International Mathematical Olympiad

International Mathematical Olympiad

The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is an annual six-problem, 42-point mathematical olympiad for pre-collegiate students and is the oldest of the international science olympiads. [cite web|url=|title=International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO)|date=2-1-08] The first IMO was held in Romania in 1959. It has since been held annually, except in 1980. About 90 countries send teams of up to six students, plus one team leader, one deputy leader, and observers. [cite web|url=|title=The International Mathematical Olympiad 2001 Presented by the Akamai Foundation Opens Today in Washington, D.C.|accessdate=2008-03-05]

The content ranges from extremely difficult precalculus problems to problems on branches of mathematics not conventionally covered at school and often not at university level either, such as projective and complex geometry, functional equations and well-grounded number theory, of which extensive knowledge of theorems is required. Calculus, though allowed in solutions, is never required, as there is a principle at play that anyone with a basic understanding of mathematics should understand the problems, even if the solutions require a great deal more knowledge. Supporters of this principle claim that this allows more universality and creates an incentive to find elegant, deceptively simple-looking problems which nevertheless require a certain level of ingenuity.

The selection process differs by country, but it often consists of a series of tests which admit fewer students at each progressing test. Awards are given to a top percentage of the individual contestants. Teams are not officially recognized—all scores are given only to individual contestants, but team scoring is unofficially compared more so than individual scores. [cite web|url=|title=33rd International Mathematical Olympiad|accessdate=2008-03-05|date=7-21-92|author=Tony Gardiner|publisher=University of Birmingham] Contestants must be under the age of 20 and must not be registered at any tertiary institution. Subject to these conditions, an individual may participate any number of times in the IMO.cite web|url=|title=The International Mathematical Olympiad|accessdate=2008-03-05|publisher=AMC]


The first IMO was held in Romania in 1959. Since then it has been held every year except 1980. That year, it was cancelled due to internal strife in Mongolia. [Turner, Nura D. "A Historical Sketch of Olympiads: U.S.A. and International" "The College Mathematics Journal", Vol. 16, No. 5 (Nov., 1985), pp. 330-335] It was initially founded for eastern European countries participating in the Warsaw Pact, under the Soviet bloc of influence, but eventually other countries participated as well. Because of this eastern origin, the earlier IMOs were hosted only in eastern European countries, and gradually spread to other nations. [cite web|url=|title=Singapore International Mathematical Olympiad (SIMO) Home Page|accessdate=2008-02-04|publisher=Singapore Mathematical Society]

Sources differ about the cities hosting some of the early IMOs. This may be partly because leaders are generally housed well away from the students, and partly because after the competition the students did not always stay based in one city for the rest of the IMO. The exact dates cited may also differ, because of leaders arriving before the students, and at more recent IMOs the IMO Advisory Board arriving before the leaders. [cite web|url=|title=Norwegian Students in International Mathematical Olympiad|accessdate=2008-03-05]

Several students, such as Christian Reiher, have performed exceptionally well on the IMO, scoring multiple gold medals. Others, such as Grigory Margulis, have gone on to become notable mathematicians. Several former participants have won awards such as the Fields medal. [Harv|Lord|2001]

coring and format

The paper consists of six problems, with each problem being worth seven points, the total score thus being 42 points. No calculators are allowed. The examination is held over two consecutive days; the contestants have four-and-a-half hours to solve three problems per day. The problems chosen are from various areas of secondary school mathematics, broadly classifiable as geometry, number theory, algebra, and combinatorics. They require no knowledge of higher mathematics such as calculus and analysis, and solutions are often short and elementary. However, they are usually disguised so as to make the process of finding the solutions difficult. Prominently featured are algebraic inequalities, complex numbers, and construction-oriented geometrical problems. [Harv|Olson|2004]

