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What is a Mathematics Olympiad? The original meaning of the word Olympiad was the
period of four years reckonedfromonecelebrationoftheOlympicGamestothenext,bywhic
h the ancient Greeks computed time. The year 776 bce was taken as the rst yearoft
he rstOlympiad.Inmoderntimesthewordhasbecomeassociated withtheregularcelebrationof
theOlympicGamesrevivedin1896.During the course of the twentieth century it came
to refer also to other specialist competitions held on a regular basis, e.g. Che
ss Olympiad, Chemistry Olympiad,etc.OnemajordifferencefromtheOlympicGamesisthege
neral ruleforMathematicalOlympiads,thatcontestantsbehighschoolstudents, not yet
registered at a tertiary educational institution, and under 19 years of age. The
reason behind this is that a primary objective of the World Federation of Natio
nal Mathematics Competitions (WFNMC) is to stimulate interest in and enjoyment o
f the subject in high schools. This objective is achieved in a number of differe
nt ways. Firstly, mathematics competitions and Olympiads are a powerful way of c
onvincing young people that mathematics is a lively and attractive subject. Seco
ndly, there is ample evidence that such competitions are remarkably effective in
identifying future mathematiciansatanearlystage,andhelpingthemtodiscoveranddeve
loptheir gift. Thirdly, in mounting high-pro le and often glamorous competitions,
public awareness of mathematics is promoted, the morale of mathematics teachers
is boosted, and the quality of mathematics education is improved. Fourthly,inamo
resubtleway,MathematicsOlympiadsprovideextremely valuable (and sadly rare) commo
n ground for university mathematicians and high school teachers and students of
mathematics to come together and share ideas on how the subject might be taught
more effectively. Hungary is a small country in Eastern Europe that has produced
far more than its share of the worlds top mathematicians in the last 60 years. T
his distinction has been attributed to the long-standing and important role of m
athematics competitions in Hungarys education system. From such beginnings, the m
athematics competitions movement has developed dramaticallyallovertheworldinrece
ntdecades,unitedinacommoncause by the WFNMC. A Mathematical Olympiad, then, whet
her provincial, national or international, is a form of regular competition in w
hich young people pit their mathematical prowess and wits against each other in
solving challenging and attractive problems of a mathematical sort.