Lander College for Men Announces Winners of Jacob Goldfinger Memorial Mathematics Contest

Date: June 25, 2013
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Gabe Kahn
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New York, N.Y. – Martin Rubin, a sophomore at the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy (SAR) in Riverdale, N.Y., won first prize at the fourth annual Jacob Goldfinger Memorial Mathematics Contest at Touro’s Lander College for Men (LCM). Rubin was the second-place winner in the 2012 competition. The contest was created to broaden and enrich Yeshiva high school students’ knowledge of mathematics and enhance their mathematical creativity.

“Mathematics is the language of the sciences and engineering, and the vehicle of discoveries which have changed our understanding of the world, and indeed, the world itself,” said Dr. Moshe Sokol, the dean of LCM. “These gifted students are poised to make their own unique contribution to that remarkable language.”

Aryeh Krischer a junior at the Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) who received an honorable mention last year, tied with Leor Fishman, a sophomore at the Frisch School in Paramus, N.J., for second place. There were four honorable mentions: Jacob Greenspan of the Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago, Ill.; Simon Mendelsohn of Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, N.J.; Samuel Retter of the Mesivta Yesodei Yeshurun in Flushing, N.Y.; and Jared Samilov of the Weinbaum Yeshiva in Boca Raton, Fla.

The competition, believed to be the first such contest designed specifically for yeshiva students in North America, was open to full-time yeshiva high school students in the United States and Canada who were 19 and younger as of December 31, 2012. The first-place prizewinner received $1,000 and the second-place winners were each awarded $250.

The examination included two separate sections, one of multiple-choice questions and the other long-form problems which students needed to solve 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 in probability theory. In previous years, the test focused on numerical analysis of probability theory and number theory, according to Moshe Snow, the deputy chairman and associate professor of mathematics at LCM and the contest chairperson.

“The contest winners are exceptionally bright. In fact, they were able to solve problems that would stump many college mathematics majors,” Snow said. “We expect that these winners will go on to have brilliant academic careers.”

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 seven winners and honorable mentions, only one was a high school senior.

The contest examination was based on select material from the website, consisting of mathematical videos, challenging problems and solutions. The material was divided into learning modules which participants were strongly encouraged to complete 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.