Each participating country, other than the host country, may submit suggested problems to a Problem Selection Committee provided by the host country, which reduces the submitted problems to a shortlist. The team leaders arrive at the IMO a few days in advance of the contestants and form the IMO Jury which is responsible for all the formal decisions relating to the contest, starting with selecting the six problems from the shortlist. As the leaders know the problems in advance of the contestants, they are kept strictly separated and observers. [Harv|Djukić|2006]

Each country's marks are agreed between that country's leader and the deputy leader and coordinators provided by the host country (the leader of the team whose country submitted the problem in the case of the marks of the host country), subject to the decisions of the chief coordinator and ultimately a jury if any disputes cannot be resolved. [cite web|url=|title=IMO Facts from Wolfram|accessdate=2008-03-05]

election process

The selection process for the IMO varies greatly by country. In some countries, especially those in east Asia, the selection process involves several difficult tests of a difficulty comparable to the IMO itself. [Harv|Liu|1998] The Chinese contestants go through a camp, which lasts from March 16 to April 2. [Chen, Wang. Personal interview. February 19, 2008.] In others, such as the USA, possible participants go through as series of easier standalone competitions that gradually increase in difficulty. In the case of the USA, the tests include the American Mathematics Competitions, the American Invitational Mathematics Examination, and the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad, each of which is a competition in its own right. For high scorers on the final competition for the team selection, there also is a summer camp, like that of China's. [cite web|url=|title=The American Mathematics Competitions|accessdate=2008-03-05]

The former Soviet Union and other eastern European countries' selection process consists of choosing a team several years beforehand, and giving them special training specifically for the event. However, such methods have been discontinued in some countries. [cite web|url=|title=IMO 1997|accessdate=2008-03-05|author=David C. Hunt|publisher=Australian Mathematical Society]


The participants are ranked based on their individual scores.
*Subsequently the cutoffs (minimum score required to receive a gold, silver or bronze medal) are chosen such that the ratio of medals awarded approximates 1:2:3.
*Participants who do not win a medal but who score seven points on at least one problem get an honorable mention. [cite web|url=|title=How Medals Are Determined|accessdate=2008-03-05]

Special prizes may be awarded for solutions of outstanding elegance or involving good generalisations of a problem. This last happened in 2005, 1995 and 1988, but was more frequent up to the early 1980s. [cite web|url=|title=IMO '95 regulations|accessdate=2008-03-05]

The rule that at most half the contestants win a medal is sometimes broken if adhering to it causes the number of medals to deviate too much from half the number of contestants. This last happened in 2006 when the choice was to give either 188 or 253 of the 498 contestants a medal.cite web|url=|title=47th International Mathematical Olympiad Results|accessdate=2008-03-05]

Current and future IMOs

*The [ 50th IMO] will be held in Bremen, Germany from 10–22 July, 2009. [cite web|url=|title=2009 IMO|accessdate=2008-03-05]
*The 51st IMO will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan in 2010. [cite web|url=|title=2010 IMO|accessdate=2008-03-05]
*The [ 52nd IMO] will be held in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 2011. [cite web|url=|title=Australian Mathematics Trust]
*The 53nd IMO will be held in Argentina in 2012

Notable achievements

Bulgaria is the nation with the smallest population to have won the International Mathematics Competition and it is one of four countries (USA, China, Russia and Bulgaria) to have won the Mathematics Olympics by having all of its team members finish with gold medals (in 2003 [cite web|url=|title=Results of the 44th International Mathematical Olympiad|accessdate=2008-03-05] ). Other teams that won IMO and had all members receive gold medals are China 8 times (1992, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006) and Russia (2002). The only country to have its entire team score perfectly on the IMO was the United States, which won IMO 1994 when it accomplished this. This accomplishment has never been repeated and earned a mention in "TIME Magazine". [cite journal|last=Biema|first=David Van|date=1994-08-01|title=No. 1 and Counting|journal=TIME|language=en|publisher=TIME Inc.] Hungary won IMO 1975 in an unorthodox way when none of the eight team members received a gold medal (five silver, three bronze). Second place team East Germany also did not have a single gold medal winner (four silver, four bronze).

