MEDIA RELEASE — June 29, 2009

Canadian Mathematical Society
University of Calgary's Faculty of ScienceImperial Oil Foundation

June 29, 2009
University of Calgary's Faculty of ScienceImperial Oil Foundation

Calgary high-school students comprise half of national Olympic math team

Mathletes train at U of C and the Banff International Research Station before heading to the games

CALGARY, Alberta — Six of the most prized high-school math students in all of Canada are honing their skills at a training camp in Alberta before battling it out at a prestigious world championship: the 50th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO)

These bright mathletes – half of whom are from high schools in Calgary – were introduced at a send-off reception at the University of Calgary today before they travel to the Banff International Research Station to begin their final preparation for the games which take place in Bremen, Germany, from July 10 to July 22. They have just spent the last three days training at the University of Calgary.

“Training is vital to the students’ success,” says Graham Wright, executive director of the Canadian Mathematical Society. “They are bright kids, but don’t get where they are without the training they receive. That’s certainly something the U of C has been a part of.”

Two of the Calgary students are from Western Canada High School: Hunter Spink, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student and Chengyue (Jarno) Sun, 17-year-old Grade 12 student. Also from Calgary is XiaoLin (Danny) Shi, an 18-year-old from Sir Winston Churchill High School.

Joining the three Calgarians is Yu (Robin) Cheng, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student from Pinetree Secondary School in Coquitlam, BC; Jonathan Schneider, a 17-year-old Grade 11 student from University of Toronto Schools in Toronto, Ont.; Chen Sun, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student from A.B. Lucas Secondary School in London, Ont.

A seventh student, Mariya Sardarli from McKernan Junior High School in Edmonton, has joined the team for the past few training sessions in Calgary in order to learn more about what the competition entails, in hopes of one day being a participant herself.

Canada has been competing in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) since 1981 and this year marks Canada’s 29th straight appearance. Beginning with only seven participating countries in 1959, the Olympiad has now grown to 107 countries with almost 600 contestants. In the last 28 years, Canadian students have received a total of 16 gold, 37 silver and 66 bronze medals.

“The University of Calgary is delighted to support these students as they head off to represent Canada at this prestigious competition,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost (Students). “Our math professors and students have enjoyed working with such bright and engaging young people.”

The Math and Statistics Department has been holding enrichment sessions for high school students for more than 25 years. “Math Nights” are held once a week during the fall and winter terms and the three students from Calgary going to this year’s Olympiad have been attending a special math session put on by graduate student Adrian Tang. The department also organizes and runs the annual Calgary Junior Math Contest, and helps organize the annual Alberta High School Math Competition.

The Imperial Oil Foundation is a major sponsor of the Canadian IMO team. “At Imperial Oil, we put a tremendous value in the pursuit of math and science education. We believe that investing in a high quality education system for our young people is one of the most important investments we can make for the future of our country,” says Monica Samper, president, Imperial Oil Foundation.

“We're very proud to have a strong history of supporting the Canadian Mathematical Society – both through our support of the organization’s math camp programs and now as a major sponsor of the International Mathematical Olympiad team. Congratulations to the members of this year's team.”

The mathletes will be competing against more than 575 of the world’s best from over 100 countries. Over a period of two days, the students will spend 4.5 hours per day answering a total of three questions each day.

Team leader, Dorette Pronk from Dalhousie, says the Olympiad provides an amazing experience for the students. “To the students, being able to participate in the event is already a prize in itself,” says Pronk who is working with deputy team leaders David Arthur from Stanford and Jacob Tsimerman from Princeton. “It gives them a chance to spend time with other students their age with the same passion.”

For more information:

Graham Wright
Executive Director
Canadian Mathematical Society
or David Fairbanks
Communications Assistant
Faculty of Science // University of Calgary
403-220-4269 (office)
403-710-5157 (cell)