IMO questions could not be good Math of deep meaning, given that the contestants have to solve the tricky problems in a short time frame of 2 to 3 hours…IMO Prize is just an indication of Math capability, we can’t equate IMO winners as Mathematicians.

2019 both China and USA co-win the IMO Team Champion, both teams consist of almost Chinese ethnic students (except 1 white american) & Chinese coaches.

Key Points :

IMO questions : exclude Calculus.

IMO Boot Camp: 3 month-training.

Calculus : In High Schools just learn formula & apply, in university learn the theory.

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!

Rukshin at 15 was a troubled russian kid with drink and violence, then a miracle happened: He fell in love with Math and turned all his creative, aggressive, and competitive energies toward it.

He tried to compete in Math olympiads, but outmatched by peers. Still he believed he knew how to win; he just could not do it himself.

He formed a team of schoolchildren a year younger than he and trained them.
At 19 he became an IMO coach who produced Perelman (Gold IMO & Fields/Clay Poincare Conjecture). In the decades since, his students took 70 IMO, include > 40 Golds.

Rukshin’s thoughts on IMO:

1. IMO is more like a sport. It has its coaches, clubs, practice sessions, competitions.

2. Natural ability is necessary but NOT sufficientfor success: The talented kid needs to have the right coach, the right team, the right kind of family support, and, most important, the WILL to win.

3. At the beginning, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between future (Math) stars and those who will be good (at IMO) but never great (Mathematician).