American Math Wizards

The U.S. team tied for first place with China at the 60th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), which was held in Bath, United Kingdom, July 11-22, 2019.

The six U.S. team members, Vincent Huang (a returning member from 2017 and 2018), Luke Robitaille, Colin Tang, Edward Wan, Brandon Wang and Daniel Zhu also won gold medals for their individual high scores in the Olympiad, known as the world championship mathematics competition for high school students.

The U.S. team is coached by Carnegie Mellon University Associate Professor of Mathematical Sciences Po-Shen Loh. Under Loh’s leadership, the team also placed first at the IMO in 2015, 2016 and 2018. 

Each year, the six members of the team make their final preparations for the IMO at Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh campus at the Mathematical Association of America’s Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (MAA’s MOP), where they train with some of the world’s best high school math students.

“These high school students become more and more impressive each year, often already coming with knowledge that I myself only encountered in graduate school. It is an honor to have the opportunity to serve as a guide as they learn how to turn their skills into impact,” Loh said.

Approximately 80 students are invited to MOP on the basis of their exceptional performance on national and international “Math Olympiad” competitions, and top-­finishing countries are invited to send two of their top students.

Funded by the Benter Foundation, the Allegheny Foundation, CMU’s President’s Office and the Hillman Foundation through the Henry L. Hillman President’s Chair, and CMU’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, the addition of international students gives MOP participants the chance for a multi-cultural experience similar to what the IMO team encounters at the competition.

The United States of America will host the 62nd International Mathematical Olympiad in 2021 in Washington, D.C., and it will be organized by the Mathematical Association of America.

This year, Carnegie Mellon had a few additional connections to the competition. One of the six problems on the IMO was authored by recent mathematical sciences graduate David Altizio, who will begin his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign this fall.

Additionally, two members of international IMO teams will begin their studies at Carnegie Mellon this fall in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Howard Halim, a member of the Canadian IMO team, will start his undergraduate degree and Ting-Wei Chao, one of the assistant coaches for Taiwan’s IMO team, will begin his Ph.D.

“The Mathematical Association of America is proud to congratulate the students who competed in the International Mathematical Olympiad for the United States of America on their first-place finish in the challenging math competition,” said Michael Pearson, executive director of the Mathematical Association of America.

“We are proud to organize the U.S. IMO team through the MAA American Mathematics Competitions that strengthen the nation’s mathematical problem-solvers. In this competition and their future endeavors, these students will help achieve our vision of a society that values the power and beauty of mathematics and fully realizes its potential to promote human flourishing.”

Interesting, all “American Math Wizards” are of Asian heritage.

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