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Education Math

US Wins Math Olympiad For First Time In 21 Years 280

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. won the International Mathematical Olympiad for the first time in 21 years. Gender diversity is brought up in this NPR article because the eight team members on the U.S. team were all male, but they made a point to mention that of the top 12 people participating in the U.S. Math Olympiad, 2 are female, which is better than last year when there were no females in the top 12. "I will say that it's not really a super-great spectator sport, in the sense that if you are watching them, it will look like they are thinking," Po-Shen Loh, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and head coach for Team USA says. "Although I will assure you that inside their heads, if you could spectate, that would be quite a sport."
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US Wins Math Olympiad For First Time In 21 Years

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2015 @06:29PM (#50141575)

    Why has Slashdot been so focused on counting genitalia lately? Every day there's some story about how there are too many penises, or not enough vaginas, involved with some industry or activity. I mean, earlier today we had a shitty submission about the penis and vagina accountants not liking the numbers they're working with [slashdot.org], which I thought would mean no more penis and vagina counting submissions for the rest of the day. But nope! I was wrong! Now we have this submission, which although it mentions mathematics briefly, is far more focused on counting penises and vaginas.

    • Heh heh heh, you said penis AND vagina, heh heh heh.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 19, 2015 @07:54PM (#50141895)

      it's most websites these days... they've been hijacked by a radical feminist SJW agenda and everything - EVERYTHING - must be, one way or another, about women.

      i'm all for equality. who in their right mind is NOT? but if people are selected based on merit and women don't make it in, what is the story?

      nobody is seeking to exclude women by policy. so if they don't cut it or if enough of them simply aren't interested, whose problem is that?

      i know that this unpleasant movement won't last... it can't... it's too hypocritical and vitriolic. but man, the faster this brand of feminism ceases to be in public discourse, the better all of humanity will be.

    • Because theodp clickbait is good for revenue.

      Did you want an answer, or a podium?

    • Not much racial diversity either -- most of the work winning these prizes seems to have been offshored to cheap Chinese prizewinners.

      List_of_International_Mathematical_Olympiads [wikipedia.org]

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's an area that needs more study: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      In short there are differences, but they are not enough to account for there being no females or very few on most of the teams. That suggests that selection for the teams is either not based purely on merit, or there is some issue preventing more girls studying mathematics to the highest levels.

      It's a legitimate question to ask. That you simply don't like it or feel threatened by it is irrelevant.

      • by Raseri ( 812266 ) on Monday July 20, 2015 @11:30AM (#50145333)
        It's a legitimate question to ask.

        No, it really isn't, and unless you can prove that the team organizers are checking competitors' pants, or that the evil Patriarchy Boogeyman is stopping women from competing, you just come off like a shrill lunatic with a massive chip on her shoulder.

        That suggests that selection for the teams is either not based purely on merit, or there is some issue preventing more girls studying mathematics to the highest levels.

        Or that, overall, women just aren't as good as men at math. It's a legitimate possibility; that you simply don't like it or feel threatened by it is irrelevant.
  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Sunday July 19, 2015 @06:30PM (#50141579)

    But by the content of their character ?

    Really I am sure the diversity police would have been in heaven, if the team had quotas and lost. It's for the greater good after all.

    • If they'd lost, they'd have been ignored. Have you noticed that the PAVAs* (Penis And Vagina Accountants) only seem to focus on highly successful enterprises and organizations? Silicon Valley, Google, Apple, etc. They don't really talk much about Yahoo because a) their market value is bleeding away, and b) their CEO is a woman, so it's hard to play the "institutional sexism" card there.

      * Thanks first post AC. I'm going to use this from now on. It's a far better description than "Social Justice Warrior

    • I think it had something to do with the contents of their pants.

  • a left-handed MLB pitcher is better. there's nothing wrong with being a rightie. same thing with this M/F thing that /. has.
    • Although I will assure you that inside their heads, if you could spectate, that would be quite a sport.

      It's probably more interesting than what's happening in baseball [schlockmercenary.com], anyway.

