- For the third time in four years, U.S. students took first place in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMA), held in Romania over a two-day competition in July, according to the Mathematical Association of America.
- Six students formed the U.S. team, who qualified by competing throughout the course of the year in local competitions.
- The U.S. team competed against 10 other teams, and won by earning 212 out of 252 points.
The U.S. team taking the top prize in the IMA for three out of the past four years, is notable, considering America’s children placed 38th out of 71 countries in the most recent Programme for International Assessment. True, the six students who won the IMA are not representative of U.S. students taking the PISA, but their win could point to an interesting element: how can adding competition to the math curriculum boost learning?
Children tend to study math through individual work. While group assignments or encouraging students to work together in math are not complete anomalies, students are often assessed for their individual achievement rather than their ability to perform against their peers, particularly in mathematics.
Competition is a dicey word — some see highly competitive learning environments as adding stress to a student’s day. Children however could be allowed to volunteer for math competitions, letting those who are interested test their math skills beyond work sheets and, in some cases, against the world at large.