Thursday, July 30, 2015

Go Team USA

American students typically stumble in math and science, with the United States ranked a pitiful 36 in math proficiency worldwide, but don't tell that to the US Math Team, who took home the gold medal in this year's International Math Olympiad.  The event was held in Thailand.  In recent years, it has been dominated by China and other Asian countries.  The US team generally holds its own, but hadn't won the event since 1994.

Not surprisingly, there has been little coverage.  The International Math Olympiad is a seated competition and doesn't have the same drama as the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  The students are given six tough questions and graded by judges.  The best overall team performance takes home top honors, but gold medals are also awarded individually.

As you can see from the above photo, the American team is a diverse group, which also is indicative of the nature of American education, which ranges dramatically from one school district to the next.  There have been attempts to create a national standard, most recently Common Core, which has come under a barrage of fire this campaign season.  Forty-four states subscribe to Common Core, but support has dwindled considerably and one can expect some states to drop out, if not see the program done away with all together if the Republicans win the White House.

These particular kids go through a battery of tests leading up to a summer camp that determines the participants.  They are the top of the tops, and should be greatly commended for their efforts, but unfortunately most Americans don't seem to care.  You see local papers taking pride in members that came from its' school districts, but not much in the way of national coverage, outside of periodicals like The Atlantic.

It's too bad because this was a major accomplishment and one that US schools could use to build their math and science programs on.  Alas, it is sports that American covet most.  You won't see any of these kids on a Wheaties box, but they will all go onto prestigious universities, probably with full scholarships.

Anyway, I thought it was worth noting and now I will see if I can tackle one of the questions:

Determine all triples (a, b, c) of positive integers such that each of the numbers: ab - c, bc - a, ca - b is a power of two.

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