      • by AJWM ( 19027 )

        Wow, Howard Tayler's artwork has sure improved over the years. (Although oddly, Sgt. Schlock doesn't look any different.)

    • This math as a sport [go.com] has some catching on left to do.
    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      It's the other way around, all else being equal, right-handed pitching is generally better in baseball. Whereas left-handed batting is better. The reason is that batters tend to do better against a pitcher of the opposite handedness, since they have a better angle on the ball. And most players are right-handed, so it's generally better to pitch right and bat left. Left-handed pitchers do have some advantages, such as easier pick-off throws to first base, but the disadvantage of pitching mostly against oppos

      • And most players are right-handed, so it's generally better to pitch right and bat left.

        No, it's better to pitch right and have a left-handed DH.

        Don't nobody want to see a pitcher bat.

      • Left-handed pitchers do have some advantages, such as easier pick-off throws to first base,

        Are you sure? That seems like a harder throw to me. You can't just throw it from your position on the mound, you have to turn your body so you can throw it towards the base.

  • by qrwe ( 625937 ) on Sunday July 19, 2015 @06:40PM (#50141605) Homepage Journal
    ...is mentioned here the first time at ./ since 1997 (birth of ./), here are the winners since: 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2004, v2, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997: China 2007, 1999: Russia 2015: U.S.A. 2012: South Korea 2003: Bulgaria 1998: Iran
    • 1998: Iran

      When I was in college, to prepare for programming contests, we practiced on problems from programming contests that had taken place around the world. The Iranian problem set (from Tehran) was among the most difficult.

      • Next time a recruiter contacts you, tell him you're looking for $200k (push up all our salaries).

        Do jobs that pay less than that even get calls from recruiters?

        • The recruiter might have a contract to fill lower pay positions along with upper level, I've gotten calls for entry level positions with crap benefits before by some recruiter who was probably just cold calling.
        • I don't get calls from any recruiters, because I don't put my phone number online. However, I know someone who does, and she gets calls for jobs paying less than $100k in Silicon Valley.
    • Another notable point is that this is the first year in which Russia hasn't got any gold. There has been a minor shitstorm there over it, as math is traditionally considered a strong point (like hockey, heh).

  • Diversity? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Sunday July 19, 2015 @06:46PM (#50141621) Homepage
    Diversity can go only so far. There are no women playing in the NFL and no men in the LPGA.

    In this world you're supposed earn your way to the top. Let people be who the hell they want to be.

    And I would have said the same thing if the math team were all females.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      Clearly you need to check your privilege. Not everyone has the had the benefit of learning to reason like a human being and you need to be inclusive of the those who haven't by refraining from pointing out the contradictions in their worldview.
  • Men and women's brains are wired differently and men are generally better at math. That is scientifically proven fact. Get over it.
  • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Sunday July 19, 2015 @07:30PM (#50141777)

    "So not by the color of their skin."
    "Why is Slashdot so focused on counting penises?"
    "Leftie vs. Rightie pitching."
    "Diversity can go only so far. There are no women playing in the NFL and no men in the LPGA."

    *DOUBLE FACEPALM*

    The point, as so many have so persistently failed to grasp, is not simply that there are no female competitors on the US team. It's not simply that the top mathematics students overwhelmingly tend to be male. These are all true, but the point is not that this happens because males are intrinsically better at math. The point is that there is NO EVIDENCE to suggest that the brains of females are any less capable of developing mathematical proficiency and talent in this age group (or any age group, for that matter). Pointing to the existing disparity as evidence is a fallacy: once, not too long ago, there were no black baseball players.

    Instead, the point is that there exists a systematic, cultural, and longstanding bias against encouraging and fostering scientific and mathematical proficiency in female students, and the purpose of bringing this up in the context of the IMO is to again remind Western countries such as the US, that this imbalance exists not because women just "happen" to be worse at math, but because women are DISCOURAGED from doing math and continue to be discouraged. And to be absolutely clear about this:

    1. That does not necessarily mean that men are treated preferentially (in the sense of being given an easier time in STEM fields), but rather that women who attempt to persist in STEM paths tend to face a higher likelihood of varying degrees of sexism and sex discrimination from both peers and instructors that would not happen if they were male. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is overt, but always, it is treatment that would not have happened if they were male.