Several individuals have consistently scored highly and/or earned medals on the IMO: Reid Barton (USA) was the first participant to win a gold medal four times (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001). [cite web|url=|title=IMO's Golden Boy Makes Perfection Look Easy|accessdate=2008-03-05] Barton is also one of only seven four-time Putnam Fellow (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004). In addition, he is the only person to have won both the IMO and the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI). [Harv|Olson|2004] Christian Reiher (Germany) is the only other participant to have won four gold medals (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003); Reiher also received a bronze medal (1999). [cite web|url=|title=Christian Reiher|accessdate=2008-03-05] Wolfgang Burmeister (East Germany), Martin Harterich (West Germany) and Iurie Boreico (Moldova) are the only other participants besides Reiher to win five Medals with at least three of them gold.cite web|url=|title=More IMO Facts|accessdate=2008-03-05] Ciprian Manolescu (Romania) managed to write a perfect paper (42 points) for gold medal more times than anybody else in history of competition. He did it all three times he participated in IMO (1995, 1996, 1997). [cite web|url=|title=|accessdate=2008-03-05] Manolescu is also a three-time Putnam Fellow (1997, 1998, 2000).cite web|url=|title=The Mathematical Association of America's William Lowell Putnam Competition|accessdate=2008-03-05] Eugenia Malinnikova (USSR) is the highest-scoring female contestant in IMO history. She has 3 gold medals in IMO 1989 (41 points), IMO 1990 (42) and IMO 1991 (42), missing only 1 point in 1989 to precede Manolescu's achievement. [Harv|Vakil|1997] Terence Tao (Australia) participated in IMO 1986, 1987 and 1988, winning bronze, silver and gold medals respectively. He won a gold medal at the age of thirteen in IMO 1988, becoming the youngest person to receive a gold medal. He received a Fields medal in 2006. [cite web|url=|title=A packed house for a math lecture? Must be Terence Tao|accessdate=2008-03-05] Oleg Golberg (Russia/USA) is the only participant in IMO history to win gold medals for different countries: he won two for Russia in 2002 and 2003, then one for USA in 2004. [cite web|url=|title=City Girl Gets Gold in World Math Olympiad|accessdate=2008-03-05] Vladimir Drinfel'd won a gold medal with a perfect paper in 1969, representing the Soviet Union. He went on to win a Fields Medal in 1990. [cite web|url=|title=Vladimir Drinfel'd|accessdate=2008-03-05|publisher=PlanetMath] Grigori Perelman wrote a perfect paper to win a gold medal in 1982. He went on to win a Fields Medal in 2006. (However he declined the award.)

ee also

*International Science Olympiad
*Provincial Mathematical Olympiad
*List of mathematics competitions
*International Mathematics Competition for University Students (IMC)



title=Count Down
publisher=Houghton Mifflin

title=The 43rd International Mathematical Olympiad: A Reflective Report on IMO 2002
publisher=Computing Science Report, Faculty of Mathematics and Computing Science, Eindhoven University of Technology, Vol. 2, No. 11
date=August 2002
url= PDF

title=The IMO Compendium: A Collection of Problems Suggested for the International Olympiads, 1959-2004

title=Michael Jordans of Math
publisher=U.S. News & World Report

title=Mathematics in a Small Place: Notes on the Mathematics of Romania and Bulgaria

authorlink=Ravi Vakil
title=A Mathematical Mosaic: Patterns & Problem Solving
publisher=Brendan Kelly Publishing

authorlink=Andy Liu
title=Chinese Mathematics Competitions and Olympiads
publisher=AMT Publishing

External links

* [ Official IMO web site]
* [ Old central IMO web site]
* [ IMO Resources] - IMO problems and solutions, IMO Shortlists, IMO Longlists and one of the largest collection of Olympiad problems in the world.
* [ IMO problems and solutions]
* [ imotres Partial IMO results]

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