Saturday, May 15, 2010

Congratulations Matt!

Matthew Babbitt (at left above, celebrating after NYSML with teammates Zubin Mukerjee, Gili Rusak, Cecilia Holodak, and Jien Ogawa) scored high enough on the notoriously challenging 2010 USA Math Olympiad contest to qualify for an invitation to this summer's Math Olympiad Summer Program.

Congratulations! You are among a very small group of about 57 students (from the original pool of over 221,000 AMC 10 and AMC 12 participants) invited to take part in the 2010 Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (MOSP) scheduled to begin Tuesday, June 8 and ending Wednesday, June 30, 2010. This year’s MOSP will be held on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The purpose of the program is to broaden the participants’ view of mathematics and foster their excitement toward further study. It will better prepare you for possible future participation on our International Mathematical Olympiad team as well as for possible careers involving mathematics.

Full days of classes, problem solving and tests give students extensive preparation in several important areas of mathematics, including algebra, geometry, combinatorics, number theory, and many other special topics. All members of the MOSP staff are housed with the students, and will closely interact with all the participants outside of class as well. In the past this interaction has greatly contributed to the development of America’s most talented young mathematicians.

Please note that basic MOSP expenses for food and lodging will be covered by the MAA American Mathematics Competitions. We will also reimburse your round-trip travel expenses up to $400 (see attached MOSP Acceptance and Travel Agreement). Additional information about MOSP can be found in the Student Handbook. You will also receive a set of MOSP Medical Forms that your parent/guardian will need to complete, and return to us so they arrive by May 26, 2010.

I am pleased to invite you to the 2010 MOSP, and feel that this program will offer you three weeks of camaraderie with many of our country’s top math students, and activities which will make a significant difference in your mathematical education.


Prof. Steven R. Dunbar
AMC Director

Cc Zuming Feng, MOSP Academic Director

Some of the factors that have contributed to Matthew's success:

1) Matthew delights in working with other students in our high school math circle and has been a key leader in our middle school math circles as well. He exemplifies one of the mottos of our math circle: the more of your mathematical understanding you share with others, the more you have for yourself. Answering the questions of other students who are struggling with a problem you believe you have solved deepens your understanding of that problem. The relationship between mentors/mentee or collaborators is mutually beneficial: the whole really is more than the sum of the parts. The photo at the top of this post shows Matt celebrating at NYSML with some of our math circle students who have enjoyed working with Matt over the past two years, starting out in our middle school math circle, where Matt has been a leader, and have now moved up to our high school math circle: Zubin Mukerjee, Gili Rusak, Cecilia Holodak, and Jien Ogawa. His interactions with them and with many other math circle members, seasoned veterans and fresh-faced rookies alike, have advanced his understanding of mathematics. In a very real sense, all members of our math circle can claim a share of the credit for his success.

2) Matthew likes to write about mathematics! He has sharpened his mathematical expository skills in many ways.

An informal, free, and fun way to start out writing about math is to participate in the Art of Problem Solving forums, where Matthew has been an active participant. Choose an interesting problem posted by another participant who wants to discuss solutions and post your ideas about how to solve it. Or post a question of your own that you've been struggling with and would like to discuss in order to understand it better. Putting your question in writing can help you sharpen your understanding of the problem. Writing down a clear description of your attempt at solving a problem forces you to think explicitly about some of the assumptions you are making.

Once a student develops comfort in writing in that informal, friendly, and highly interactive environment, the way paved for the student to move to writing in more formal settings, such as mathematics journals that post challenging problems and welcome well-written student submissions.

The Canadian Mathematical Society publishes an excellent journal called Crux Mathematicorum with Mathematical Mayhem. They post challenging problems in each issue in their "Mathematical Mayhem" section. The currently open problems are here. (They are published in French and English, so if your French is sketchy, just scroll down the PDF to the English version.) Anyone who would like to try to solve these problems is welcome to mail in their solution to Crux before June 15. The names of all successful submitters will be published in an issue next fall. In addition, Crux publishes an examplary solution to each problem in that subsequent issue as well.

Browsing through recent issues of Crux, you can see that Matthew has submitted a number of correct solutions to problems this past year, and they even published one of his solutions as a highlighted solution as well. Check out problem M379 on pages 429-430 to see Matthew's published solution to a problem submitted by Professor McLaughlin of the University of New Brunswick. It's fun and fascinating to see the diversity of the names, affiliation, and hometowns of the other people who submitted correct solutions to the same problem. In this case, the other successful submitters are listed by Crux as: Edin Ajanovic, First Bosniak High School, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina; George Apostolopoulos, Messlonghi, Greece; Antonio Godoy Toharia, Madrid, Spain; Richard I. Hess, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA; R. Laumen, Derne, Belgium; Richard Peiró, IES "Abastos", Valencia, Spain; Mridul Singh, student, Kendriya Vidyalaya School, Shillong, India; Neculai Stanciu, George Emil Palade Secondary School, Buzău, Romania; Edward T.H. Wang, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, and Jixuan Wang, student, Don Mills Collegiate Institute, Toronto, ON. (It's interesting to note that Jixuan was a member of the Canadian team at the 2009 International Physics Olympiad, where he won a silver medal, and it looks like he is leading contender for this year's team as well. Sharpening those expository writing skills comes in handy in physics too! Jixuan has also done very well on the Canadian Math Olympiad.)

There are other journals that publish excellent problems and welcome student submissions, including the Mathematical Association of America's Math Horizons magazine, where Albany Area Math Circle student Felix Sun submitted a solution that was published as a highlighted solution last year. Other magazines where you can look for problems include: the American Mathematical Monthly, Mathematics Magazine, the College Mathematics Journal, the Harvard College Math Review, and the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal.

Stop by a library at a local college and you can easily browse through recent issues of most of these journals. The Harvard College Math Review appears to have gone into a latent stage, but you can find interesting back issues to browse here.

It should be noted that all these journals welcome submissions of original problems. Most of the problems they publish are submitted by their readers. Composing a good problem can be a great way to develop your problem solving abilities. Matthew has also had one of his problems published in Crux. (Check out Problem M410 of the November issue to see Matt's problem. The list of successful solvers and a highlighted solution submitted by a reader will no doubt appear in an upcoming issue. It will be fun to see the names and hometowns of those who have worked on Matt's problem. Maybe someday he will meet one of the solvers at the International Math Olympiad!

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