BISMARCK, ND — Show some parents an equation or even say the word “math,” and memories of confusing homework assignments and nightmares of failed math tests begin to cause a cold sweat.

To many people math is a phobia. To some Bismarck-Mandan high school students, it’s fun. And so is a math contest. The University of Mary is holding its first annual high school math competition Tuesday, December 6, 2016, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on campus. Between 75 and 100 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders from Bismarck and Mandan’s six high schools (Bismarck High School, Century High School, Legacy High School, Mandan High School, Shiloh Christian and St. Mary’s Central High School) will participate in timed competition consisting of individual, lightning round and team categories.

“The competition is designed to give local high school students—particularly those who do well academically and especially those who excel mathematically—an opportunity to showcase their skills, which they don’t often otherwise get compared to say student-athletes,” said University of Mary Assistant Professor Dr. Travis Wolf, the founder and organizer of the competition and writer of the tests. “Ultimately, I would like to see this turn into a statewide high school mathematics tournament by inviting students from schools across North Dakota.”

Wolf says the tests will be graded by University of Mary math students led by Dr. Bob Willenbring, a fellow assistant professor of mathematics at Mary. All the competitors receive t-shirts; beautiful plaques from Dakota Awards will be given to the first, second and third place finishers in each test category. It’s Wolf’s desire, as the event continues to grow, to award prizes sponsored by local business.

For those who have an aversion for math, there will always be that mental image of a chalkboard filled with numbers and problems. Not so for these local high school math students. They live for the challenge of problem solving and get great satisfaction out of using their special math skills to unlock the answers that many people can’t, or are fearful of trying.