In Mu Alpha Theta competitions, the interschool test was a no holds barred assortment of amazingly difficult questions. The only restrictions were that the questions should be vaguely related to mathematics and should be solvable, but even these guidelines were sometimes ignored. There were never any restrictions on how the answers were found, except perhaps stealing the answer key. You could phone a friend, use a laptop, or do anything else to figure it out.

An interschool question might be about the host school: what place did their lacrosse team finish in during the 1973 state playoffs? It might be about number theory, or abstract algebra, or anything mathematical. It could be a question about Ada Lovelace's personal life, or about the 17th digit of 17 to the 1717171717th power. Often the answer could be found in reference books or computed on a laptop, but with limited resources and about 50 questions, most schools did well to have 20 or 30 answers they thought were right.

If I ever get involved with Mu Alpha Theta as an assistant to a local high school team, I'm going to hole up in the public library or a university library, get the interschool faxed to me, and pray I can find even ten answers. With modern technology, a well-connected team could really wipe up.

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