Students excel in math and physics competitions

May 23, 2018 — by David Koh and Howard Tang

In the past two months, multiple students have participated in the prestigious USA Math (USAMO) and Physics (USAPhO) Olympiads. The results, which have not come out yet, will determine whether participants can attend the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (MOSP) or the U.S. Physics Team Training Camp, respectively.

On April 18 and 19, seven students took the USAMO and the Junior Olympiad (USAJMO) in the research center. The students sat through nine hours of intense math consisting of six proofs spread out through the two days.

Sophomore Brandon Wang and juniors Catherine Wu and Michael Zhang returned to represent Saratoga High in the USAMO, and sophomore Nevin Liang returned to take USAJMO. Sophomore Jeffrey Xu, seventh grader Nilay Mishra and eighth grader Joseph Zhang qualified for USAJMO for the first time.

These students were invited to take the exam after scoring well on the American Mathematics Competition (AMC) 12 or the AMC 10, respectively, as well as the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME), all of which were organized by math teacher Andrew Shoemaker in coordination with the Mathematics Association of America (MAA).

If students score high on the USAMO/USAJMO, they will be selected to attend the MOSP, a camp for the 50 highest scorers out of approximately 400 test takers in the nation. Those invited will have a chance to represent the United States in the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). In past years, Wang and Wu have qualified for this distinguished camp.

According to senior Tiffany Huang, president of the math club, the school had a noticeably large number of students taking the test.

“Many states only have two Olympiad qualifiers each year, so we’re incredibly fortunate to have seven between Redwood and Saratoga,” Huang said. “It has become something we take for granted, but we should take a step back and recognize the difficulty of this achievement.”

In addition to success in USAMO, Liang, Wang, Wu and Zhang qualified to compete in the USAPhO test after earning a score of 15 or higher on the Jan. 31 F=ma exam, a preliminary exam consisting of 25 questions. Six additional students also passed the F=ma: sophomores Allen Chen and Felix Chen, juniors Alexandra Li and Joseph Li and seniors Michael Xue and Andrew Zheng.

Of the 10 total qualifiers, eight chose to take the USAPhO on April 11 in physics teacher Kirk Davis’ classroom. If the students pass, they can attend the U.S. Physics Team Training Camp, sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), which Huang and Wu have previously attended.

According to Wu, as the students wait for MAA and AAPT to release results, which may be posted online at any time before school ends, they patiently study advanced material in their respective subjects to prepare for potential acceptance into prestigious camps.

“I work on past problems, review notes from classes and look at past MOSP problems,” Wu said. “I have a document that has a list of important theorems and things to take note of, and I look at that to prepare.”


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