AoPS Update: Mathematics Awareness Month, Putnam exam results, and more

March 25, 2019

April is Mathematics Awareness Month!

Technically, April is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month. The goal is to increase public understanding of, and appreciation for, mathematics.

Here at AoPS, we already think mathematics is pretty fantastic, but maybe you know someone who still thinks math is just a class they take at school. Need examples to help show them just how cool math can be?

Knowing mathematics (or, more specifically, physics) means you can answer questions like “If kinetic energy is converted into thermal energy, how hard do I have to slap a chicken to cook it?” (originally asked on Reddit a while back).

How hard do you have to slap a chicken to cook it

One answer said:

As your friendly neighborhood physics major, I decided to calculate this with a few assumptions.

The formula for converting between kinetic energy and thermal energy is 1/2mv^2=mcT

The average human hand weighs about 0.4kg, the average slap has a velocity of 11 m/s (25 mph), an average rotisserie chicken weighs 1 kg (2lbs), has a specific heat capacity of 2720 J/kg*c, and let’s assume the chicken has to reach a temperature of 205C (400F) for us to consider it cooked. The chicken will start off frozen, so 0C (32F).

1 average slap would generate a temperature increase of 0.0089 degrees Celsius. It would take 23,034 average slaps to cook the chicken.

To cook the chicken in one slap, you would have to slap it with a velocity of 1665.65 m/s or 3725.95 mph.

Does that answer make sense? Should that answer make sense? To find out, we asked our office full of mathematicians.

Quickly, we ended up asking the amazing Dr. Mark Eichenlaub, physicist and former coach of the U.S. Physics Team. If anyone would know a good answer for this, it’s Dr. Mark E. We’ll tell you what our team had to say about accelerated-manual chicken cooking at the end of the Update. 😉

Putnam Exam Results Are In!

The results of the 2018 William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition have been announced, and a number of AoPS’s former students are among the high scorers.

In particular, we congratulate our current and former interns, classroom assistants, and graders, on their excellent performance this year, including:

  • David Stoner (of Harvard University), who was one of this year’s Putnam Fellows
  • Andrew Gu (MIT), among the Next Ten Highest Ranking Individuals, and
  • Honorable Mention Winners: Dalai Chadra (UW Seattle), Zachary Chroman (MIT), Caleb Ji (Washington University), Akshaj Kadaveru (MIT), Alexander Katz (MIT), Andrew Lin (MIT), Joshua Speckman (USC), Michael Tang (MIT), Drake Thomas (U Minnesota Twin Cities), and William Wang (Penn)

The Putnam Exam is the most prestigious math competition for college students in North America. Even though most students who participate are math majors, the problems are so tough that in many years the median score is a 0 out of 120.

“It took a lot of practice to reach the point where I felt comfortable approaching any of those problems,” says Speckman. “I absolutely couldn’t have figured out how to do that practice without a resource like AoPS.”

The Putnam Exam was founded by public health advocate Elizabeth Lowell Putnam in memory of her husband, William Lowell Putnam II. It has been offered every year since 1938 and is administered by the Mathematical Association of America.

Classes Starting in the Next Two Weeks:

What’s New At AoPS:

We’ll only have one Math Jam in April, and that’s our Physics Jam on April 16th. This Math Jam is about our new F=ma Problem Series. Dr. Mark Eichenlaub, past coach for the US team competing in the International Physics Olympiad, has designed a course to prepare students to take the F=ma exam. This course is beyond basic physics, so if you or someone you know is a serious physics student, they may enjoy this course. It’s also a good preparation for students who might want to take Physics WOOT later. The first class begins June 13, so there’s still some time to decide if you want to try it out this summer.

Speaking of summer: while we’re still coordinating teacher schedules, the Summer Schedule for AoPS Online courses is up! You’ll see some classes with “TBA” listed as the teacher’s name, but that just means we’re working on matching teacher schedules to class times. All of our instructors are exceptional mathematicians and teachers! Students can confidently enroll in the class they’d like and expect that one of our outstanding instructors will be assigned soon.

Have you been wanting to try Beast Academy Online, but weren’t sure if it was a fit for your student or teaching style? We’re working on a demo mode, to allow parents and teachers to try a limited version of Beast Academy Online before subscribing. Work only began recently on the demo mode, so we don’t have a specific date for you on when it’ll be available–but it’s coming soon!

We’re also opening up another AoPS Academy location, this time in Santa Clara/Cupertino! Check out the location here; Santa Clara/Cupertino should begin accepting applications for admission later this spring.

AoPS in the News

AoPS Founders Richard Rusczyk and Sam Vandervelde talk to Forbes Contributor Rachel Crowell about why solving fewer math problems can actually be better for some students. Curious about why? Here’s the article on

So, Just How Hard DO You Have to Slap A Chicken to Cook It?

Setting aside the fact that that physics major who posted their answer on Reddit has clearly never cooked a chicken, since you only need to heat the inside up to 165F, not 400F, there’s also the fact that if you slap a chicken at 4,000 miles per hour, you probably won’t have any chicken left.

Dr. Mark helpfully pointed out that someone has already gone into far more detail than is strictly necessary to find the answer to a question similar to this one. XKCD went through the effort of trying to determine just how high up you’d have to be to drop a steak and have it be cooked by the time it hit the ground.

(Spoiler alert: there is no height that works.)

What else is math really good for?

Turns out, a whole lot of the things we like to eat require math to be truly tasty.

You need to measure things precisely, convert to different units, and time things perfectly for many fancier foods to come out delicious. Want to make a delicious steak? Sous vide is your best friend, and you’ll want to pay attention to the exact temperature and length of time you let your tasty meal simmer. Notice that the Food Lab went through the effort of clearly documenting their experiments and results—science!

Cake also has a lot to do with math. You can learn about theoretical mathematics by baking cake, or take the very practical approach of realizing that if you mess up your ingredient ratios, you’re not going to get very tasty treats.

Math helped Catherine Asaro write award-winning fiction, along with a slew of other impressive accomplishments she has under her belt.

While the typical AoPS student lives and breathes math every single day, not everyone feels the same way. With this month being Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, take the chance to light-heartedly point out the math in everything around us!

Have a fun “math is in everything we do” story to share? Send it to us at!

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