    2. This cultural attitude against women expressing interest in mathematics and science is not exclusive to men. In fact, it is very often women oppressing other women through peer pressure--in particular, the desire to conform to standards of behavior and personal interests that are more aligned with traditionally "feminine" pursuits. If you are a female teenager interested in math who had the remarkable fortune of not having had your parents ever ask you "why would you want to be a math major? Wouldn't that be too hard," or teachers who didn't think that "girls just don't seem to have the persistence and capability to do the kind of abstract thinking required for mathematics," you would no doubt find that your fellow female friends would almost invariably NOT want to be mathematicians or scientists. And that is also a form of bias that perpetuates the lack of females in mathematics.

    The way a lot of guys react to gender inequality really fails to understand the basic problem. When someone calls out institutionalized sexism, that is not an indictment of individual male behavior. It is an attempt to call to attention a structural problem that is being perpetuated by continued obstinacy on the part of people (both male and female) who don't want to take the time to think about what it might be like to be in someone else's shoes for a change.

    • by Pubstar ( 2525396 ) on Sunday July 19, 2015 @08:07PM (#50141939)
      I think that a lot of the problem in the work place is not institutionalized sexism, but the problem of high profile incidents that make people be worried about hiring female staff. Take the whole incident where the one woman put two guys on blast for making a stupid joke about the word "Dongle" at a tech conference. When you see high profile cases like that come up, naturally people in an already male dominated field are going to be more defensive and not as open to having females with them in the field for fear of being put on blast in public. Combine that with the worry and fear of sexual harassment lawsuits that can be filed pretty much on a whim and can be a death sentence for someone's career, it creates a barrier for women. I work in a place right now where I've been told to be EXTREMELY careful about the wording I use around the female employees. Our workplace will sooner fire me than hear my side of the story so that they don't get a law suit. And its happened here before. Twice. I thank god I work after hours support and I don't have to deal with the regular staff.
    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Sunday July 19, 2015 @08:50PM (#50142113)
      I was recently having a discussion about someone related to IQ tests (there was an interesting poll (who knew) on Slashdot a while ago) and was discussing Raven's Matrices as an example of a test that I thought was unbiased as it was free of any cultural context and had been reduced to abstraction, but a friend shared a study (PDF link) [uam.es]with me that pointed out that the test did have a built-in gender bias due to reliance on spacial analysis, which men do perform better at.

      Given that spacial rotations, manipulation, etc. are an important part of many mathematical fields, it doesn't surprise me that men tend to perform better on average. Also, this does not say that all men are better at math or that women cannot be brilliant mathematicians, merely that if you look at the number of elite mathematicians, that more of them will be male because they are biologically predisposed to be stronger at some of the aspects that make an individual better at math.

      Also, you should account for a person's own internalization of their abilities and how it affects their behavior. If women tend not to be as good at math from an early age, many of them will take a disinterested approach to it. This is hardly unique to women as children and people of all ages and genders exhibit this behavior. Because there are areas where women tend to perform better than men (along with any other brain wiring differences that produce different effects in people) they may be more drawn to other areas of study and focus there time there.

      The problem is that there is evidence to suggest that men and women are different, but there are some who will not accept that argument. I don't know whether that is because the fall prey to some of the same illogical reason that you point to above and assume that it means women can't do something or if it's just a simple matter of people treating their belief as an article of faith that must be true and therefor anything to the contrary must be false.

      While there's certainly no lack of sexism in the world, it's a lot harder to accept that there's some kind of pervasive institutional problem when you have no reason to suspect that you should see roughly equal number of men and women among the ranks of the top mathematicians. Also, given that women earn ~45% of B.S. degree's in mathematics in the U.S. [randalolson.com] it makes the claims of institutional sexism (at least in this area) even harder to believe. Interestingly enough, women early ~70% of the B.S. degrees in English and foreign languages. Perhaps that is related to the scientific evidence that shows that females perform better than males in terms of verbal abilities.

