Beautiful Minds

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They are the world’s finest. And when they converge on the city of Athens this summer, as the very first Olympians did more than a century ago, they will perform feats that leave the rest of us breathless. Bending number theory to suit their will. Summoning imaginary numbers where only Omega will do. Telling jokes with punch lines that go, “One third x cubed. Plus a constant.”

For those of us who count ourselves among math’s lowest common denominator, the very thought of an International Mathematical Olympiad is the stuff of recurring anxiety dreams. But for a very select few kids from all over the world, the annual competition, the toughest of its kind, is the ultimate proof of their prowess. Ladies and gentlemen, sharpen your pencils. Math that will move you.


Steve Olson, author, “Countdown: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World’s Toughest Math Competition”

Gabriel Carroll, competitor at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 2001

Melanie Wood, competitor at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 1998 and 1999, and the only girl to represent the United States at an Olympiad