US First Place in International Math Olympiad! China Drops to Second (Related to Banning of Math Olympiad?)

Congratulations to USA for their First Position in the IMO, a position traditionally held by China! China has been holding the 1st position in the IMO for 21 years.

News: Indian-Origin Students Help US Win Math Olympiad After 21 Years

Indian-Origin Students Help US Win Math Olympiad After 21 Years

Washington:  Two Indian-origin students have helped the US win the prestigious International Mathematical
Olympiad after more than two decades.

Shyam Narayanan, 17, and Yang Liu Patil, 18, were part of the six-member US team that won the renowned award after a gap of 21 years. India was ranked 37th in the competition.

Some provinces in China, e.g. Beijing, Chengdu have curiously banned Math Olympiad, and one may wonder does this have an effect in China’s drop in ranking? Having a state wide ban on Math Olympiad would have the result of lowering the number of students taking Math Olympiad, shrinking the talent pool, as well as giving Math Olympiad a stigma and a bad reputation. Students in China are known to be very talented in Math Olympiad, but with such a severe ban, they may forgo Math Olympiad altogether.


In 2005, the Ministry of Education issued a regulation forbidding state-run primary and junior middle schools from offering Olympic math courses. It later cancelled the policy of including Olympic math on school entrance examinations. Likewise in 2010, the ministry cancelled a regulation that the winners of Mathematics Olympiads could be recommended for admission to junior middle schools to remove some of the heavy study burden from students.

The Chengdu government has achieved a huge success since it issued harsh regulations banning Olympic math training in 2009. Local authorities prohibit state-run schoolteachers from working part-time to teach Olympic math and have removed school headmasters who give weight to Olympic math performance in student admissions.

For most primary students in Chengdu, this came as a huge relief.

“I feel like a caged bird been set free.”

“I have more time to do physical exercises and have fun. And I can cultivate my own hobbies.”

The students’ parents were also relieved.

This banning of Math Olympiad is indeed very harmful. Instead, Math Olympiad should be made optional so that students who are interested in it can still participate in it, while students who are not interested can learn something else. Banning learning, Math Olympiad, or tuition simply does not make sense! Countries who are interested in promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) should be actively promoting Math Olympiad instead of banning it. Hopefully China may reverse its ban for Math Olympiad, as China’s huge talent pool and surplus of brilliant students makes it naturally easy to get 1st in Math Olympiad, provided students are given an incentive to pursue Math Olympiad.

Singapore Math Olympiad Results


Singapore did relatively well also, with one gold, 4 silver, and 1 bronze, with an overall 10th position. Congratulations Singapore!

singapore imo

To learn more about Math Olympiad, read my earlier blog post on Recommended Maths Olympiad Books for Self Learning.

Count Down: The Race for Beautiful Solutions at the International Mathematical Olympiad

Each summer, hundreds of seemingly average teens from around the world gather for the International Mathematical Olympiad, a chance to race the clock and one another in the quest for elegant mathematical solutions. In Count Down, the National Book Award finalist Steve Olson sets out to crack the secret of what makes these students such nimble problem solvers. He follows the six U.S. contestants from their free-time games of Ultimate Frisbee to the high-pressure rounds of the competition. In each he finds a potent mix of inspiration, insight, competitiveness, talent, creativity, experience, and, perhaps most important, an enduring sense of wonder. As he observes the Olympians, Olson delves into common questions about math culture and education, exploring why many American students dread geometry, why so few girls pursue competitive math, and whether each of us might have a bit of genius waiting to be nurtured.


A Graph Theory Olympiad Question Whose Answer is 1015056

April’s Math Olympiad Question was a particularly tough one, only four people in the world solved it! One from Japan, one from Slovakia, one from Ankara, and one from Singapore!

The question starts off seemingly simple enough:

In a party attended by 2015 guests among any 7 guests at most 12 handshakes had been
exchanged. Determine the maximal possible total number of handshakes.

However, when one starts trying out the questions, one quickly realizes the number of handshakes is very large, possibly even up to millions. This question definitely can’t be solved by trial and error!

This question is ideally modeled by a graph, and has connections to the idea of a Turán graph.

The official solution can be accessed here:


Turan 13-4.svg
The Turán graph T(13,4)


To read more about Math Olympiad books, you may check out my earlier post on Recommended Math Olympiad books for self-learning.

Is there a set of 2015 consecutive positive integers containing exactly 15 prime numbers?

Check out this intriguing Math Olympiad Number Theory question: Is there a set of 2015 consecutive positive integers containing exactly 15 prime numbers?

For instance, the number of primes in the set {1,2,3,…,2014,2015} is 305. This can be computed by entering \pi (2015) in WolframAlpha.

The solution to this problem can be obtained at: (February 2015 Problem of the Month)


To learn more about techniques for Math Olympiad style questions (including Number Theory and more), check out this book Mathematical Olympiad Treasures by noted author Titu Andreescu. Truly a treasure trove of useful tips and techniques.

What are Friedman numbers?

What are Friedman numbers? Watch this video to find out!

Most amazing thing is that as numbers get bigger, the likelihood that they are Friedman numbers actually increase! (Friedman numbers have “density one”!)

Featured book:

First Steps for Math Olympians: Using the American Mathematics Competitions (Problem Books) (MAA Problem Book Series)

Any high school student preparing for the American Mathematics Competitions should get their hands on a copy of this book! A major aspect of mathematical training and its benefit to society is the ability to use logic to solve problems. The American Mathematics Competitions (AMC) have been given for more than fifty years to millions of high school students. This book considers the basic ideas behind the solutions to the majority of these problems, and presents examples and exercises from past exams to illustrate the concepts. Anyone taking the AMC exams or helping students prepare for them will find many useful ideas here. But people generally interested in logical problem solving should also find the problems and their solutions interesting. This book will promote interest in mathematics by providing students with the tools to attack problems that occur on mathematical problem-solving exams, and specifically to level the playing field for those who do not have access to the enrichment programs that are common at the top academic high schools. The book can be used either for self-study or to give people who want to help students prepare for mathematics exams easy access to topic-oriented material and samples of problems based on that material. This is useful for teachers who want to hold special sessions for students, but it is equally valuable for parents who have children with mathematical interest and ability. As students’ problem solving abilities improve, they will be able to comprehend more difficult concepts requiring greater mathematical ingenuity. They will be taking their first steps towards becoming math Olympians!