Student claims gold medal in international math contest

November 3, 2010 — by Stanley Yip

Albert Gu laughed when he opened a letter over the summer to find a certificate with the words “Congratulations to Albert Gu from Lynbrook High School.”

The senior claimed first place in the Asian-Pacific Math Olympiad (APMO) contest on March 8 to win this award, placing him among the top high school mathematicians in the U.S.

Gu said he and fellow senior Brian Wai arranged to take the test with other contestants at Lynbrook High, which led to the mistake.

The four-hour test consisted of five questions designed for the top math geniuses of each country in the Asian-Pacific Rim.

Thirty-three countries participated in APMO with the U.S. placing 3rd overall behind Russia and Korea. Each country wins at most one gold, two silver and four bronze medals. Gu has taken the test twice, claiming silver last year and the gold medal for the U.S. this year.

“I was somewhat surprised to have done better than my peers,” Gu said. “I wasn’t expecting to do very well because of a contest I took the week before APMO.”

Gu said he went to Romania for the Romanian Masters in Mathematics (RMM) competition where he was part of a six-person team representing the U.S.

“I scored the lowest on the team and felt kind of bad,” Gu said. “I wanted to do well on APMO to ‘redeem’ myself.”

Going into the test, Gu said he didn’t concentrate on competing with others.

“You kind of have to be lucky on [contest days] because how well you do depends on your [brain function] that day,” Gu said. “Luckily, my jetlag from Romania was gone by then.”

After the test, Gu said he felt confident that he did well. He said he fully solved four problems and made significant progress on the fifth; most contestants from the U.S. solved three.

Math teacher and math club adviser PJ Yim said he was happy for Gu but not surprised by the results.

“The abundance of talent in Saratoga makes us happy for them, but not so that we are throwing parades for them,” Yim said.

Yim said Gu is a determined person who works hard and has always been excellent at math. Gu’s achievement is just another example of Saratoga students’ talent.

“The pool of talent in Saratoga is stupendous. [Gu’s victory] is another example of the excellence that all Saratoga students strive for,” Yim said.

In order to even have the opportunity to take the APMO, Gu had to score high on several other math contests. Five hundred people are selected to participate in the USA Math Olympiad (USAMO) based on American Mathematics Competition (AMC) scores. Fifty-five of those chosen are allowed to participate in the Math Olympiad Summer Program (MOSP) in Lincoln, Neb.
From there, the selection becomes critical on who will advance to APMO.

Gu said he will continue to practice math, but balancing schoolwork and college applications has become a challenge lately.

“I haven’t really worked in a while because of apps,” Gu said. “But I hope to start doing math again and to perform well in contests next semester.”

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