The 61st International Mathematical Olympiad was held between September 21 and 22. The online Olympiad saw over 600 students from 29 different countries. Mongolia placed 29th by the overall result. O.Misheel of Shine Mongol High School won a gold medal and ranked fourth individually. He previously won gold, silver, bronze medals when he was younger. Member of the Mongolian national mathematics team O.Misheel gave an interview about his love for mathematics.
Was it the first online Olympiad you attended?
In July, I attended an online Olympiad for the first time. This time, the two-day Olympiad had students supervised under cameras and requested us to solve three problems in four-and-a-half hours. Then we sent our papers through scanner to the judges. I scored 99.5 out of 100 and placed fourth overall, which brought me a gold medal.
You won a lot of medals from local Olympiads. How old were you when you decided to dedicate your mind to math?
I loved math since I was in first grade at Soyombo School. I have been competing in local and international Olympiads for 12 years thanks to my teachers.
People say that math is the king of science. What is the attraction for you?
In my opinion, math problems are ideas. The problems embody some interesting ideas with ciphers and letters. “Chasing” the idea and solving the problem is a mathematician’s job. I get satisfied after solving difficult problems.
How long do you practice each day?
The students who belong to Mongolian Mathematic Olympiad Committee practice in unison. We practice for three to four hours twice or thrice a week. Besides that, I practice at school with my teacher and at home.
There are some problems that international masterminds couldn’t solve to this day. Have you tried some of them?
I tried, but I never dedicated myself to solving those big problems. There are many interesting unsolved problems even to this day. Those problems look simple if you take a glimpse, but in fact, they are very difficult. There are even some cases of someone inventing a subfield of science while trying to solve a problem. Mathematics requires a lot of exercise, wit and patience, that’s why it’s interesting.
Who was your strongest opponent in the Olympiad? Do you have rivals in Mongolia?
Students from China, India, Korea and the US are impressive. Asians often succeeds in international tournaments. Germans and Russians are good too. Also, M.Unubold from School No. 1 and A.Nyamdavaa from Sant School received medals from the Olympiad. We are kind of rival-friends.
I assume that you traveled to many countries to compete in international tournaments. What was the best country to visit?
Yes, I traveled to many countries since I was little to compete in tournaments. I loved Romania, Thailand and Great Britain.
You will soon graduate high school. Did you choose your future profession?
I haven’t decided yet. I’m interested in math, physics, chemistry, economics, and psychology. I think choosing a profession is the hardest problem. I need to think it through to choose the profession that Mongolia needs most while considering whether that will be interesting to me and whether I will succeed?
Why does psychology interest you?
It is interesting to think about how the human brain and mind works. I heard that if one person is gazing at the sky, the second, third and even fourth person approaching them would look up too without reason I also read somewhere that if many people are around an accident, no one would come to help the injured. On the other hand, if there is only one person nearby, he will certainly rush to help. This seems interesting to me and I want to know the reason behind these behaviour.
What was the last book you read? Do you have idols?
I like science fiction and mathematics books. I recently finished the Harry Potter series in English. I have many idols. My teachers are my biggest idols. Battsengel, Batbayar, Lkhagvadulam and Bazaraa are the teachers that taught me math. There is also teacher D.Altangerel that trains me and he is a very admirable person. I am very lucky to have all these skilled teachers and my lovely family.
In which language are the instructions of the problems given the in International Mathematical Olympiad? How many languages are you fluent in?
I am fluent in English. The instructions are written in English and participants’ mother tongue. I carefully read in both languages and compare them to avoid misunderstanding. Also, I know Japanese a little.
What do you do in your spare time?
I don’t have much free time. I spend my time in route between home, school and practice. I don’t go out if it’s unnecessary. But I think that I walk a lot. I walk faster than anyone. So I assume walking is a sport for me.
Mathematics teacher D.Altangerel gave a short interview. He has been training O.Misheel for six years at Shine Mongol School.
Your pupil O.Misheel ranked fourth in the International Mathematical Olympiad.
I was recruited by the school 20 years ago when it was firstly established. O.Misheel and I are proud of ourselves that we presented a nice gift for our 20th anniversary. Previously, many Mongolian students won gold, silver and bronze medals from the Olympiad. The system gives the first 30 students gold medals and ranks them by execution of the problems. He set a record for Mongolian students by being ranked fourth.
Receiving medals and ranking high in the International Olympiad demonstrates the high IQ of the youth of that country right?
Indeed, it does. We can be proud of our students, who are getting medals even though they are competing against children from more populated countries like China, Russia, India and Thailand. This shows that we can’t be ignored when it comes to math skills. We perhaps can be considered as more intelligent than those countries, considering the difference in population.
It is crucial to find witty and talented children and train them hard. These children, who are competing in math Olympiad, can be considered as non-standard minded. Students that get constant good grades in math aren’t guaranteed to succeed in an Olympiad. Teachers choose students that have potential to succeed in math by recognizing them early on. We have a chance to make any child love math.
It must be hard for teachers to supervise these children to constantly practice math and not give up. Also, how do students get funded to join the Olympiads?
Every teacher has different methods. Children won’t get tired of anything if teachers help them find the beauty and learn to appreciate the subject. Students tend to get bored if teachers keep giving them monotonous problems. Math gives children abilities to see a situation from different perspectives and analyze them. Also, families of children should be supportive to make them succeed. Notebooks that O.Misheel and others used to solve problems have reached well over hundreds.
Olympiads among primary and secondary school students fund their expenses themselves. In the last two years, children weren’t able to participate in the Olympiads due to lack of money. Our school, some individuals and private companies support me and O.Misheel. Thanks to them, he was able to win medals.
How do you see the math program in high schools? Students getting high score in the general entrance exam is pretty rare.
Math education in Mongolia is not bad. That’s why these students are succeeding. The main factors of those low scores are that textbooks are being changed frequently and the ministry is not implementing a long-term policy on them. Olympiad students use high-quality textbooks and textbooks written by foreign specialists.
How many other students of yours succeeded in the Olympiads?
Many students succeeded in local Olympiads. My student E.Namuungoo won gold medals when she was in primary and secondary schools. Now she is studying at Harvard University on a scholarship. Mainly, the world’s top universities tend to offer scholarships to students who succeeded in international Olympiads. It is the biggest joy of a teacher to see their students succeeding around the world.