Campus & Community

Stevens Olympiad Inspires a Competitive Zeal for Math

Three sixth grade students from All Saints Academy in Bayonne, New Jersey hold up their certifcates of completion.
Sixth grade participants from All Saints Academy in Bayonne, New Jersey

More than 300 middle and high school students gathered at the Stevens Institute of Technology campus in Hoboken June 11 to compete in the first Stevens Math Olympiad.

Participants, ranging in age 10 to 18, were given 90 minutes to solve 15 problems considered average or above average, in terms of level of difficulty and respective of grade level.

Designed by Stevens to awaken and reinforce children's interest in mathematics, the Olympiad has several goals:

  • to stimulate enthusiasm and a love for mathematics;
  • to introduce important mathematical concepts;
  • to strengthen mathematical intuition and to stimulate mathematical creativity and ingenuity; and
  • to attract bright middle and high school students to Stevens.

World-renowned mathematician Alexei Miasnikov, director of the mathematical sciences department at Stevens and recipient of the Malcev Prize from the Russian Academy of Sciences, spoke about the broader implications of math skills in how students learn.

“Most of the Olympiad participants will not become professional mathematicians, but all of them will need to have well-developed analytical and critical-thinking skills. The problems presented in mathematical Olympiads are directed towards elaborating such skills,” said Miasnikov in his opening remarks.

His Stevens colleague Pavel Dubovski, a research associate professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, served as the main organizer of the competition. He says the program seeks to stimulate creativity and help students discover the hidden beauty of math, which can often be blunted and masked by joyless standardized tests like the SAT and ACT.

“Educators need to find a way to counter the negative influence of routine drills and rote learning. Participation in events like the Stevens Olympiad encourages the sharpening of intellectual skills so that students can think creatively in solving mathematical and logical problems,” said Dubovski.

The high level of interest to compete in the Olympiad was evident in the serious preparation by some of the participants.

“We have been staying after school every day doing math in anticipation for this competition and the students have also done homework on a voluntary basis solely in preparation for this Saturday,” revealed Anna Boscarino, a fourth grade teacher at the Huber Street School in Secaucus, New Jersey.

Mitchell Ngo, a parent of one of the participants, says he is thankful for Stevens’ commitment to inspiring a joy and excitement of math among young students.

“As the parent of a fourth grader, I want my child to engage in math in a challenging but fun way. I came away very impressed with Stevens’ active involvement in getting kids to realize that math can be a creative process.”

To learn more about the Stevens Math Olympiad, visit at stevens.edu/matholympiad.