Home History Archives L.-S. Hahn

The New Mexico Mathematics Contest was born the year before the first Super Bowl in 1966. It has gone through three name changes during the course of its history and is currently known as the UNM-PNM Statewide Mathematics Contest.

In 1966 Professor Hillman, with the able assistance of Professor Richard Grassl, initiated the New Mexico Mathematics Contest for the state's high school students. The problems that were on the contest exams were unique in that they required a certain amount of creative thinking to solve. Professor Hillman, being named a Putnam Fellow in 1938, was uniquely qualified to compose such contest problems. The William Lowell Putnam Competition is the most prestigious mathematics competition for undergraduate students in the US and Canada .

From 1956-1965 Professor Hillman was a professor at Santa Clara University in California , were he started a High School Mathematics Contest. The contest was immensely successful; therefore, when he moved to New Mexico in 1966, he was eager to do the same here in New Mexico .

The contest was mainly for Albuquerque students at that time, but quickly grew to include students from the entire state. At its peak the contest had more than 3000 participants!

In 1974, after heading up the contest for 8 years, Professor Hillman and Professor Grassl resigned. It was then that Professor Jeff Davis along with Doris Bowen, a mathematics teacher from Eldorado High School assumed leadership duties for the contest. At that time, the contest was called the UNM-ACTM School Mathematics Contest, since the Albuquerque Council of Teachers of Mathematics was also involved in administering the contest.

Four years later, Professor Davis turned the contest over to Professor Frank Kelly and Professor Liong Shin Hahn in 1978. Prof. Liong-Shin Hahn was a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at UNM from 1968 until his retirement in 1999. For most of those years he was involved with the "New Mexico Mathematics Contest" the name by which it was known at that time.

From 1990 to 1999, Prof. Hahn was solely responsible for composing the contest problems. His work raised the "New Mexico Mathematics Contest" to national prominence. Other contests, such as the "Oklahoma Contest" are modeled after our mathematics contest.

Prof. Hahn was awarded the "Citation for Public Service" by the "American Mathematical Society" in 1998 because of his work with the New Mexico Mathematics Contest. This distinguished citation is presented annually for notable contributions to the mathematics profession through public service.

Professor Hahn's career is marked by several notable contributions to the field of mathematics. He is the author of several mathematics books including "Classical Complex Analysis", "Complex Numbers and Geometry and the New Mexico Mathematics Contest Problem Book". Working along with Professor Hahn, was Professor Frank Kelly who served as Contest Coordinator. At that time the Albuquerque Tribune sponsored the contest.

In 1996, Professor Kelly retired from the contest, and Cathy (Gosler) Briand became the Contest Coordinator. She was instrumental in enlisting the support of the PNM, whose participation has enabled the contest to expand in terms of the banquet, plaques, books, and prizes. The PNM in partnership with the Department of Mathematics & Statistics has provided yearly support for the contest since 1997.

In 1999 Professor Hahn retired and UNM Professor Cristina Pereyra became the writer of the contest problems. In the period 1999 - 2007 she and Professor Michael Nakamaye shared in the writing of the contest problems while Cathy Briand continued her coordinationing and supporting duties.

During the period 2008-2016 professors Janet Vassilev and Dimiter Vassilev were co-directing and managing all activities of the UNM-PNM Contest.

Janet Vassilev and Daniel Appelo co-directed the 2016-2017 contest. Janet Vassilev and Hongnian Huang co-directed the 2017-2018 contest. During the period 2018-2020 professors Hongnian Huang and Jehanzeb Hameed Chaudhry co-directed the contest. Gleb Zhelezov and Professor James Degnan co-directed the 2021-2022 contest. For 2022-2023 Michael Heitzman took over from Gleb Zhelezov, and Stephen Lau replaced Michael Heitzman as co-director for 2023-2024.

Sterling Coke created the contest webpage, with parts still in use after his retirement.