International Mathematical Olympiad

From Academic Kids

The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is an annual contest for high school students. It is the oldest of the international science olympiads.

The first IMO was held in Romania in 1959. Since then it has been held every year except 1980. About 80 countries send teams of (at most) 6 students each (plus one team leader, one deputy leader and observers). Teams are not officially recognized - all scores are given only to individual contestants. Constestants must be under the age of 20 and must not have any post-secondary school education. Subject to these conditions, an individual may participate any number of times in the IMO.

The paper consists of 6 problems, with each problem being worth 7 points. The total score is thus 42 points. The examination is held over two consecutive days; the contestants have 4.5 hours to solve 3 problems on each day. The problems chosen are from various areas of secondary school mathematics, broadly classifiable as geometry, number theory, algebra, and combinatorics. They require no knowledge of higher mathematics, and solutions are often short and elegant. Finding them, however, requires exceptional ingenuity and mathematical ability.

Each participating country other than the host country may submit suggested problems to a Problem Selection Committee provided by the host country, which reduces the submitted problems to a shortlist. The team leaders arrive at the IMO a few days in advance of the contestants and form the IMO Jury which is responsible for all the formal decisions relating to the contest, starting with selecting the 6 problems from that shortlist. As the leaders know the problems in advance of the contestants, they are kept strictly separated from the contestants until the second examination has finished; the contestants are accompanied to the IMO by their deputy leaders.

Each country's marks are agreed between that country's leader and deputy leader and Co-ordinators provided by the host country (the leader of the team whose country submitted the problem in the case of the marks of the host country), subject to the ultimate decision of the Jury if any disputes cannot otherwise be resolved.


Selection process

United Kingdom

In the UK those that enter the British Mathematical Olympiad are reduced to around 20 for a 'training session' held in Trinity College, Cambridge. A squad (team plus reserve) of around 9 is selected from examinations during these sessions and a final team is selected after a further training session held at Oundle School.

United States

In the United States, the team is selected through the American Mathematics Competitions, which are open to all high school students.


The participants are ranked based on their individual scores.

  • Gold medals will be awarded to the top 1/12 of the contestants.
  • Silver medals will be awarded to the next 2/12.
  • Bronze medals will be awarded to the next 3/12.
  • Participants who don't win a medal but who score 7 points on at least one problem will get an honorable mention.

Special prizes may be awarded for solutions of outstanding elegance or involving good generalisations of a problem. This last happened in 1995 and 1988, but was more frequent up to the early 1980s.

Current and future IMOs

  • The 46th IMO will be held in Mrida, Mexico in 2005. [1] (
  • The 47th IMO will be held in Slovenia in 2006.
  • The 48th IMO will be held in Vietnam in 2007.
  • The 49th IMO will be held in Spain in 2008.
  • The 50th IMO will be held in Bremen, Germany in 2009.

Past IMOs

Sources differ about the cities hosting some of the early IMOs. This may be partly because leaders are generally housed well away from the students, and partly because after the competition the students did not always stay based in one city for the rest of the IMO. The exact dates cited may also differ, because of leaders arriving before the students, and at more recent IMOs the IMO Advisory Board arriving before the leaders.

External links

it:Olimpiadi Internazionali di Matematica ja:国際数学オリンピック ru:Международная Математическая олимпиада sl:Matematična olimpijada zh:国际数学奥林匹克竞赛


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