USAMO Winners Fêted in Washington, D.C.
By Harry Waldman
The 35th U.S.A. Mathematical Olympiad Awards Ceremonies took place in Washington, DC on Sunday and Monday, May 21 and 22. This event honored the twelve top winners of the annual USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO), the premier high-school level mathematical problem solving competition in the United States.
35th USA Mathematical Olympiad Winners From left to right: Brian Lawrence, Arnav Tripathy, Sherry Gong, Yi Sun, Tedrick Leung, Yi Han, Alex Zhai, Richard McCutchen, Yakov Berchenko-Kogan, Peng Shi, Taehyeon Ryan Ko, Yufei Zhao
The two day celebration began with a Sponsors' Reception at the MAA Headquarters, at 1529 18th. St. N.W. Representatives of the sponsoring organizations of the American Mathematics Competitions along with members of the MAA Executive Committee greeted the winners and their families. On Monday morning, the winners toured the Cryptologic Museum at the National Security Agency and enjoyed a talk on classical cryptography from one of the on-site mathematicians.
The 2006 USAMO winners were Yakov Berchenko-Kogan of Raleigh, North Carolina; Sherry Gong of San Juan, Puerto Rico; Yi Han of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Taehyeon Ryan Ko of Allendale, New Jersey; Brian Lawrence of Kensington, Maryland; Tedrick Leung of Winnetka, California; Richard McCutchen of Silver Spring, Maryland; Peng Shi of Toronto, Canada, Yi Sun of San Jose, California; Arnav Tripathy of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Alex Zhai, of Champaign, Illinois; and Yufei Zhao of Toronto, Canada.
Dr. John Marburger, III, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President, hosted the celebratory reception and dinner in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. The formal awards ceremony, presided over by MAA President Carl C. Cowen, took place in the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the State Department where Dr. Fan Chung Graham, Akamai Professor in Internet mathematics at UC San Diego gave the USAMO address, Â“Graph Theory in the Information Age.Â”
Winners received the USAMO Medal, named in honor of Gerhard C. Arenstorff, twice a winner of the USAMO and a member of the first USA team in the International Mathematical Olympiad.
After dinner, Brian Lawrence received the Samuel L. Greitzer/Murray S. Klamkin Award for his superior achievement in the Olympiad exam. Dr. James Carlson, President of the Clay Mathematics Institute, designated Brian Lawrence as the eighth CMI Mathematics Olympiad Scholar as Brian best fulfilled the prize's criteria of elegance, beauty, imagination, and depth of insight.
The Robert P. Balles Distinguished Mathematics Student Award, given to each of the twelve winners, is a prize given to the winners in an effort to recognize and reward their high achievement in the world of mathematics competitions. Robert P. Balles is a life long student of mathematics, former community college instructor of mathematics, and retired businessman who established this generous prize in 2005.
The highlight of the evening came when the Akamai Foundation Scholarships were presented to the 1st place winner, Brian Lawrence, 2nd place winner, Alex Zhai, and 3rd place winner, Yufei Zhao, by Wendy Ravech, Director of the Akamai Foundation. These scholarships are in the amounts of $20,000, $15,000, and $10,000, respectively. By awarding these scholarships, the Akamai Foundation hopes to encourage these and other students to continue their pursuit of mathematics education.
The road to the USAMO began with the American Mathematics Contest 10 (AMC 10) and American Mathematics Contest 12 (AMC 12) exams. In February, about 240,000 students from over 4,000 schools participated in these contests. The AMC 10 and AMC 12 have 25 questions from the high school mathematics curriculum to be answered in a timed 75 minute format. The problems range from easy to quite challenging. The top 5% of scorers on the AMC 12 and the top 1% of scorers on the AMC 10 are then invited to take the American Invitational Mathematics Exam (AIME).
The AIME is a challenging 15 question contest spanning 3 hours. The difficulty of the questions ranges from equivalent to the most difficult on the AMC 12 to extremely difficult. In March, nearly 12,000 students took the AIME. Based on a combination of scores from these two contests, 430 students were invited to take the USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) exam which was held on April 18 and 19.
The USAMO is a 6 question proof-essay contest, taking 9 hours over two days. The problems on the USAMO would be challenging even to professional mathematicians. This year's USAMO and solutions are available on the web by choosing Â“StudentsÂ” on the MAA home page () and following the links. The twelve winners and other young students who took the Olympiad exam are invited to the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (MOSP) for advanced training for the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO).
The 2006 Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program was held on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from June 11 to July 1 with 54 students and 14 instructors and graders in attendance. The students received a mix of training on mathematical problem solving, proof-writing and deeper instruction on algebra, geometry, number theory, combinatorics, probability, and trigonometry in preparation for solving Olympiad-style problems. The summer program was funded in part with a grant from the Akamai Foundation.
The final US team for the IMO was selected from among the 12 winners at the MOSP. Each year since 1974, a small team of exceptionally talented high school students has represented the United States at the IMO.