of Iowa students represented the United States at this summer's 7th International Mathematics Competition for University Students held at University College, London July 26-31.

The UI students are:

• Eric Erthum, a senior from Holy Cross;

• Luke Gutzwiller, a senior from Council Bluffs;

• Jennifer McFate, a junior from Davenport; and

• Joshua Tokle, a senior from Hudson.

The competition included 117 students from more than a dozen European countries, as well as teams from Iran, Columbia and the University of Iowa. The purpose of the competition is to stimulate interest in mathematics, according to UI mathematics professor and chair Paul Muhly, who noted that the top UI scorer, Luke Gutzwiller, placed 100th and earned honorable mention. He adds that the Iowa team did well in its inaugural appearance at a competition that featured numerous gold medal winners from past international competitions.

"The point to keep in mind is that most of the participants are veteran competition wonks. Many were multiple gold medal winners in the International Mathematics Olympiad -- THE international mathematics competition for high school students. Our students had essentially no prior experience with competitions," Muhly says. "I likened them (UI students) to the Jamaican Bobsled Team in the Winter Olympics. Despite their showing, the students are excited about working hard to improve their skills, and they aspire to return next year to perform better. We certainly will send them, if funding can be found." Next year, the competition will be held in Prague.

The competition, consisting of two five-hour sessions focusing on six problems each, had an Iowa flavor, since the competition organizer and president is Davenport native John Jayne, professor of mathematics at University College and a friend of Muhly's.

The trip had benefits for the students beyond mathematics. Muhly says that they met like-minded young people from far away lands and made new friends. They also have fond memories of touring museums, concerts and plays, and walking through London's parks, gardens and historical sights.