"We need fewer lawyers like me and more math students like you," Rep. Wayne Owens told approximately 80 seventh- and eighth-graders from around Utah as they gathered for Utah's MATHCOUNTS competition Saturday.
The students, winners of regional mathematics contests, were competing for the state title and an expense-paid trip to the national finals in Washington, D.C.The national champ will get a personal computer and a $10,000 scholarship.
Those going to Washington from Utah will be Gordon Hopper, Butler Middle School; Matt Bjorge and Mike Shirts, West High School; and Scott Robinson, Butler. Accompanying them will be Margaret Nielson, coach of the West High team.
Winning teams were West High (seventh and eighth grades), first; Butler Middle School, second; Millcreek Junior High, third; and Eisenhower Junior High, fourth.
Owens encouraged the Utah students to stick with their math studies and pursue careers in math, science and engineering.
America must have more specialists in those fields if it's to keep up economically with countries like Japan, the Utah congressman said.
"Last year, Japan sold this country $86 billion worth of goods, and they bought from this country $25 billion worth of goods." The $61 billion difference is "enormous," he said. "The whole Utah economy's about $20 billion."
State MATHCOUNTS Chairman Bruce Hutchinson said he hopes the contest will give students a little incentive to continue their math studies and pursue technical fields.
Emily Torgerson, a team member, and Melissa Haderlie, an alternate, from Springville Junior High, were excited to be involved. Torgerson wants to become a chemistry teacher or accountant or something else involving math, and Haderlie, whose father teaches high school chemistry, said she too wants to explore that field.
Sharon Ellis, coach of the Mount Logan Middle School team, said her students started preparing for the state meet by studying after school last October. "It's good for the kids. It really motivates them to do well."
Sponsors included Evans & Sutherland, Amoco, Utah Power & Light Co., Kennecott, US WEST, Novell, University Park Hotel, Signetics, Thiokol, National Society of Professional Engineers and Utah Society of Professional Engineers.