Carnegie Mellon University
July 01, 2016

Program Inspires Young Mathematicians

Loh teaching

By Jocelyn Duffy / 412-268-9982

For three weeks, 70 of the world's best high school math students called Carnegie Mellon University's Pittsburgh campus home.

The students were at CMU for the Mathematical Association of America's (MAA's) Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (MOSP).

"It's really exciting for all of us at Carnegie Mellon to host this program, because CMU is a place for real-world problem solvers," said Provost Farnam Jahanian. "What the students have learned here will give them the skills and confidence they need to succeed not only in school, but wherever their lives may take them."

While here, the students had the opportunity to meet and interact with other students who share their affinity for math. They also learned advanced math concepts and techniques from a group of instructors who included Carnegie Mellon faculty, faculty from other universities and former MOSP participants.
"The MAA's American Mathematics Competitions and the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program help us to foster a love of mathematics by providing interesting, challenging material to students along their educational journey," said MAA Director Michael Pearson.

The ultimate goal of the program was to teach students problem-solving and creative-thinking skills, said Po-Shen Loh, associate professor of Mathematical Sciences at CMU and MOSP director. Loh said that they could apply these techniques not only to math competitions, but also to their schoolwork and in real-life situations.

"If mathematics were popularized more in the same way that basketball is popularized, then some people would know there's something to reach for," Loh said. "I want to focus on the 20-year trajectory of the success of all these students. We have a responsibility to help these people not only succeed in the concentration, but to be as productive as possible in their future careers and leave an impact on the country and in the world."

This year, 10 international students participated in MOSP, marking the first time international students had been invited to MOSP on such a large scale. Their participation was sponsored by CMU and supported in part by the President's Office through funds provided by the Hillman Foundation for the Henry L. Hillman President's Chair, and the Benter Foundation.

Six of the MOSP participants are part of the U.S. International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) Team, coached by Loh, and some of the international students are part of other countries' IMO teams. They will take the skills they learned to the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), which will take place in Hong Kong, July 6-16.