      I don't think you'll find many people who are against providing equal opportunity (or as much as we reasonably can) to everyone, but you can't get there with bad arguments. You end up fighting a problem that doesn't exist or attempting to use a solution that isn't going to work. I think that people are just tired of dealing with other people who don't care to look at the science or will reject it because it doesn't mesh with their existing views. It's a bit like trying to argue with someone who believes in young-earth creationism.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        While there's certainly no lack of sexism in the world, it's a lot harder to accept that there's some kind of pervasive institutional problem when you have no reason to suspect that you should see roughly equal number of men and women among the ranks of the top mathematicians. Also, given that women earn ~45% of B.S. degree's in mathematics in the U.S. it makes the claims of institutional sexism (at least in this area) even harder to believe.

        45% of B.S. degrees in mathematics in the states go to women, but 0% of US Mathematics Olympiad team members are female. You even point out that more generally there are fairly equal numbers of men and women in the top ranks of mathematics. So you have not answered the question of why there is this discrepancy. The institutional problem is with institution selecting and training team members.

        Interestingly enough, women early ~70% of the B.S. degrees in English and foreign languages. Perhaps that is related to the scientific evidence that shows that females perform better than males in terms of verbal abilities.

        I think that is far more likely to be due to social issues, specifically the repression of males who feel pressured t

    • Instead, the point is that there exists a systematic, cultural, and longstanding bias against encouraging and fostering scientific and mathematical proficiency in female students,

      Given that I can't recall any encouraging or fostering of myself for my chosen field of employment, I can't muster up anything beyond apathy for those who complain about the lack of fostering for going into one field or another.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Fuck off fascist. We're wise to your bullshit now. You don't give a fuck about women or their welfare. We know this is a political power play and we know the devastation your kind will wreak on our professions and hobbies if we let you in the door.

      This story has been politicized. What should have been a celebration of the United States' winning victory in the Olympiad, and the evidence of year of math outreach paying off, has instead been turned into yet another attempt to kick mud into the faces of math ne

    • by Trogre ( 513942 )

      Bullshit.

      You're playing a persecution card that no longer exists, but is still happily cited when it's convenient to push feminist agendas.

    • you would no doubt find that your fellow [] friends would almost invariably NOT want to be mathematicians or scientists.

      Doesn't this happen to all of us?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You offer NO PROOF for your claim. In fact there is poor anecdotal evidence it is about the gender since it's consistently all male. There is no proof this is caused by "society peer pressure".

      Personal opinion (with only anecdotal evidence) is that males are more motivated by math and as such get their talent developed further. I know several boys from my youth (myself included) that went absolutely bananas with math (and computers), studying more just for hobby and personal joy. I've known several girls th

    • by tgv ( 254536 )

      > The point is that there is NO EVIDENCE to suggest that the brains of females are any less capable of developing mathematical proficiency and talent

      If you want to be literal: no, for that precise point there might be no hard evidence, but there is enough evidence that females don't actually develop it, and that's what counts. I might have all the talent to become the world's #1 short distance runner, but I am not.

    • Instead, the point is that there exists a systematic, cultural, and longstanding bias against encouraging and fostering scientific and mathematical proficiency in female students

      Fuck you. Prove it. I am sick of this shit. When I went to school way way way back in the mists of time, girls were encouraged over boys. My own son dealt with this shit too... and yet girls are STILL not at the top of the heap.

      Stop abusing boys. You can not force girls to be on top of the heap... and this is nature: There will be a heap. Deal with it asshole. All you are doing is creating misogyny.

    • by Raseri ( 812266 )
      "Institutionalized sexism?" How paranoid and delusional do you have to be to literally blame the entire world for your own failures and shortcomings?
  • China has a much larger advantage by using a large team. I'm surprised the Math Olympiad doesn't have a restriction for max size and minimum size. If one member of the China team feels a little off there's a fair number of competent alternates. The US team only has 6, and that's the primary reason the US looses. I'd qualify it as a form of cheating, but we won even with the disadvantage.
  • I mean, that's not since 1992.

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