Carnegie Mellon University
March 29, 2022

Quantathon Participants Make Math Passion Count

By Kirsten Heuring

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

On February 19, the Quant Club held the all-day Quantathon, where student teams flexed their math muscles for a chance to win up to $2,000. The Quantathon was the first in-person Quant Club event since February 2020, and it was sponsored by Goldman Sachs.

Students were given a gambling problem designed by Steve Shreve, professor emeritus of mathematical sciences. The students were told that they had two coins, and they did not know if each coin was fair or how often the coins would land on heads or tails. Organizers asked the teams: based on information from previous coin flips, how could you most efficiently bet on the game?

Teams were sent off to discover the answer to the problem.“The teams that did well all had the correct numerical answer to the most challenging part, but some of them based it on intuitions and simulations with Python, and others had very elegant ways of demonstrating that the answer was correct,” said William Hrusa, professor of mathematical sciences and advisor to the Quant Club.

Though most of the teams found a correct answer, the winning team went above and beyond what was expected, taking the problem and making it applicable no matter how many coins are involved. 

“Instead of coding these well-known formulas that most other teams did, the winning team went ahead and did these rigorous bounds, rigorous proofs of these terms,” said Gan Yang, president of the Quant Club and a junior mathematical sciences student. “They were able to generalize those results into the bigger case where there's more than two coins.”

Though the first place team, That’s My Quant, was made up of juniors and seniors, the second place team, Buy High Sell Low, consisted of first year students.

“A lot of the teams really demonstrated mathematical maturity beyond what their school year might suggest,” said Yang. “It shows the caliber of CMU students and the amount of mathematical preparedness they have really shown over the course of the event.” 

Over 130 students participated in the Quantathon, with most of them being first years and sophomores. The Quant Club is hoping that the positive experience of the Quantathon will draw more participants to future Quant Club events. 

“We want to open it up to everyone,” said Yang. “Whether or not you're in a major related to mathematical finance, if you're interested, we want you to have the opportunity to explore this field.” 

Students who are interested in being part of Quant Club activities can sign up for the mailing list on the Quant Club website. They will receive regular updates on future Quant Club speaker sessions and activities.

“We'd like to expand the range of what we're doing, or we'd just like to hold events like this one,” said Croft. “We think that AI is going to become a part of physics in the way that experiments are, and pencil and paper are.”