Alex Zhai ties for second-highest score in 2007 USA Mathematical Olympiad
JUNIOR ALEX ZHAI has been recognized as one of the nation's top 12 math students after his impressive performance on the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad exam, a six-question test that is completed over two days using precalculus concepts and methods.
For the second consecutive year, Zhai has earned the second-highest score in the competition, the nation's most prestigious contest for high school math students. Only 505 students out of an original 225,000 were invited to compete in the USAMO.
Zhai scored 28 points out of a possible 42 (the highest-scoring student had 32 points) and will soon be competing with 11 other students in the Team Selection Test for a spot on the six-person team that will represent the United States in this summer's International Math Olympiad.
Another student also scored 28 points, according to Zhai. He was informed of the results Sunday night in a phone call from the MAA.
Zhai scored 41 out of 42 possible points on last year's USAMO and went on to represent the United States in the IMO. He won a silver medal as the U.S. team placed fifth in the world out of 90 countries.
“My USAMO score puts me on track to make the IMO team again, but since this year's test was harder than last year's, the top 12 scores are closer together,” Zhai said. “This just means that the Team Selection Test will be more important.”
As one of the 12 USAMO winners, Zhai has earned a trip to Washington, D.C., to take part in a ceremony to be held at the headquarters of the MAA on May 20. Another ceremony and reception at the U.S. Department of State will occur on May 21.
Zhai will then return to MAA headquarters on May 22 and 23 to take the TST, the final step in qualifying for the U.S. IMO team.
The team will consist of the six students with the highest combined scores from the TST and the USAMO.
If Zhai qualifies for the IMO team, he will spend three weeks in June preparing at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program, where the students will be trained for the IMO, to be held in Hanoi, Vietnam, from July 19 to 30.
Zhai qualified for participation in this year's USAMO because of his scores on two previous tests administered by the Mathematical Association of America: the American Mathematics Contest 10 or 12 and the American Invitational Mathematics Examination.
The AIME score is multiplied by 10 and added to a student's AMC score; if this number exceeds 197.5, the student can participate in the USAMO. Zhai's scores yielded a qualification index of 280.
More than 225,000 students took part in the AMC. The field was cut to 10,000 students for the AIME, after which the field was narrowed to the 505 invited to compete in the USAMO.
Last year's International Math Olympiad was held in the European nation of Slovenia.
[Note: For those interested in learning more about what competing in the International Math Olympiad is like, see Steve Olson's 2004 book, “Count Down: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World's Toughest Math Competition.”]
Alex Zhai's road to the 2006 International Mathematical Olympiad
— Feb. 20, 2006, Gargoyle coverage: More than 30 Uni students advance in national math competition
— April 2, 2006, Gargoyle coverage: Alex Zhai invited to compete in USA Math Olympiad
— April 25, 2006, Gargoyle coverage: Alex Zhai earns second-highest score in 2006 USA Math Olympiad
— June 3, 2006, Gargoyle coverage: Alex Zhai wins $15,000 scholarship
— June 19, 2006, Gargoyle coverage: Alex Zhai to represent U.S. at International Math Olympiad
— July 16, 2006, Gargoyle coverage: Zhai wins silver medal at International Math Olympiad
— Sept. 22, 2006, Gargoyle first person by Alex Zhai: IMO a milestone, but not the end