Logic and inspiration power convincing win

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Alishba Saeed [pictured] has triumphed in the national Mathematics and Statistics Research Competition.

The Year 11 Darwin High School student entered the University of Melbourne challenge, eager to display her mathematical and problem solving skills.

The event invited government and non-government entrants from years 5 to 12 to provide an elaborate response to one of eight open-ended questions.

She chose a question asking for a way of mapping the position of any integer [whole number] in a clockwise spiral of positive integers.

“I refined a process, tested it using many different integers, and explored methods for proving the process can be successfully applied to any number,” she said.

“The problem was quite simple…but it was sufficiently complex and abstract in its geometric nature.

“All the contestants had to present a report describing the reasoning behind their solutions, and answer questions in front of five University of Melbourne judges.”

Alishba summarised the key points of her solution, her approach to the conundrum, and expanded further on the problem.

“I proposed extensions of the problem not included in my report,” she said. “The judges were instantly intrigued. I was asked if I had a formal proof for my method…I anticipated they would ask, so I had prepared a proof.

“The problems were very different to mathematics taught at school. I saw the contest as an opportunity to expand my mathematical thinking, and challenge myself to communicate ideas clearly and succinctly.”

Alishba was jointly victorious with a team from John Monash Science School, a Melbourne specialist educator strongly focused on mathematics and science.

She aims to pursue a career that will hone her creative thinking and problem solving skills.

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