Math Olympians

CIMG0897Eight young American women kicked butt in the 2010 China Girls Mathematical Olympiad held August 9 – 13 in Shijiazhuang, about 100 miles from Beijing. They brought home to the USA five gold medals, one silver medal, one bronze medal, and one honorable mention. Four of the girls are from California, three from right here in Silicon Valley. One of the gold medalists, Lynnelle Ye, proudly represents El Camino Real; she just graduated from Palo Alto High School, she’s been taking advanced math courses at Stanford University since her junior year, and she’ll be attending The Farm in the Fall.

The China Girls Mathematical Olympiad is an international event where young women attempt to solve six math problems in nine hours split over two days. No calculus is required but the problems are…challenging. Here are a couple samples I found from a similar competition.

  1. Prove that for each positive integer n, there are pairwise relatively prime integers k0, k1, …, kn, all strictly greater than 1, such that k0k1kn – 1 is the product of two consecutive integers.
  2. At a certain mathematical conference, every pair of mathematicians are either friends or strangers. At mealtime, every participant eats in one of two large dining rooms. Each mathematician insists upon eating in a room which contains an even number of his or her friends. Prove that the number of ways that the mathematicians may be split between the two rooms is a power of two (i.e., is of the form 2k for some positive integer k).

Ironically as you see the competitors are given the answers; they have to provide the proofs. It’s  the mathematical equivalent of essay  questions.

Palo Alto’s Lynnelle Ye as it turns out is a bit of a superstar, having placed fourth in the Intel Science Talent Search and second in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. Don’t let their math prowess mislead you. From the blog postings they put up on the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute page, it’s clear they are well-balanced, bright teenagers who made the most of the extraordinary adventure they had touring China. Some excerpts:

“I’m the romantic fluffy type who wants to talk about the scenery, because Hong Kong is the coolest place on Earth. So cool that I even bought a few refrigerator magnets. I think I’m going to build my castle here when I grow up.”

“Yesterday, we went to Ocean Park for most of the day. It was awesome! We got to see a lot of animals, including giant pandas, red pandas, sea otters, chinese alligators/crocodiles, dolphins, and sea lions. My favorites were by far the giant pandas. They were so cute! (I wish that I could hug them 🙂 ).”

“So, today’s classes were lots of fun. First we had Polynomials with Po-Ru, where I got to brush up on interpolation. Then we did awesomely awesome constructions problems with Ian. Finally, in the afternoon, Carlos showed us some really cool angle-chasing problems. In fact, one of them is now my new favorite math problem!”

Congratulations to these exceptional young ladies! They’ve got math skillz, and they’ll go far.

MSRI 2010 Olympiad

[Source: San Jose Mercury News]

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