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Название: Count Down: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World's Toughest Math Competition

Автор: Olson S.

Аннотация:

Count Down is really the story of the International Math Olympiad, which invites the world's best high school mathematicians to compete for individual and national pride. Traditionally, Bulgaria, China and other Eastern European nations (esp. the former Soviet Union) dominate, with the U.S. always doing quite well with its unusually male, Asian, and first generation composition.

In the entire history of the competition, no nation has had an even number of male and female competitors, despite the increasing numbers of women studying advanced mathematics in high school. On the U.S. team, only one girl has even represented the U.S. team of six. Explanations as to why there are so few women in elite-level mathematics competitions are unconvincing. The author does better trying to explain the Chinese and Eastern European dominance. Their culture fosters creativity and excellence in mathematics, ours shuns it well into high school and college. Even the U.S. representatives to the Olympiad admit being somewhat embarrassed about competing, something that would be almost unimaginable in Russia or Bulgaria.

Olson does a fair job trying to explain solutions to the six problems given at the Olympiad. Those are not math-inclined will have to work hard to understand the solution and may still not understand. Every country, every teammate gets the same six problems. Individual scores are tabulated in addition to composites, which factor into each nation's rank. A perfect score on the test is 42, with 7 points awarded for each correct solution.

My sole gripe is that the author did not get into the heads of the competitors from around the world. Although he detests the term, some of them really are genius. Even with great parenting, great schools, hard work and motivation — there is no clear explanation as to how these kids easily figure out solutions to some truly mind-boggling problems. An example is provided:

"Twenty-one girls and twenty-one boys took part in a mathematical competition. It turned out that (a) each contestant solved at most six problems, and (b) for each pair of a girl and a boy, there was at least one problem that was solved by both the girl and the boy. Prove that there was a problem that was solved by at least three girls and at least three boys."

If you can prove it, you too deserve to medal in the math Olympiad!