2017 Auckland Mathematical Olympiad

13 May 2017
Deputy Head of Department, Professor Tom ter Elst, with the two overall winners Andrew Chen and William Han and the organiser, Phil Kane.
Deputy Head of Department, Professor Tom ter Elst, with the two overall winners Andrew Chen and William Han and the organiser, Phil Kane.

The Department of Mathematics hosted its annual Mathematical Olympiad for secondary school students across the Auckland region on Saturday 13 May. During February, March and April, the mathematics department of every school in the region was emailed by Robyn Headifen of Team Solutions at Epsom campus. On the day, students came from schools as far afield as Avondale, Macleans, Orewa and ACG Strathallan Colleges to compete at the University. Of the 170 entries received, about 160 students arrived to compete in two age-based divisions – a junior division of Year 9-11 students and a senior division of Year 12-13 students. 

Questions were once again set by our Maths Olympiad specialists, Professor Arkadii Slinko and Associate Professor Igor Klep, and each candidate was given two hours to attempt these. Candidates were allowed to have their solutions checked twice by any of the 22-strong team of markers from the Mathematics department.

In case students provided solutions requiring further mathematical judgement, Dr Shixiao Wang (junior room) and Associate Professor Igor Klep (senior room) were available for expert interpretations. Markers had to speedily get to a candidate to check a solution, and then to be ready to race off to another part of the lecture theatre to get to another candidate whose hand was up. At the end of the two hours, students exited the rooms to get refreshments and the markers then checked, totalled and ranked score sheets, so that the top 15 students from each division could be found. Score and age boundary discussions took place, and decisions were made and justified before the prizewinners were eventually identified.  

The Department of Mathematics also provided pizza and drinks for the students and their teachers and families as they awaited their results. The behind-the-scenes labelling, receipt of the entries, design and printing of certificates, and catering were again ably performed by Mathematics department professional staff Amanda Gordon and Sithra Sukumaar. In an adjacent room, Dr Igor’ Kontorovich and Dr Tanya Evans met with parents and teachers, and they initiated discussions on working with gifted children as well as exploring mathematics options (such as Financial Mathematics) at the University. Our appreciation goes to Head of Department Professor Bernd Krauskopf who once again sponsored the AMO, and to everyone who took part in any way before and during the event. 

Every school was provided with their students’ certificates of participation before winners of the major prizes were invited to come down to receive them. At the close, two clear winners with outstanding scripts (the highest we have had in four years) were awarded first places. In the Junior division, William Han (Year 11) from Macleans College claimed first prize. The Senior winner was Andrew Chen (Year 12) of St Kentigern College, who repeated his 2015 and 2016 wins in the Juniors, and who also came well ahead of Year 13 students in his division.

Although boys were awarded 11 of the top 15 prizes in the Junior division, interestingly there was a major reversal in fortunes for the girls in the Senior division, with girls winning 9 of the top 15 prizes (compared with 4 out of 15 in 2016), including two of the top five prizes. It is wonderful to see all these young minds in action, and our desire is that they continue to study, to work and to succeed in mathematics.