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Go Texas Math!
Message #1 Posted by dbatiz on 11 Aug 2007, 4:53 p.m.

My introduction to HP calculators was in the University of Texas Interscholastic League (UIL). I used to compete with my trusty HP 11c.

I doubt these tests would be a challenge to folks on this forum, but just for fun (and a chance to break in a new HP 35s), I provide the following link:

Click "Downloads", then Calculator "Application Tests".

Notice the cover art on the tests.

I'm working through them on my HP 50g.

Today, my speed is in the dumper, but my accuracy has improved. Considering the company here, please forgive me if I do NOT post my latest score.... ;) If anybody is interested, I'm sure I can dig up the rules for scoring these tests. Did anybody else do competitive math in school?

In Texas, competitive math starts in elementary school. I wish more states would have a UIL like program.

Very respectfully,


Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #2 Posted by Dave Shaffer (Arizona) on 11 Aug 2007, 6:43 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by dbatiz

How long do the kids have to do this? A fixed time, or does quickness count, too? The credit for each (correct) answer must depend on the problem, too, since some of these are MUCH harder (well, as least more complicated) than others.

You also have to know some physics (or at least how gravity and constant acceleration work) for some questions, such as the ball bounce problem (as well as lots of conversion factors).

Did you bring your own calculator? Were you allowed to program it ahead of time for expected problems?

A pretty comprehensive set of questions.

IIRC, a previous contributor here (Ben Salinas) was one of the Texas school boy whizzes, and he LOVED his HP32 for this test.

Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #3 Posted by dbatiz on 11 Aug 2007, 6:55 p.m.,
in response to message #2 by Dave Shaffer (Arizona)

Yikes, the rules have changed. It seems they only grade as far as you got in the test. They award five points for correct answers and deduct 4 points for wrong/empy responses. Contestants are allowed 30 minutes to work on the test.

I wonder if the SILENT requirment would disqualify a 50g? Is there any way to disable the BEEP completey?

For detailed explanation, please see the link below:

Very Respectfully,


Edited: 11 Aug 2007, 10:03 p.m.

Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #4 Posted by Ben Salinas on 12 Aug 2007, 3:10 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by dbatiz

Yep... I did these.

To clarify scoring is as follows: Multiply the last number attempted by 5. Then subtract from this, the number missed (or left blank, up until the last one completed) multiplied by 9 (essentially, you get 5 for every one done correctly and minus 4 for each one missed, although it only goes up until the last one completed).

Each answer should have 3 significant figures (unless otherwise noted), so most people kept their scientific calculator on "SCI 2". (Problems involving dollars should be to the nearest cent and problems asking for integers should be, well, integers) Calculators did need to be cleared before the competition (I think).

To give you an idea of where people scored: The winnning people in the state (definitely not me) would finish the test and miss just a few (if any). It was not unusual to see scores in the 350-390 range. (You can also compare your scores to those from around the state by looking at the scores posted on the above list)

Texas does have a very large academic competition league (UIL), which can be good or bad. While it gets some students interested in math, it also gets students caught up in competition math. Of course, without UIL, I would have never seen an HP calculator.

Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #5 Posted by allen on 12 Aug 2007, 1:36 p.m.,
in response to message #4 by Ben Salinas

I also got started with HP calculators because of Texas UIL math competition. Until our Algebra teacher invited us to a competition I was content with my TI-36X. After a terrible score on the first few tests (ironically missing from the link above), I started training with a 32sii borrowed from the school. I soon bought my own calculator. It is still sitting 1 meter from me in it's HP leather holster. :-)

Quote: also gets students caught up in competition math...
All math is competition math :-)

Edited: 12 Aug 2007, 1:38 p.m.

Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #6 Posted by Bruce Bergman on 12 Aug 2007, 12:20 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by dbatiz

Interesting links, guys! I had never heard of this before.

I found it particularly fascinating to go into the forums on that site and read what the younger crowd says about RPN versus AOS-type calculators, and how it helps their scores. Really enlightening.

One comment that occurred frequently, which disturbed me, was that they felt the TI calculators were more "accurate". In my experience, HP calcs were always the most accurate.

Another comment had be laughing AND shaking my head at the same time. This person wrote:

P.S. Our sponsor is really old and has lots of HP32SII's just laying around. For those of you not in such a convenient situation, the old HP's cost around $200 dollars on the internet. So taking cost into consideration, you can either go with a 33S, which I find unwieldy, or an algebraic notation calulator like a TI.

"lots of HP32SII's just laying around"?? Now that's my kind of school! ;-)

Anyhow, it's an interesting read. You can go directly to the forums by going here:

RPN calcs opinion thread

thanks, bruce

Edited: 12 Aug 2007, 12:20 p.m.

Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #7 Posted by Vincze on 12 Aug 2007, 9:51 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by dbatiz


Thank you so much my friend for sharing. No offense but this seem like easy math from what I see. Was thus at university level? These seem like questions we do in secondary school in Hungary.

I do appreciate post though as I always find it fun to test mind.

Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #8 Posted by dbatiz on 12 Aug 2007, 10:06 p.m.,
in response to message #7 by Vincze


I became involved with the UIL in high school, grades 9-12. I've found study material for contests in the elementary school and middle school levels, grades 5-8. It is ran by the University of Texas, but the contests are for highschool and below.

I have family who were educated in Mexico. When they came to the States and enrolled in school, we backed them up 1 year so they could have time to learn English. They were surprised that the material, especially in math, seemed several years behind the Mexican schools.

IMHO I beleive US schools offer as much opportunity as any schools from any country, but the fewer kids have the desire to take advantage of it.

Very respectfully,


Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #9 Posted by Vincze on 13 Aug 2007, 8:50 a.m.,
in response to message #8 by dbatiz

They were surprised that the material, especially in math, seemed several years behind the Mexican schools.

I agree 100% with that statement. I am shocked at how "scared" students are of math and science in United States. Yes, some school really push math and science, but vast majority of schools seem not to. This is a big shame because we are losing pace with the rest of the world in these areas.
Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #10 Posted by Vincze on 13 Aug 2007, 3:50 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by dbatiz

I give one page of test to my son who will be sophomore this year, and he do very good on it. I also test myself, and I make a couple of stupid mistakes on very simple problem, but do well on harder ones. Duh... ;)

Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #11 Posted by Tony David Potter on 14 Aug 2007, 1:11 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by dbatiz

Thanks to all that visited my site (

Texas is one of the few states that has academic contests between schools (in addition to athletics) and both here are governed by the UIL (University Interscholastic League,

The Calculator Applications contest evolved from the Slide Rule contest that UIL developed in response to World War II demand for mathematicians and engineers. The UIL considers the Calculator Applications contest to be a predominately engineering contest, hence all the involved physics word problems and surveying-type geometry problems.

The current incarnation of the test is a thirty minute, seventy problem test. Students are only graded on what they attempt, that is, problems skipped past the last problem attempted aren't counted wrong. Scoring is five times the last number attempted minus seven times each problem skipped or missed up to that point.

When I first started competing in this contest, I used an 11C. Since becoming a coach, I've indoctrinated dozens of kids into using 32SII's, 33S's, and just purchased my first 35S a few weeks ago. Students have told me of their "frustration" trying to use "other" calculators after training on the HP's, and I've given plenty of 48's (graciously donated from members on here) as "graduation presents" so they could continue to benefit from RPN (and return my 32SII's so I can teach the next batch.)

In additon to coaching Calculator Applications, I also coach UIL Number Sense and Mathematics, as well as work with students in the American Mathematics Contests (had my first USAMO qualifier last year), the Junior Engineering Technical Society TEAMS contest, and the Trig*Star contest hosted by the National Society of Professional Surveyors. I enjoy teaching students to "think outside the box" that modern education has forced them into.

I'm glad people found my site interesting. If you have any questions, let me know.

Tony David Potter

Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #12 Posted by Chan Tran on 14 Aug 2007, 10:16 a.m.,
in response to message #11 by Tony David Potter

Taking a look at one test and I found that the algelbaric calculator can do just as well if not better (I am talking about the advanced model that let you enter the expression as is) for the problem where they just ask you to evaluate an expression. For the word problem I think the RPN or RPL calculator would be much faster. The reason is that I would not have to write down any expression in order to solve the problem. The RPN calc allows you to solve for the small part at a time.

Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #13 Posted by Ben Salinas on 14 Aug 2007, 4:22 p.m.,
in response to message #12 by Chan Tran

The general consensus among competitors (and this is not shared by everyone) is that the calculations can usually be solved faster by using RPN because you don't have to think about parentheses. Some of my classmates who prefered using their TI-89 (and used it very well) tried the test and had a great deal of trouble because of how deep the parentheses go.

Once I got my 49g+, I would occasionally try using the algebraic mode there (which autocompletes parentheses), but I still haven't become used to that calculator.

Earlier in this thread there was a link to a thread on the TexasMath forum in which a few students (one of which I know, I think) stated they prefered using their 89's, so this is not an opinion shared by all.

Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #14 Posted by James M. Prange (Michigan) on 15 Aug 2007, 7:31 p.m.,
in response to message #12 by Chan Tran

Well, where it's a matter of evaluating a given algebraic expression, with the RPL models you could just enter and EVAL an "algebraic object". To be sure, to enter it from the command line, one may have to add some parentheses, and of course all multiplications must be explicit. On the 48/49 series, setting flag -53 makes the calculator display extra parentheses that normally wouldn't be needed due to precedence rules.

Also, on the 48/49 series, you can view an expression in "equation writer" format, to check whether it matches the the given expression. But using the equation writer to enter the expression would probably be too slow, at least on the 48 series. For that matter, on the 49 series, expressions on the stack can be displayed in "Textbook" format.

Of course, for a "word" problem using an RPL model, an RPN sequence would typically be fastest because an algebraic expression wouldn't have to be developed.


Re: Go Texas Math!
Message #15 Posted by Chan Tran on 20 Aug 2007, 7:31 a.m.,
in response to message #14 by James M. Prange (Michigan)

And the problems that I encounter would generally be word problem although most are relatively simple.

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