Lander College For Men Announces Winners Of Third Annual Jacob Goldfinger Memorial Mathematics Contest For Yeshiva High School Students In The U.S. An

Date: June 27, 2012
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Gabe Kahn
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New York, N.Y. – Alexander Mendelsohn, a junior at the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, N.J., won first prize at the third annual Jacob Goldfinger Memorial Mathematics Contest at Touro’s Lander College for Men (LCM). The contest was created to broaden and enrich Yeshiva high school students' knowledge of mathematics and enhance their mathematical creativity.

“This contest inspires some of the most mathematically gifted students in yeshiva high schools across the country to push themselves ever further, and Lander College for Men is privileged to play a role in their development,” said Dr. Moshe Sokol, the dean of LCM. “Mathematical knowledge is crucial to the United States, and we are delighted that so many young Jewish students show the capacity to make a real contribution to our future.”

Marty Rubin, a freshman at Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy (SAR) in Riverdale, N.Y., took second place. Third place was awarded to Shalhevet Schwartz, also a freshman at SAR, who was this year’s winner of her division of the National Bible Contest (Chidon HaTanach) run by the Jewish Agency for Israel. There were three honorable mentions: Joseph Hostyk, of the Weinbaum Yeshiva in Miami; Ricki Heiklen, also of SAR; and Aryeh Krischer of the Torah Academy of Bergen County.

The competition was open to full-time yeshiva high school students in the United States and Canada who were 19 and younger as of December 31, 2011. The competition is believed to be the first such contest designed specifically for yeshiva students in North America. The first-place prizewinner received $1,000; the second- place winner, $350; and the third-place winner, $150.

The examination included two separate sections, one of multiple-choice questions and the other long-form problems in which students needed to come up with answers and provide proofs for their conclusions. Even though the test was given all at once, the multiple choice section served as a qualifying round; for students to be graded on the longer section, they needed to perform well on the first part.

This year’s contest focused on problem-oriented questions that largely dealt with numerical or geometric properties. In previous years, the test consisted of probability theory and number theory, according to Moshe Snow, the Deputy Chairman and Associate Professor of Mathematics at LCM and the contest chairperson.

“This was a test of the students’ ingenuity,” Snow said. “It encourages the students’ interest and growth in mathematics and we hope that it provokes their interest enough that they’ll consider a career in mathematics.”

Born in Poland in 1914, Jacob Goldfinger immigrated to the U.S. after losing his entire family in the Holocaust. The father of two children, grandfather of nine and great-grandfather of 15, he did not have a formal education but possessed a very sharp mind and an exceptional aptitude for mathematics until his death at 93. His son and daughter, Solomon Goldfinger and Regina Fischbein, are proud to have sponsored this competition and are gratified by the strong interest and participation it has engendered.

Professor Snow said that because the contest tests intuition more than specific areas of mathematics, underclassmen were able to compete against upperclassmen. In fact, of the six winners and honorable mentions, none were high school seniors.

“It’s a great equalizer because someone who hasn’t learned trigonometry will still be able to compete with someone who has,” said Professor Snow.

The contest examination was based on preparatory reading material that was provided to all participants in advance via a password-protected site on the Internet. The preparatory material consisted of readings, challenging problems and their solutions. The material was divided into learning modules and participants were strongly encouraged to complete them in accordance with a schedule on the web site.

In addition to Dr. Snow, the Prize Advisory Committee, which helped design the contest and provided the overall guidance on content and structuring of the exam, consisted of Dr. Sylvain Cappell, Silver Professor, New York University Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and chair, New York University Faculty Senate; Dr. Wallace Goldberg, professor of mathematics and chairman, mathematics department, Queens College; Dr. Stanley Ocken, professor of mathematics, City College of New York; Micah Segelman, Ph.D. candidate in statistics, University of Rochester (formerly instructor of mathematics at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim and Shevach High School); and Dr. Joel Wolowelsky, dean of faculty and instructor of mathematics, Yeshivah of Flatbush.