Junior wins European math competition

May 23, 2018 — by Jeffrey Xu

Junior Catherine Wu, a two-time qualifier for the U.S. Math Olympiad Summer Program (MOSP), won gold for her perfect score of 42 at the European Girls’ Math Olympiad (EGMO) in Florence, Italy, during spring break.

“Coming out of the test, I had a solution to every single problem, but I was worried they might be wrong,” Wu said. “When scores came out, I was ecstatic and mildly disbelieving.”

She said the format of the EGMO, which took place from April 11-12, is similar to that of the USA Math Olympiad (USAMO): three problems and four and a half hours on each of two consecutive days.

Wu participated in the competition as part of the U.S. national team, made up of four individuals. Her three other teammates were all seniors: Wanlin Li, from New York, who also earned a perfect score; Megan Joshi, from the LA area, who earned a silver medal and Emily Wen, from North Carolina, who earned a bronze medal.

The team score was calculated as the sum of the individual scores. However, non-European countries were not allowed to place first since they were guests at the competition. When accounting for score only, the U.S. team placed second behind Russia.

In order to qualify for the U.S. team, Wu had to score well on the two-day Team Selection Test (TST) in June 2017 and the one-day December January TSTSTs. The top four weighted girls’ scores made the team, with the TSTST counting for half as much.

The TST was administered in the school’s TLC, arranged by guidance counselor Alinna Satake for Wu and sophomore Brandon Wang. Wu said she took one of the TSTSTs at her house and one at her friend’s.

According to Wu, the top 8 percent of European students win gold, so the score cutoff is usually around the top 8 percent. However, she said that non-European students who scored above said cutoff also win gold. She was one of those students.

In preparation for the competition, Wu said that she reviewed by doing past problems from the competition that were available online. Since the format is the same as the USAMO’s format, Wu believes that in preparing for EGMO, she was also able to study for the USAMO, the contest that allows students to qualify for the MOSP. The USAMO took place a week after on April 18-19.

According to Wu, her experience in Florence was memorable for reasons having nothing to do with math. She said that since parents usually do not attend competitions such as the EGMO, she met up with her team at the airport, where they then flew to Italy together.

“There were gelato stores on practically every block, so we ate too much of that,” Wu said. “The city was really pretty, especially at night.”

Wu also said that aside from spending hours in the hotel recreational room socializing with contestants from other countries, the team was also able to visit famous Florentine attractions such as the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio, and even outside sites such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

“The overall experience was unparalleled,” Wu said. “It was eye-opening to talk to the people from other places, and of course the fact that it was in Italy made it better. I definitely want to go to next year’s EGMO if I make it.”

 

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