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WHIZ KIDS: Strength in Numbers

  1. August 15, 2011
  2. By Megan Gallagher
  4. http://lajolla.patch.com/articles/strength-in-numbers-2

For one La Jolla High School student, international math competitions are as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Although some students spend much of their time trying to avoid doing their math homework, others, like 15-year-old Sarah Herrmann, enjoy the challenge of logic and numbers.

Name: Sarah Herrmann

Age: 15

School: La Jolla High School

Accomplishment: Competed and received a bronze medal in the China Girls Mathematical Olympiad (CGMO).

Key to Awesomeness: Sarah got to exercise her passion for mathematics when she was selected to participate in the 10th annual China Girls Mathematical Olympiad after scoring exceedingly well on a qualifying exam and participating in the 2011 USA Mathematical Olympiad. The CGMO is an intensive two-day math competition in Shenzhen, China, that draws teams of young women internationally. This year, the U.S. team consisted of eight high school girls from around the country and was sponsored by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and the Mathematical Association of America. Sarah competed among 192 of the brightest young mathematical scholars and brought home a bronze medal from the event, which took place Aug. 1-2.

“That [the medal] really wasn’t the important part,” Sarah said. “The best part for me was the opportunity to learn more math and to meet a lot of people who also love math—new friends and role models.”

Sarah is no stranger to math competitions. The high school junior first began participating in competitions through the math team at Muirlands Middle School and the San Diego Math Circle. However, the CGMO is by far the most challenging of mathematical competitions. Participants are given four hours to solve four math problems—mostly proofs. The event required extensive preparation as well. The U.S. CGMO team trained at a Math Olympiad Summer Program in June, studying math six hours per day, with four-hour tests on alternating days.

“It should be noted that most professional mathematicians would have trouble answering these questions,” MSRI Associate Director Dr. David Auckly said. “Academically only 30 percent of American women have doctorate degrees in math, so it is very nice to give role models for women who want to enter mathematics, and this program does that.”

While training was intense, Sarah notes that she enjoyed the experience, especially being abroad for the first time, and being exposed to Chinese culture.

“Although Olympiad problems have little application beyond high school math competitions, the problem-solving skills learned from them do,” she said.

Sarah hopes to continue pursuing mathematics and science.

NOTE: To see photos of Sarah Herrmann, please follow the URL link at the top of the webpage.