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U.S. Students Compete in Romanian Math Competition

While many believe that the toughest high school math contest is the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), there is one contest that students find more challenging: the Romanian Master of Mathematics (RMM). This week six American high schoolers will compete in one of the most difficult math contests in the world in Bucharest, Romania from February 24–29.

The U.S. contestants are Celine Liang, Alec Sun, Eshaan Nichani, Michael Ma, Junyao Peng, and Calvin Lee, who will be competing with 17 other teams representing 16 countries (Romania is sending two teams). The U.S. team is led by Coach Razvan Gelca, professor of mathematics at Texas Tech University, and is accompanied by deputy leader Po-Shen Loh, professor of mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University.

By design, the RMM has harder problems than the IMO, and it is very challenging to receive a medal, says Gelca. He points out that it is possible that American student could win a bronze medal at the RMM, but then go on to win a gold medal at the IMO.

The arduous nature of the RMM make it an ideal training ground for IMO hopefuls, says Gelca. That is why only fresh competitors, students who have never competed in the IMO, are eligible to be on the U.S. team.

“We see this as an opportunity to give students international contest experience and prime them for the international Olympiad,” says Gelca.

The competition is run just like the International Mathematical Olympiad: contestants work through six problems over two days. The team score is based on the combined highest three individual scores. Since the first RMM in 2008, the United States has regularly placed in the top three, winning the first-place trophy in 2011 and 2013.

Despite the challenge, Gelca is confident about his team’s performance this week. “The U.S. training program is one of the best in the world,” he says. “It is the same feeling as going to a sports competition and watching the best team play. The fact that I interact with [students] who are so talented, so intelligent, and so hard working is extraordinary.”

While the United States chooses to send only contestants who have never participated in the IMO before (a choice which is not universal across RMM participating countries), about 20 American students, including those who attended the 2015 IMO, will still take the test on their native turf. Because the RMM test scores count as a qualifier for the U.S. IMO team, students can still take the test and turn in their scores. This will ultimately go toward the final selection of the six members who will compete in Hong Kong at the 2016 IMO this summer.

About AMC

The Mathematical Association of America is the largest professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level. The mission of the MAA's American Mathematics Competitions is to increase interest in mathematics and to develop problem solving through a fun competition. Teachers and schools benefit from the chance to challenge students with interesting mathematical questions that are aligned with curriculum standards at all levels of difficulty.

News Date: 
Tuesday, February 23, 2016