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“Wanted: Brilliant Young Minds” Campaign Kicks Off

Many Americans first heard about the International Mathematical Olympiad last summer when the U.S. team made national headlines for winning first place in what is known as the world championship mathematics competition for high school students. Six months later, more than 250 math enthusiasts filled a movie theater in Seattle, Washington to watch math competitions come alive on the silver screen.

A student takes the AMC 8 at Day Waterman College in Nigeria.

The MAA, with support from Sony Home Entertainment, hosted an exclusive pre-screening of A Brilliant Young Mind on January 7, 2016. The event kicked off a new MAA campaign called “Wanted: Brilliant Young Minds,” to raise awareness of MAA sponsored math competitions.

The film tells a coming-of-age story of a gifted high school student named Nathan (played by Asa Butterfield, Ender’s Game) as he goes through the challenging process leading up to competing at the IMO. While he works his way up to the contest Nathan must navigate personal tragedy, an autism diagnosis, and complicated relationships with his family, teammates, and love interests.

“I especially loved the portrayal of humanness in the context of exploring and living mathematics,” said James Tanton, Mathematician-at-Large for the MAA, about the film. “I don't think many people truly understand that mathematics is an intensely human experience--both in its doing and thinking, but also in its historical development, and also how it operates in living and experiencing life,” he said.

Characters and plot points in the film are adapted from the original BBC documentary (similarly named Beautiful Young Minds, directed by Morgan Matthews) which adds authenticity to the story. The mathematics are legitimate too, pointed out Tanton. “Every question portrayed was a deep, playful, and organic question. This is joyous, hard, but intensely satisfying mathematics.”

“Wanted: Brilliant Young Minds” seeks to boost middle school and high school math competitions distributed by the MAA American Mathematics Competitions (AMC). More than 350,000 students participate each year in contests designed to engage and inspire young people nation wide.

“Math competitions provide an alternate context for students to work on significantly more challenging math than is available in the standard classroom curriculum.” said Po-Shen Loh, who is an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University and directs the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program.

Participating in these contests may lead students down the road to the USA Mathematical Olympiad, and on to compete with their mathematical peers from around the globe at the IMO.

“For math enthusiasts, competitions provide a host of significantly more challenging and far-reaching mathematical questions which tickle the mind and encourage development of analytical creativity,” said Loh, who is also the lead coach for the USA IMO team.

Students, parents, and teachers can find out more about the MAA’s math competitions on the campaign website:

The film A Brilliant Young Mind will be available on DVD & Digital on January 26, 2016.

News Date: 
Wednesday, January 27, 2016