The emcees of the game show introducing the questions in the final round.
On 23 January 1940, a team of code-breakers and mathematicians finally broke the cipher of the German encryption machine Enigma for the first time since World War II began. On 6 April, VJC’s Mathematics Society created another enigma for Victorians to solve – in the form of an Inter-House Logic Puzzle Competition. In teams of three, participants had to answer questions about logic and reasoning set by the organisers. The preliminary round took place in the form of a 25 minute paper, and the top scoring team from each house moved on to the finals.
Instead of asking about the ordinary mathematics questions we face in school, the competition required the participants to think critically, in order to reason out the answer from the infor mation given. Some puzzles were inspired by well-known ones, such as the Look-and-Say Sequence. However, there were also some original questions like a Mathematics crossword puzzle.
The Enigma was about showing the more fun side of math. It was a welcome, refreshing change from more abstract concepts like calculus or complex numbers. At the same time, the questions were also challenging, and thought-provoking. A strong foundation in mathematics was not required, for the questions selected were specifically not too calculation-intensive. Even after the preliminary round, the participants were still buzzing and chatting about the questions they faced.
Participants discussing in their team the answers to the preliminary round
Finalists seeing their first question
The finals of the Enigma provided a different experience from other ordinary Mathematics competitions which are just pen-and-paper tests. The Enigma boasted attractive prizes such as Graphing Calculators for the winners, as well as thumb drives for the finalists and the winners of the Audience Round.
Despite these exciting prizes, what stood out the most was how the finals of the Enigma was held. It was actually a game show, where participants had to answer questions within a given time frame. Math was made fun. Logic questions came to life as they were flashed on the screen, with the crowd discussing in hushed whispers the answers to the questions while the finalists hurriedly scribbled to solve them before their 60 seconds were up. The excitement of reasoning could be felt in the atmosphere when the audience cheered the remaining participants on, brought together by an interest in mathematical logic. We celebrated together with the finalists when they scored points, and sighed in disappointment with them when they didn’t.
The crowd cheering the finalists on!
150 points to Phoenix house! Good job guys!
But why did the Mathematics Society organise the competition? We had the fortune of interviewing one of their EXCO members, Naixian from 14S45, who was involved in organising the competition. When asked, he responded by saying, “The Math Society felt that there is lack of interest in mathematics among many students. By organising a logic puzzle competition, this situation could be moderated since students can have fun while solving math-related puzzles. We also have the experience and knowledge in logic puzzles since this is what we often do in our sessions, so it is quite convenient for us to introduce this idea to the student population and share the fun to everybody. These factors motivated us to initiate Enigma.”
Upon prodding further into what exactly the Math Society does in their sessions, he replied, “We discuss logic puzzles and play board games and reasoning games such as Connect 4 and Werewolf so as to train our critical thinking and strategising skills. We also do preparations for our events.”
The Enigma was an event which took away the mundaneness of rote-learning Mathematical concepts we often use in school. Instead of being a competition of which teams were the strongest in the subject, it shared the excitement of solving enigmas with the rest of the school. If you had missed the Enigma, there are still other opportunities to participate in similar events, such as the American Mathematics Competition. There are also plans to continue the competition next year.
And of course, congratulations to Draco, the winning house of the Enigma!
Adam Ahmad Samdin
Photo credits: VJC PhotoSoc