The pinnacle of all the mathematical competitions open to school students is
the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO). The first IMO was held in
Brasov, Romania in July, 1959. Seven countries participated in this olympiad:
Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet
Union. Each country sent a team of 8 contestants, except the Soviet Union which
sent only four. The second IMO was held in the following year again in Romania.
The participating countries were again from Eastern Europe. Since then the
number of participating countries as well as that of contestants have increased
steadily and it has become the most prestigious international mathematical
competition. In recent years, there are more than 80 participating countries
and regions and close to 500 contestants at each IMO.
Aim of the IMO
The discovering, encouraging and challenging of mathematically gifted school
the fostering of friendly international relations between students and their
the sharing of information on educational systems, mathematical syllabi and
pedagogy throughout the world.
Participation in the IMO is by invitation from the host country. Each
participating country may send a delegation consisting of a leader, a deputy
leader and six contestants. The contestants must be students under 20 years of
age and who must not have studied at a tertiary institution. They have to write
two examinations held in two consecutive days. Each examination consists of 3
problems and the time allowed is 4.5 hours. The problems are contributed by the
participating countries. The host then compile a short list of 30 to 40
problems. The Jury, formed by the team leaders, then consider the problems and
decide on the final six problems for the competition. The official versions in
English, French, Spanish and Russian are then formulated and adopted. After
that the team leaders will translate the problems into their own languages. All
these are done in two to three days before the deputy leaders arrive with the
contestants. The team leaders will meet other members of the team only after
the second day of competition. The answer scripts of each team will be marked
by the team leader and the deputy leader. There is a team of coordinators for
each question. At an appointed time, the team leader will present the scripts
of their contestants to the coordinators for assessment. The leader and the
coordinators will then agree on the marks to be awarded. If there is any
dispute, the matter will be settled by the Jury. At the final Jury meeting, the
cut off points for the medals are decided. The guideline is that at most half
of the contestants will be awarded medals. The number of gold, silver and
bronze medals awarded are in the ratio 1:2:3 approximately. Contestants who
have a complete solution to one problem and who have not been awarded a medal
are awarded honourable mentions. At the 38th IMO in 1997, the number of gold,
silver and bronze medals awarded was 39, 70 and 122 respectively.
Singapore began to participate in 1986. The selection and training of the
Singapore team is the responsibility of Singapore. International Mathematical
Olympiad Committee (SIMO). Members of the committee are from the Department of
Mathematics, National University of Singapore, some officials from the Ministry
of Education and teachers from the Junior Colleges.
The national team selection and training
Currently, the national team is selected through a National Team Selection Test
organized by SIMO. Since this test is used to select the final candidates for
the national team, it is comparable in difficulty to the IMO and are fashioned
after the IMO. The test consists of two papers, with 3 problems in each paper
and the time allowed for each paper is 4.5 hours. These tests are held in
December each year. Based on the test, a group of 10 to 12 students are
selected for national team training. These students undergo rigorous training
and after further tests, the final six members of the national team are
selected in April/May. These six will continue to undergo training until they
leave for the IMO in July.
The Senior and Junior Group
To prepare students for these tests, the committee runs two training courses:
Junior and Senior. Students for the Junior level course are selected based on
their performance in the Singapore Secondary School Mathematical Olympiad
(Junior Section). Training is conducted in July and August each year. The
Senior Group members are selected based on the Senior Section of the same
competition. Training is conducted from January to April. However, the National
Team Selection Test is open to all, not just to those previously trained by
SIMO. Thus any student who could not or does not wish to attend SIMO training
will still be selected if he/she performs well in the test.
SIMO also organizes a one-week training camp during the June school holidays
for the national team as well as students in the Senior Group. The programme
comprises three main parts. A typical day begins with lectures and problem
solving sessions after breakfast. These will continue after lunch.In the
evening campers take part in various sports activities. After dinner, there are
also talks and other organized activities.
The camp provides a chance for the various groups of trainees to get together.
This is also a homecoming occasion for the "x-men", a term used to describe the
SIMO alumni. Through various interactions, the trainees can learn from the
x-men their past experience at the IMO, national service, application of
university, scholarships and so on.