About the School

Follow us_twitter

Norbert Quirk Mathematical Essay Competition

History of the Norbert Quirk Prizes

The Norbert Quirk Prizes of the University of Sydney were founded in 1886 by a donation in memory of the Reverend John Norbert Quirk, Principal of Lyndhurst College. These prizes are for the written exposition of mathematics, and for many years were associated with the Sydney University Mathematical Society Problem Competition.

Starting from 2016, the Norbert Quirk Prizes Nos 1,2,3 (current value: $250 each) will be awarded each year to the best entries in the Norbert Quirk Mathematical Essay Competition received from University of Sydney students in the first, second and third years (respectively) of their undergraduate studies. The Norbert Quirk Prize No 4 will be awarded to a student in one of the Honours programs of the School of Mathematics and Statistics for their Honours essay.

2022 Essay Topic

The competition topic for 2022 is:

Is mathematics discovered or invented?

Note that "mathematics" is to be considered in its broadest sense, and can include statistics and data science.

In an essay of at most 12 pages, you are invited to answer the question of whether mathematics is discovered or invented. You can take this question as literally or as creatively as you wish. You should explain the mathematical/statistical theories involved in your answer.

Your essay should be written to be understandable by undergraduate students in mathematics or statistics. Essays will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • correctness and clarity of exposition of mathematical/statistical ideas;
  • demonstrated understanding of the research context in the relevant areas;
  • originality and interest;
  • elegance of expression and formatting;
  • accuracy and appropriateness of referencing.

2022 Judging Panel and Key Dates

The 2022 Norbert Quirk Mathematical Essay Competition will be judged by a panel consisting of Dr Nathan Brownlowe and others TBA, using the criteria described above. The key dates are:

  • Friday 14 October, 2022, 5pm: deadline to register as a potential entrant by emailing Nathan Brownlowe with your name, student ID, UniKey and year of study.
  • Friday 21 October, 2022, 5pm: deadline to submit your essay via Turnitin in the dedicated Canvas site.
  • November 2022: prizewinners notified.

See below for the competition rules. For further information and clarification, please email Nathan Brownlowe.

Competition Rules

  • Entrants must be undergraduate students of the University of Sydney who are not enrolled in an Honours program (or equivalent). They need not be currently enrolled in any units offered by the School of Mathematics and Statistics. Previous years' prizewinners may enter the competition again.
  • One prize will be awarded to the best entry from students in each of first year, second year, and third year, provided that entry is of sufficient quality. Subject to the previous rule, students who have been enrolled for more than six full-time semesters (or equivalent) may also enter, and will be counted as third-year students for the judging of prizes.
  • Prizes may be shared in the event that two or more entries are of equal merit.
  • The decisions of the judging panel are final.
  • Entries must not exceed 15 pages, including all references and diagrams.
  • Entries must be in English, typed, and submitted in PDF file format. They should be single-spaced in 12 point font (or equivalent), and should preferably use LaTeX for mathematical typesetting.
  • The essays entrants submit must be their own work. In accordance with usual academic practice, all sources used or quoted should be fully referenced. Entrants may discuss their essays with others, including students or staff members of the University, but all substantial contributions by other people must be fully disclosed and treated as external sources.
  • Entries must be submitted using Turnitin via the Learning Management System, and will be checked for originality. To obtain access to the relevant LMS page, entrants must register by email before the stated deadline. Registering as a potential entrant does not entail any further commitment.