U.S. students win Math Olympiad — again


U.S. Math Olympiad team members Ankan Bhattacharya, Allen Liu, Ashwin Sah, Michael Kural, Yuan Yao and Junyao Peng. Photo: Carnegie Mellon University

It’s hard to miss the hype for the Rio Olympics, writes Michael Mazenko on A Teacher’s View. But very few know that U.S. mathletes won the 2016 International Math Olympiad in Hong Kong last month. For the second year in a row. U.S. students beat competitors from China (Shanghai), South Korea, Singapore and Japan.

This is “just one more example of how in America we are ignoring our best and brightest,” writes Mazenko.

“This year’s IMO featured an unusually large number of non-standard problems which combined multiple areas of mathematics into the same investigation,” Po-Shen Loh, coach of the U.S. team, wrote in the New York Times:

The most challenging problem turned out to be #3, which was a fusion of algebra, geometry, and number theory. On that question, the USA achieved the highest total score among all countries, ultimately contributing to its overall victory — a historic repeat #1 finish (2015 + 2016), definitively breaking the 21-year drought since the last #1 finish in 1994, and the first consecutive #1 finish in the USA’s record.

Here’s IMO 2016 Problem 3:

Let P = AA2 … Ak be a convex polygon on the plane. The vertices A1, A2, …, Ak have integral coordinates and lie on a circle. Let S be the area of P. An odd positive integer n is given such that the squares of the side lengths of P are integers divisible by n. Prove that 2S is an integer divisible by n.

It’s as impossible for me as the gymnastics floor exercise. Does anyone have a clue how to tackle this problem?

U.S. vs. the world in sports and school

Why is the U.S. so good at athletics — look at the Olympic medal count — and so mediocre in education? Not so fast, answers Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. Sure, the U.S. and China win the most gold (and silver and bronze) medals. We’re also very big countries.  Looking at the per capita medal count (as of Aug. 10) tells a different story.

The U.S. ranks 40th in Olympic medals per capita on the chart, but “an impressive eighth in the world in reading” on PISA, Petrilli writes.

In raw numbers of high-scoring students, the U.S. is number one for math and reading, according to PISA. (Remember that China and India don’t participate.)

It’s good to be big, Petrilli writes.

The reason that the world’s best universities continue to be populated by so many Americans is that (1) most of those universities are here, and (2) we produce more top K-12 students than anybody else. As long as that’s the case, we will continue to lead the world economically and culturally.

But watch out for the Chinese.

Can our students compete?

U.S. athletes will go for gold in the Olympics, but U.S. students aren’t competing well in the global arena, argues Michelle Rhee in promoting a new Students First video.

The U.S. never has scored well on international exams, notes Gary Rubenstein.

In the 1964 FIMS test, we were 11th out of 12. These tests are not predictors of future economic strength, obviously since our students from 1964 have helped make the U.S. economy very strong.

U.S. schools score well when compared to schools in countries with similar poverty levels, he adds.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Consent Of The Governed is hosting the Flag Day edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Nirvana Homeschooling has a post on making your own Olympic medals at home — presumably not of gold, silver or bronze.

Students learn the physics of Olympics

Students can learn the science of the Olympics by watching videos produced by NBC Learn and the National Science Foundation that feature athletes discussing the mechanics of their sport. From the San Jose Mercury News:

. . . in 39 accompanying science lessons, most aimed at middle-schoolers, students can investigate the physics of a hockey slap shot, the biomechanics of cross-country skiers, the aerodynamics of sleek competition suits or the soar, lift and drag of ski jumpers.

The videos are here. I’ve removed the live video because I don’t know how to prevent it from opening automatically, which is very annoying. Lessonopoly has lesson plans.