Sunday 16th March 2008

Ronald Chan: IMO 2006 Slovenia Report

The training at Grafton Camp prior to the IMO was very useful in learning mathematics that one does not get much chance to learn in secondary school, and I am very grateful for this opportunity. Afterwards, there was a flight to Germany for acclimatization and some mock tests. In this lead-up to the IMO, it wasn’t just mathematics that we continued to learn.

Being in Europe, a place where I have never been to is an experience that I treasure – to discover the differences in the systems, the people and the culture (and more walking than I am normally used to). The cost of living in Europe, and especially places like Germany is very high, a result of the strong euro, and I found it extremely hard to buy anything, when in New Zealand, much more can be bought for the same amount of money.

When we actually got to the IMO, everyone has an interest in activities other than mathematics, which should be expected. The facilities were great, and though it was not anywhere close to luxurious, it is a pleasant alternative to living at home, even if only for a week. It allowed candidates to concentrate on the imminent exams. Unfortunately, I find the result rather disappointing, it was an anti-climax more than a relief after sitting the exams. However, it is a brutal lesson, to be more focused on the more realistic, first, second and fourth questions rather than charging ahead to put done something on every question when many are dead ends. There is little I can do for the mistake I made in the first question, the misinterpretation of the second question, another mistake in the fourth question and valuable time wasted attempting some impossible questions, time better spent on finding out about the mistakes I made in previous questions. However, there is little I can do after this one only, there is a lot I can do about it for 2007, which I will attempt to do.

This will definitely involve independent study, because if the training for this IMO is anything to go by, just utilizing the training explicitly given will not, in any case, be enough to give me any satisfaction for the result. I have been rather restricted in this area because the first year I attempted the September problems, and dragged into this whole process has been exhausting. But just because it has taken up so much of my time, just because it has been so difficult to continue to keep up, it doesn’t mean I haven’t enjoyed it, that I do not revel in my new found knowledge of mathematics.

One thing I learnt very early in my school years, as I have always had some mathematical achievement or another – though it is disappointing not to get something in every single competition, in any one, there is some element of chance, where the result, though in the area that you definitely deserve to be in, when considering the exact point, it is quite unpredictable – though practice does change the probability. I can say for sure that in this IMO, I had no chance of being anywhere near some of the people who participate in it. Yet, I am sure that there is a chance for an honourable mention for me. With this in mind, I am determined to qualify for the IMO in 2007, and increase the probability of getting something, to the point where I become satisfied. For next year is the last year I can hope to participate, and though I may get nothing, I can always put in the effort.

I must not forget to mention the activities other than mathematics during the IMO. The sightseeing was great. However, I am inclined to mention more on the other areas, other activities. Even in this group of highly talented students mathematically, I can’t help but notice such a diverse range of people. From those involved in various sports, such as soccer, and one I spent quite some time in, table tennis. Then, there is chess, and the card games that many enjoy playing. In the midst of which, I see many people from different cultures. With the aim of participating in the 2007 IMO, I also hope to see many of the same faces.

I return with an eclectic sample of souvenirs that will continually remind me of the IMO, to know many other better mathematicians, providing for something to aim at, every step leading to the next. I can never forget the new experiences I have gained, and I sincerely thank everyone who made it possible. For how many more will enjoy the same experience, how many more will benefit from this programme, not just visit new places, but learn more, aiding further, tertiary study. However, I will explicitly thank Robin and Shaun, who accompanied us on this trip, and experienced the difficulty in leading the team through tough, unforeseen circumstances requiring speedy initiative and action. If you two read this, you know exactly what I am talking about, and there is no way to completely demonstrate my thanks. I am sure there are others that may be even more deserving of my appreciation, having been a involved for decades longer. However, I cannot help but identify more with these two who I have spent more time with, and may all involved know that my appreciation does extend to them, even if I am not aware of them personally.

Thank you for your continual work to keep this going, and other projects in general (I believe one of which is the Eton Mathematics Competition).