Qualifying for a Mathematical Olympiad

If you feel like you yourself have what it takes to enter a Mathematical Olympiad, or would like to coach some of your students, this little guide is just for you. Will go over the requirements, as well as a few tips to get you started.

What Is It?

A Mathematical Olympiad is a competition in math. Depending on the format of the competition itself, the test may need you to answer multiple choice questions or show the proof of your work. There are more than ten international competitions. We will limit this piece to one such competition – the International Mathematical Olympiad. Unfortunately, you cannot participate in this competition, but your students might be able to.

IMO

This is a competition for pre-college students that consist of six problems. Over 90% of the countries in the world attend this competition, sending the best of the best in math. Each team consists of 6 participants, a team leader, a deputy leader, and a few observers. The reason it is tricky is that the math used in the tests is not normally covered in schools and universities. In other words, your students must rely on the things they already know and to get creative.

The competition is the oldest in the world and one of the most prestigious ones. Every country has its own version of the selection process. The USA, for example, needs you to score high on the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad, or USAMO. Top contestants are tested in other math competitions as well.

How Can I Get My Kids to Qualify?

Unfortunately, to qualify for the IMO, you have to beat everyone else in your country first. The time is pretty limited, as your students can’t be 20 years old, and they can’t be college students. The only way to reach the top is to start from the bottom.

Climb the Ladder

If your students want to qualify and you fully support them in this endeavor, try the local math competitions first. The victories from the competitions will get them to rise to the occasion. After the local competition, you can try the state and national competitions. If, after all that, your students are still ready, willing, and able to compete – go for it.

How to Train Your Students

You would think that the training materials would be hard to come by, seeing as how elite this competition is. Interestingly enough, you can download all of the previous tests on the official IMO website. The website also gives a comprehensive list of rules and regulations. Other websites also provide college-level and higher math problems that you can use.

If you are still worried about the abstract problems, you can reach out to your friends and contacts at math universities that can help your students train with problems of similar difficulty. This might be a good idea, as many countries utilize tests that are just as hard as IMO in order to prepare their contestants.