US Math Students Win Honors

For the past 35 years, the US Army, in conjunction with the Mathematical Association of America, has sponsored the USA team’s participation at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO).  The IMO, which at 52 years is the oldest of the International Science Olympiads, is an annual, six-problem, 42-point math competition for high school students held over two days.  Each day, participants take a 4.5-hour, three-problem exam, which covers a wide range of mathematics.  (Looking for a challenge? Past questions can be found on the IMO website at http://www.imo-official.org/problems.aspx.) This year, 101 nations competed in the event, held on July 13 – 24, in Amsterdam. 

The American team placed second in the event—the best finish for Team USA since 2005, when it also placed second.  China took first place with 189 total points and 6 gold medals.  Team USA earned 184 points, with all six members receiving gold medals—a feat last accomplished in 1994.  And Singapore came in third place with 179 points.  In terms of individual performances, US contestant David Yang, a sophomore at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, tied for the fourth-best score among all individuals competing in the contest.

While the IMO provides an important and challenging global venue for students to test their skills, it also provides an opportunity to build international bridges via the extramural activities the teams participate in.  This year the Dutch Government and organizing committee arranged for a sailing expedition, an opportunity for energy release at the training facility for the Dutch Olympics, a soccer tournament, a bike/canal tour of Amsterdam, an excursion tour at The Hague, and lectures presented by the Dutch Center for Mathematics & Science.

President Obama has made a priority of improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to support the next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to help our Nation compete in the global economy.  [To see how well the US Chemistry Olympiad team also did in the recent International Chemistry Olympiad, held in Ankara, Turkey, check out this site.] OSTP has been working on a number of initiatives in this area – including improving the quality of our STEM education system; establishing ARPA-Ed to apply the successful strategies used by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency  to the task of deploying new learning technologies to our Nation’s schools; and supporting the Joining Forces initiative to improve math and science programs at schools attended by children of our military families. 

Congratulations to all the students on the USA Math Olympiad Team:

  • Wenyu Cao, a senior at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts;
  • Benjamin Gunby, a junior at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C.;
  • Xiaoyu He, a junior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Acton, Massachusetts;
  • Mitchell Lee, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science/Tech in Alexandria, Virginia;
  • Evan O'Dorney, a senior at Venture Home School in Danville, California;
  • David Yang, a sophomore at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire;
  • Sam Zbarsky, a sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, who served as alternate.

We thank the Army for its support of the team, and we look forward to even greater achievements next year!

Philip E. Coyle is the Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs at OSTP

Jeffrey D. Singleton is the Director for Basic Research and Director for Laboratory Management and Educational Outreach in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics & Technology

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