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KNOXVILLE — Ten of the state’s best student mathematicians will calculate their way to scholarships in the annual Tennessee Mathematics Contest on Thursday at the University of Tennessee.

The UT math department, sponsor of the contest, is expecting some 650 students to compete for the 10 top prizes — four-year UT tuition scholarships and an invitation to join the university’s honors program.

“We’ve seen a 30 percent growth in entrants from last year,” said Dr. John Conway, head of the math department. “We’re pleased that the state’s schools are taking advantage of this opportunity to increase their students’ interest in mathematics.”

Conway said the day’s activities start at Stokely Athletics Center with a first-round exam in the morning for all competitors. The afternoon includes a second exam for the semifinalists and a competition for team honors in a scholars’ bowl setting. The winners will be announced at 4 p.m. in the Clarence Brown Theatre.

“We’re trying to foster an appreciation for the importance of mathematics,” Conway said. “We also want to introduce the state’s best students to what UT offers them academically.”

Forty-eight teams from as far away as Memphis and the Tri-Cities have registered to compete. Other high schools are sending only individual competitors.

In 1999, the inaugural year for the contest, 500 students took part in the day’s activities. Knoxville’s Farragut High School took home five of the top 10 individual prizes. Dobyns-Bennett and Bartlett high schools won team honors for large schools, and Cleveland and Powell high schools won for small schools from among 32 competitors overall.

Conway said travel scholarships for distant high schools are being provided by Casio Inc., which makes calculators and pocket computers, and by a Knoxville couple, Ashvin and Tara Patel.

More information is available at http://www.math.utk.edu/TMC/