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Fall 2009

Trinity Reporter Fall 2009
along the walk
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Sentence diagramming class receives national attention

Lucy Ferriss

Lucy Ferris (above), writer in residence at Trinity, offers a class on sentence diagramming, an all-but-lost technique for understanding how grammar works. The class is called “Constructing Thought,” and it culminates with a competition between two teams of students to see who can—in just 45 minutes—do the best job of diagramming a 100-word sentence. The sentences for the diagramming “slam” are supplied by the opposing team, so they are quite intricate and full of potential pitfalls.

This year, the class attracted the attention of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the premier periodical for reporting on activities in the world of colleges and universities. The photograph shown here and on the homepage appeared in a Chronicle article titled “Diagram This Sentence in One Minute, If You Can” that appeared on May 15 and are reproduced with permission from the photographer, Stan Godlewski.

Three Trinity students win regional math competition

In the spring semester, three Trinity College students took first place in the Central Connecticut State University Regional Mathematics Competition. The competition featured 12 teams, including MIT, Yale, Wesleyan, and the University of Connecticut, among others. Trinity sophomore Young Ho Shin finished first among all participants.
“We were definitely surprised,” Shin said about the results. “I don’t think anyone expected us to win.”

The teams consisted of at least three people. The participants took a three-hour-long exam, the scores of which decided both the winning team and the winning individual. For teams with more than three people, scores were taken from that team’s top three scorers. Although Trinity had 3 students in all, other teams had as many as 10 participants.

Shin was joined by junior Ankit Saraf and sophomore Rahul Ratna Shakya, who was added to the team on the day of the competition after being recruited by Shin to meet the required minimum of three participants. Shin and Saraf learned about the competition through fliers in the Mathematics Department. They are engineering students.
“Math is a huge element of engineering,” Shakya said.

And while the three are dedicated to the field of engineering, the students recognize its integral relationship to mathematics. They said they are eager to strengthen their knowledge of mathematics to enhance their comprehension of engineering.

The competition was organized in the spirit of the Putnam exam, a national math competition that is held annually for undergraduate students. The Putnam exam is an extremely challenging examination in which nearly half of the participants receive a score of zero.

Saraf competed in the Putnam exam in 2006 and 2008, scoring each time. In 2006, Saraf ranked 937.5 out of 3,640 students from 508 institutions in the United States and Canada.

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