DENVER - Jenna Peters knows something most teenagers don't. She believes that despite the sentiments of many students, math can actually be fun.
"I think that there's this common misperception that math is something that's just painful," said Peters, a senior from Kent Denver School. "A lot of kids learn that in elementary school that math is hard. Math is evil."
Peters is one of dozens of students who converged on the Auraria Campus to participate in the 26th Annual Math Day competitions put on by the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
"It's a way for us to connect with high school kids," said Dr. Jim Loats, professor of mathematics for MSU Denver. "Let them know there is a math department in town that's ready to have them as students."
Loats says the math department at Metro State is short on numbers. It's a problem that is widespread across the United States with not enough students interested in math and science fields.
"The idea is to attract more people into these disciplines," said Loats.
Math Day is a competition which pits teams of students in competitions of engineering, geometry, and algebra. Peters and her group had to build a structure out of spaghetti and masking tape.
"Absolutely essential to show kids that we have events like this that show kids that math can be fun, that math can be really interesting," said Peters.
Anayeli Gonzalez already knows what Peters has figured out. Four years ago, she and her classmates won the Math Day competition. Now, she is going attending Metro State as a pursuing a career in math.
"At least for me, it opened the idea that I could be a math major, that wasn't too hard. It wasn't impossible for me to be a math major," said Gonzalez. "It helps a lot of high school students to realize that they can do this for life."
Loats says teenagers do not realize that there are a lot of high-paying jobs out there for math majors -- jobs like being an attorney, software engineers, or corporate inventory specialist.
"A person who has a math major, who goes to work for a company and the company hires them because math majors are good at solving problems," said Loats.
Loats is not just talking about math problems. He is talking about logistical problems, life problems, every day work problems.
"Mathematics isn't just about having the answer," said Loats. "It's about being able to explain why it makes sense."
At the competition, a team from Lakewood High School won the engineering competition and algebra contest. The Kent Denver team won the geometry division.
Peters says her passion for math is evolving into an interest of pursuing neurosciences when she enters college next year. She says events like Math Day can have an impact on students' futures.
"It can be the smallest thing that just piques something in your mind, makes you feel interested, makes you want to read more," said Peters. "That could completely change your career path."
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