Story by Paulene-Wendy Ntsame Assoumou and Sasha Devic
Velimir Stefanovic stares a last time at the “Mental Math” problem he just made up. Since his uncle and assistant professor Mel Corlija published his daily “Mental Math” problems in the Columbia Daily Tribune, he likes to help him create some mathematical brain-teasers to use. He hands it over to Corlija who scratches his chin. Challenging but not too much. He could use it for the Wednesday Columbia Daily Tribune publication.
“Why don’t you try to make up your own mathematical game, Veljko?” Corlija asked him one day.
That question rang like a bell in Stefanovic’s skull.
Coming from Straminjica Bana, Serbia’s Silicone Valley, the place to be in Serbia, according to him, math is to Stefanovic what a computer keyboard is to nerds. Or what Facebook is to teenagers! Stefanovic sees math as a universal language where people from all over the globe can understand and communicate with each other.
The math-junkie aspires to be a lawyer. Before he landed in the United States of America and, more precisely, in Missouri Valley College thanks to an athletic scholarship for soccer, he accomplished one year of law school in Serbia.
In Serbia, it is hard to do both–play soccer and study, Stefanovic said. He was not ready to give up on soccer, therefore both, play soccer and get his education in America, became an opportunity not to miss, he added.
While keeping his Russian-alike accent, he also seeks to strengthen his English daily and master American history, which is another subject he cherishes.
Double majoring in Political Science and Finance he plans on getting his bachelor’s degree in only three years.
Stefanovic daydreamed about his very own math puzzle. During his sleep, his brain was a Nascar engine, the speed minus the noise. With the help of his mentor, Mel Corlija, Stefanovic spent some time elaborating rules, pattern and name for his idea.
“Number Maze” is a pyramid of numbers where, like a mouse, the math solver needs to work his way up to the answer (top number) while using the operators (plus, minus, multiply and divide).
“Once we got the pattern down, it takes me around 15 minutes to make up a problem,” Stefanovic said.
Like “Mental Math,” the pattern of Number Maze is easy to put in a newspaper, Stefanovic said. So, he will propose his creation to some local newspapers, like the Marshall Democrat-News. Stefanovic created two degrees of puzzle challenges, easy and more complex.
On his own initiative, he contacted The Delta to provide some samples of his game and they will be posted regularly on the MVC Delta website. Stefanovic wants “Number Maze” to be known and by publishing it online, protected from plagiarism.
Stefanovic, resident assistant and tutor in Math and mentor of freshman seminar, is qualified as a “smart-kid” by instructor Tiffany Bergman. More than smart, athletic and involved in the college life, Stefanovic has the entrepreneurship ambition that Mel Corlija wants his students and nephew to strive for.