Ivars Peterson's MathTrek
July 26, 2004
The Olympic games were not the only athletic contests in ancient Greece. The Pythian games took place at Delphi every 4 years, 2 years after the Olympic games. These games had started off as music contests in honor of the god Apollo, but by 582 B.C., they also included athletic events. The festivities lasted 6 to 8 days and featured various cultural activities. Musicians and actors competed to be the best in playing the flute, singing, or reciting tragedy.
In that spirit, modern-day Olympic Games have included a variety of cultural events. This year, as Athens prepared for the latest edition of the Olympic Games, the Hellenic Mathematical Society hosted the 45th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), July 618.
Held annually since 1959, the IMO brings together teams of high school students from around the world to compete in solving extremely challenging math problems. This year's competition in Athens featured six-student teams from 85 countries.
Over the course of 2 days, the competing students had 9 hours to solve six problems.
In the final team standings, China took first place, followed by the United States and Russia. It was the best U.S. showing since 1994.
The IMO also awarded 45 gold medals to the students who managed to "correctly and elegantly" solve all six problems.
Overall, the U.S. team earned five gold medals and one silver medal. Oleg Golberg of Bedford, Mass., earned a gold medal and 40 out of 42 possible points, obtaining the best score on the U.S. team. The other gold-medal winners were Tiankai Liu of Saratoga, Calif., (38 points), Aaron Pixton of Vestal, N.Y., (37 points), Alison Miller of Niskayuna, N.Y., (33 points), and Tony Zhang of Arcadia, Calif., (33 points). Miller was the first female gold-medal winner for a team from the U.S. Matt Ince of Arnold, Mo., earned 31 points and a silver medal.
Interestingly, Tiankai was a member of the 2001 U.S. IMO team. That team's efforts are vividly described in Steve Olson's book Count Down. He also participated in the 2002 IMO. Tiankai has a Web site at http://www.geocities.com/buniakowski/.
How would you do at the IMO? You can find a list of questions (and solutions) featured at these competitions since 1959 at http://www.kalva.demon.co.uk/imo.html.
Here's a geometry problem from this year's set of questions.
Let ABC be an acute-angled triangle with AB not equal to AC. The circle with diameter BC intersects the sides AB and AC at M and N respectively. Denote by O the midpoint of the side BC. The bisectors of the angles BAC and MON intersect at R. Prove that the circumcircles of the triangles BMR and CNR have a common point lying on the side BC.
Next year's IMO will take place in Cancun, Mexico.
Copyright © 2004 by Ivars Peterson
2004. International Mathematical Olympiad announces winners. Mathematical Association of America press release. July 17. Available at http://www.maa.org/news/072104imowinners.html.
Kuczma, M.E. 2003. International Mathematical Olympiads 19861999. Washington, D.C.: Mathematical Association of America.
Olson, S. 2004. Count Down: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World's Toughest Math Competition. New York: Houghton Mifflin. See http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/features/countdown/.
Peterson, I. 2002. Dangerous problems. MAA Online (July 1).
______. 2001. Bubbles and math olympiads. MAA Online (June 18).
______. 1998. Prime talent. MAA Online (July 6).
Information about the 45th International Mathematical Olympiad, held in Athens, is available at http://www.imo2004.gr/.
Information about the American Mathematics Competitions can be found at http://www.unl.edu/amc/.
Problems (and solutions) from all previous International Mathematical Olympiad competitions are available online at http://www.kalva.demon.co.uk/imo.html.
You can learn more about the ancient Olympic Games in Greece at http://www.museum.upenn.edu/new/olympics/olympicintro.shtml and http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Olympics/.
Comments are welcome. Please send messages to Ivars Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A collection of Ivars Peterson's early MathTrek articles, updated and illustrated, is now available as the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) book Mathematical Treks: From Surreal Numbers to Magic Circles. See http://www.maa.org/pubs/books/mtr.html.