Jacob LaChance says math is simple, and the key is not to think about math but rather to think with math.
LaChance, a second-year student, was part of the Earlham duo that placed first in the Michigan Autumn Take Home (MATH) Challenge. LaChance and Peter McLarnan '10 worked for three hours in November to solve 10 questions. The Earlham team missed only one point on the nine questions they supplied answers to.
"When we first began, some of the problems jumped out to me and some jumped out to Peter," LaChance says. "It was relaxing and very meditative because I didn't have to think about anything other than the problems we were working to solve."
LaChance says he has always had a good relationship with math and attributes an early affection toward the subject to his father, who teaches math at the University of Michigan.
"When I was young and would get antsy my father would give me a math problem to tease my brain," he says. "Now math is a particularly simple thing to think about. I do think math is simple. Math simplifies life."
LaChance says he had wanted to partner with McLarnan since his first-year at Earlham. McLarnan, who graduated in December, twice has scored in the top 200 students on the prestigious William Lowell Putnam exam. McLarnan and LaChance are awaiting their results on the 2010 Putnam.
"I saw in this test an opportunity to work with Peter and it was an awesome experience," says LaChance, who also plays saxophone, enjoys biking and loves to cook. He also enjoys spending time in the woods or back campus building forts or simply clearing space. He plans to combine a math major with a minor in philosophy or French.
"Math was always a clear choice for me," he says. "I figure having a math degree combined with anything will help with whatever the anything is. I use math when I think about art and what makes art. It's not like I can turn it off and on. I see everything in a "mathy" way. It's not that I am thinking about math, it's that I am thinking with math."
In addition to Earlham's first-place team, the Earlham team of Son Van and Hoang Tran placed 19th. There were 67 teams competing in the event.
Jacob LaChance 2013
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Major at Earlham: Math
Interests: Saxophone, cooking, biking, fort building