Two interesting math contest related articles this week. First in the Atlantic an article about different participation rates in math contests for girls and for boys:
By the way, the 2009 study by Ellison and Swanson mentioned in the article has one of the most interesting (and frankly baffling) statements about math education that I’ve ever seen. From the top of page 3:
“Whereas the boys come from a variety of backgrounds, the top-scoring girls
are almost exclusively drawn from a remarkably small set of super-elite schools: as many girls come from the top 20 AMC schools as from all other high schools in the U.S. combined.”
As far as I know, no one has done a follow up study to see what’s going on at those 20 schools. Seems like a very interesting topic to study.
The second article was about the US team finishing 2nd at the European Girls’ Math Olympiad:
After reading this article I clicked through to see the problems, and problem #1 caught my attention:
I found the problem to be fun to solve and also pretty interesting mathematically. It struck me as a great problem to use to show how mathematicians think.
Tim Gowers did an fantastic “live blog” showing his own thought process in solving a problem from the International Mathematics Olympiad a few years ago:
I love this self-depricating line: “You idiot Gowers, read the question: the a_n have to be positive integers.”
Richard Rusczyk also has a fantastic example showing mathematical thinking involved in solving a contest problem – in this case problem #24 from the 2013 AMC 12.
So, my challenge to math folks is this – live blog your solution to problem #1 from the 2016 European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad. Share your thinking, share your false starts, share the “aha” moments. I think this problem provides a great opportunity for people to see how people in math think, and, importantly, that the path to the solution of a problem isn’t always a straight line.