Would you be surprised to learn that one of the most widely watched and loved sport competitions out there has nothing to do with endurance or braun? Male, female, short or tall, any competitor can claim victory in this brain-busting sport that requires a sharp mind. Math Olympiads are among the most popular competitions in America with coveted spots trying to be attained by thousands of hopeful contenders.
Nature vs. Nurture
Obviously the straight-A math students feel confident in their math Olympiad abilities, but it is important to note that even if one feels they “aren’t a math person,” the truth is, they probably ARE without even realizing it!
Math ability is not something that is fixed and unchanging at birth. In fact, it is estimated that only 30% - 45% of math skill at age 10 is nature, or due to genetics! That leaves 55% - 75% of potential ability to be developed through nurture throughout childhood. Attaining math skills on a high level can be predominantly influenced by interest, effort, and perseverance.
Think about it – a child who is interested in becoming an NBA star will devote a majority of their time and effort to perfecting their free throws, dribbling and jump shot. The same is true for math – a child who is interested in math will spend time and effort thinking about and solving problems at increasingly challenging levels. If you love something, you will learn something.
More than Just Numbers
The problems students face in math Olympiad challenges are applicable to real life. For example, a 5th grader may face a problem like: At the carnival, admission for kids is $2 and admission for adults is $7. If a group of people spent $40, how many are adults and how many are kids? Rather than a textbook asking a student to solve 4 x 7 + 2 x 6, math Olympiad offers problems in which finding the solution can be applicable to real life.
In a sentence, they require students to think critically.
Many kids today are math lovers; in fact, a recent survey found that 46% of students love or really like math! Math education today focuses more on application and how math has a place in each child’s future rather than the old-school rote memorization of facts and equations.
American Math Olympiads are just another vehicle for enticing interest in the field, and eventually producing future successful members of society. More and more kids are seeing the applicability of math to their future dreams, such as designing buildings, creating music or video games, or becoming a professional athlete. Math is everywhere, and engagement at an early age is key!
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
To train for math Olympiad contest, students meet frequently to practice various problems that they may see at the competition. Groups of students put their heads together to discuss strategies, logic and efficiency at solving these complex problems and in doing so can form strong bonds.
Just like a basketball team that trains together, travels together, competes together, wins and loses together, the bond and feeling of belonging on a math team of others with the same interests and goals is undoubtedly an incredibly beneficial experience for children. Not only do they learn the value of friendship, but they exercise the vital life skills of communication and cooperation.
The Future is Bright
In another survey, 77% of students realized that math is required for success in college and career. Today’s young generation already recognizes that we ALL need to be math people and they are finding ways to embrace that
The eventual leaders of the world are growing up in educational systems practicing logical and critical thinking, reasoning, and analytical skills at such young ages, which will make them far more equipped to solve the world’s biggest problems than may have been possible previously. In joining events like math Olympiad contest, students are embracing fun and relatable ways to make math a part of their everyday existence! And for that, the future is bright.