US noses out China in math meet

Updated: 2015-07-27 11:42

By JIANG HEZI in New York(China Daily USA)

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US noses out China in math meet

Top teams participated in the International Mathematical Olympiad pose on stage with their national flags on July 15 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. [Provided to China Daily]

Team USA won the first place at this year's International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, reclaiming the crown after 21 years. The six US high school students defeated teams from 103 countries, including its strongest rival, China, which has won 14 times over the past 20 years.

Po-Shen Loh, head coach of team USA, said technology has done the US its biggest favor.

"Something has changed very much in the last 10 years that may be contributing to the USA ultimately winning this year," said Loh. "Now there is everything you might ever need to learn for free on the Internet."

"China and the US are very much ahead of the rest of the countries, which means our performance was not bad," said Chinese team coach Li Qiusheng. "Although four points behind the US, China was 20 points ahead of third-place Korea."

"During recent years, the differences between the strong countries are getting smaller," Li said. "As in international basketball, the American team used to be the winner all the time. But now other countries are catching up, and sometimes beating the US. This doesn't mean US basketball is declining, rather other countries are getting better. I think we can view math competitions the same way."

Unlike regular classroom math problems, competition math goes beyond plugging numbers into formulas. Instead, the questions focus on using what's been learned in school to invent, combine and extend. Creativity is far more important than memorization.

"You never really know what challenge you will face until you open the test," said Zhuoquan "Alex" Song, a member of the Canadian team who was educated in the US and Canada and the only contestant to get a perfect score. It's the hardest kind of competition to prepare for, he added.

Every year, six middle school students are picked from every country through months of exams.

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