U.S. Students Win Prestigious International Math Olympiad for Second Straight Year

U.S. math team and head coach Po-Sen Loh, at far right. (Photo from Carnegie Mellon University)
U.S. math team and head coach Po-Sen Loh, at far right. (Photo from Carnegie Mellon University)

Americans are generally lousy at math, right? At least that’s what we hear every time there is an international test and the United States doesn’t come in close to the top.

But consider this: The U.S. team of high school students just won the International Math Olympiad — said to be the most prestigious competition for high school math problem-solving. And there’s more: It was the second consecutive win for the American team at the Olympiad, and Po-Shen Loh, head coach, thinks it says something important about Americans and their math ability.

The team that won in the 10-day Hong Kong competition was trained by head coach Loh, an associate professor of mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. The United States won in 1994 but then had a drought until 2015, when it surprised pretty much everyone by taking the gold medal. Winning in consecutive years is astonishing but telling, Loh said.

“I think that we see excellence springing up all around the country because of the growth and adoption of free online resources, which can combine nicely with the creative and open culture of our education system,” he said in an email. “It is now becoming possible for any student who wants to excel at math to do so, no matter where they come from, or what their local resources look like. This is accessible to the mainstream, and isn’t just for people with existing ability.”

The six members of the team — all males — are Ankan Bhattacharya (International Academy East, Troy, Mich.); Michael Kural (Greenwich High School, Riverside, Conn.); Allen Liu (Penfield Senior High School, Penfield, N.Y.); Junyao Peng (Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science, Princeton, N.J.); Ashwin Sah (Jesuit High School, Portland, Ore.); and Yuan Yao (Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, N.H.).

They were selected through a series of competitions around the country organized by the Math Association of America. Scores at the competition are earned by individual team members who are given six math problems to solve.

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SOURCE: Valerie Strauss 
The Washington Post