Five Saratoga students took the United States of America Mathematics Olympiad test, of which two have qualified for a chance to represent the United States internationally.

Three juniors and two sophomores spent April 27-28 answering six proofs in a nine-hour mathematics exam, the United States of America Mathematics Olympiad, or USAMO for short.

The USAMO exam is based only on pre-calculus concepts but is different from the ordinary tests that math teachers assign in that it not only requires a significantly deeper understanding of the material but also problem-solving and logical thinking skills.

Junior Amol Aggarwal, who took the grueling exam along with juniors Albert Gu and David Zeng and sophomores Brian Wai and Alissa Zheng, enjoys the USAMO because it helps him explore his interest in math. Unlike high school level math problems, which usually involve direct applications of the concepts learned in class, it is hard to find an approach for Olympiad problems, Aggarwal said.

“The problems are more intricate and involved,” said Aggarwal. “They give me the opportunity to apply mathematics to a larger scope, with infinite possibilities and creativity.”

These “mathletes” were selected to take the test based on their combined scores from the 12th grade level American Mathematics Competition (AMC 12) in February and the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME) in March, scoring among the top 328 in the nation.

Of the USAMO contestants from the high school, Gu and Wai further qualified for a prestigious summer program called the Math Olympiad Summer Program. They will spend three weeks in Lincoln, Neb., training for a chance to be one of the six students representing the United States in the International Math Olympiad.

Freshman Amanda Chow and Edward Dong and a seventh-grade student from Redwood, Landon Chow, took the junior version, identical in format to the USAMO but with four of the questions replaced by slightly easier ones. They were among the top 235 in the lower division taking the AIME and the 10th grade level AMC.

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InfoGraphic: Path to the International Math Olympiad

AMC 12 (Score of at least 88.5 out of 150) –> AIME (at least 11 of 15 questions correct) –>

USAMO (Top 328) –> Math Olympiad Summer Program –> Team Selection Test (Top 6) –> IMO

AMC 10 (Score of at least 118.5 out of 150) –> AIME (at least 11 of 15 questions correct) –>

USAJMO (Top 235) –> Math Olympiad Summer Program

*Note: qualification scores are based on the results from the 2010 exams