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Wang, Huang win medals at Math Olympiad

Mathematics is one subject people tend to either love or hate.

But no matter how you feel about it, everyone can agree that numbers are a universal language, and two local students recently proved they are masters of the international lingo.

At the 10th annual China Girls Math Olympiad, held in Shenzhen near Hong Kong from July 31 to Aug. 3, all eight members of the U.S. team won medals, including two teenagers from the West Valley area. Campbell resident Danielle Wang, 14, earned a gold medal and Saratoga resident Julia Huang, 15, won a silver medal.

Julia is going into her sophomore year at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, where she will be taking statistics, a high-level class for her grade. But this hard-working 15-year-old is used to being ahead of the curve.

"Last year I took calculus. There were three of us" freshman, Julia said. "Next year I think I'm going to a nearby college to take classes for math."

The silver medal finish is the highlight of Julia's competitive math career so far. She has made it to statewide tournaments, but had never competed internationally.

Julia said she is already planning to try for the Olympiad again next year.

"It was a really nice experience," she said. "We had one-on-one meetings with the coaches, and I learned some strategies."

Julia said she also enjoyed the non-math aspects of the trip and the bonding among competitors.

"It was fun. One day we went hiking up this mountain with a really nice view. And we got to meet girls from the other teams like Russia, Japan and Singapore," she said.

And that shiny silver medal was a nice bonus.

"My parents were really proud of me," Julia said.

Danielle Wang's parents were equally proud of their daughter's performance. Not only did the 14-year-old take home a gold medal, she finished sixth in the overall standings out of the Olympiad's 190 competitors.

This is not the first time Danielle has experienced competitive success. Her interest in math really took off when she was in fourth grade after she participated in the American Math Competition.

"I love math because of the wonderful feeling you get after finishing a proof," Danielle said. "There's an indescribable feeling you feel after seeing all the theorems you've learned, all the tricks you know, come together into one elegant proof after hours of work."

Danielle has participated in several math tournaments, often leaving with the top prize. She won gold medals in 2010 and 2011 at USA Mathematical Talent Search, first place at Math Prize for Girls in 2010 and first place at SMT Advanced Topics in 2011.

She will take calculus as a freshman this coming school year at Westmont and plans to pursue math in college.

All of the girls on the U.S. team wrote an online travelogue to share highlights from their trip to the 2011 China Girls Math Olympiad. To read about their experience, visit http://www.msri.org/specials/cgmo/2011 .