Belated praise for Maine students at math Olympiad

Posted Sept. 27, 2009, at 7:19 p.m.

In 2009, four students from Maine were selected to participate in the USA Mathematical Olympiad. Unfortunately, these students weren’t mentioned in any of the state’s newspapers. The students are: Ryan Gao, an 11th-grader at Falmouth High School (his math teacher is Mike Inlow); Yan Yide, an 11th-grader at Washington Academy (math teacher Peter Rensema); Seun Yeong Kang, a 10th-grader at Hebron Academy (math teacher Meredith Shore); and Jerry Zhang, a 10th-grader at Maine Central Institute (math teacher Rene Ashton).

More than 413,000 students participated in the American Mathematics Competitions, 500 students were selected to the Olympiad and the above four are from Maine. We’d like to congratulate these four students for their extraordinary achievement and thank the teachers for assisting them in their accomplishment.

Our students may not know their comparative standing unless they go out of Maine and see how the students in other states are performing. Their comparative success matters to the nation at large. It matters to their families, because it opens doors and creates opportunities. The educated technical force influences the prosperity of the nation and our safety. Far-reaching reasons such as these are why we try to persuade every school to start the process of registering before Oct. 20 in order to qualify for the lowest rates.

School officials often tell us: “Our students are already involved in math team, MATHCOUNTS and other competitions, so why should we worry about the American Mathematics Competitions?” The answer is AMC is the oldest and most prestigious mathematics competition in the United States. It started in 1950 and it is and has been the exclusive pathway for a student to advance to the USA Mathematical Olympiad.

The AMC year begins the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. AMC 8 competition is for students in the sixth-, seventh- or eighth-grade; accelerated fourth- and fifth-grade students also take part. The cost of the competition is $33. For middle schools students, AMC 8 is a competition by itself to spark interest in the subject matter at an age when students are most perceptive in terms of absorbing new information and taking an interest in a subject that may very well play a critical role in forming their future. Students who score 20 or better on the AMC 8 are invited to take the next set of contests, the AMC 10 and AMC 12 in January.

They are 75-minute examinations in secondary school mathematics containing problems that can be understood and solved with pre-calculus concepts. The cost for every school is $40 with absolutely no hidden fees. No travel, school bus, time off from school, chaperon, etc. is required. The tests are delivered to the school in a sealed envelope along with instructions for the proctor. The proctor is instructed to mail the completed entries back to AMC’s headquarters in Lincoln, Neb., where they are evaluated by computer.

The top problem-solvers of AMC 10 and AMC 12 are invited to the American Invitational Mathematics Competition at no cost to the school districts. The top problem solvers of AIME are invited to the USA Mathematical Olympiad. No other math competition could get an excellent problem solver to the USA Mathematical Olympiad for the very reasonable cost of $40 for school registration. Of the 413,000 participants, 10,000 students qualify each year to participate in the AIME scheduled for late March or early April. From this group approximately 500 students will be invited to take the prestigious USA Mathematical Olympiad in early May.

Schools often pass over the opportunity of entering the competition, pleading that they could not get a teacher out of the classroom to proctor the AMC test. This problem can be solved by some foresight and planning. As the director for the state of Maine, I can find a volunteer mathematics faculty member at one of our colleges to proctor the test.

Should you need any help to register or have other questions regarding the benefits of the AMC, feel free to contact me by e-mail. The Web site of the AMC may be found at http://www.unl.edu/amc/whatswhat.shtml.

Don’t let this important opportunity pass your students by.

Eva Szillery is the state director for the American Mathematics Competitions. She may be reached at evaszillery-mmsets@me.acadia.net.

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