This question was submitted by West Germany to the IMO Committee, the examiners could not solve it in 6 hours.

In the IMO (1988) only 11 contestants solved it, one of them proved it elegantly. Terence Tao (13, Australia) only got 1 mark out of 7 in this question.

Prof ST Yau丘成桐 , Chinese/HK Harvard Math Dean, is the only 2 Mathematicians in history (the other person is Prof Pierre Deligne of Belgium) who won ALL 3 top math prizes: Fields Medal 1982 (at 27, proving Calabi Conjecture), Crafoord Prize (1994) , Wolf Prize (2010).

Key Takeaways :

1. On Math Education:
◇ Compulsary Math training for reasoning skill applicable in Economy, Law, Medicine, etc.
◇ Study Math Tip: read the new topic notes 1 day before the lecture, then after lecture do the problems to enhance understanding.
◇ Read Math topics even though you do not understand in first round, re-read few more times, then few days / months / years / decades later you will digest them. (做学问的程序).
◇ Do not consult students in WHAT to teach, because they don’t know what to learn.
◇ Love of Math beauty is the “pull-factor” for motivating students’ interest in Math.
◇ Parental Pressure.

4. Math Olympiad: Prof ST Yau had criticised publicly it as a bad Math training, not the “real” Math.

An audience tested Prof ST Yau on a Math (Accounting) Puzzle which he couldn’t solve on the spot. He said Mathematicians are poor in +-×÷ arithmetic.

5. Chinese students in USA: China sends over 200,000 students to USA universities. They are good in secondary / high school Math with known solutions, but poor in graduate PhD Math which requires “out-of-the-box” independent thinking skill for finding unknown solutions. Recent few years Chinese students (eg. Stanford Prof 李骏 : 1989 Harvard PhD) in USA have improved standard in PhD research.

6. Research is not for fame. It takes many years to think through an interesting topic.

Reference:

1. Prof ST Yau’s Best Seller Book 《The Shape of Inner Space》avail @ NLB (Ref #530.1) 11 copies in most NLB branches@ AMK, Bishan etc.

The result is not surprising to China but to USA:
♢Recently China government bans IMO training in schools.
♢Obama was surprised that the USA IMO team consists of predominantly Chinese American students.

IMO Math is like ‘Acrobatics’ to real ‘Kung-fu’, it is not real Math education, but special ‘cute’ techniques to solve tough ‘known’ solution problems. Real Math is long R&D solving problems with UNKNOWN solution (eg. Fermat’s Last Theorem, Riemann Conjecture,…)

2 types of Math: Algorithmic or Deductive (演绎). Chinese long traditional ‘abacus’ mindset, procedural computational Math is Algorithmic, applied to special cases (eg. astronomy, calendar, agriculture, architecture, commerce,…). European Greek’s Euclid deductive, step-by-step axiom-based proofing, is theoretical, generalized in all cases (Geometry, Abstract Algebra,…)

Look at the Fields Medal (aka ‘Nobel Prize’ of Math) super-power – France – which has produced 1/3 of the Fields Medalists, but performing so-so in IMO. In contrast, China has ZERO Fields Medalists, albeit dominating IMO championship for more than 2 decades!