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Studying Atrocious at Contest Math

The results I received for the most recent math competition were quite disappointing, and I have recently found that I greatly lack the ability to solve mathematical problems in an effective and creative manner, particularly in a timed context. As for the timed context, I am conscious of the fact that research mathematics is not a race against others to display superiority (the superiority is questionable, in addition). Howbeit, it does require high order thinking and spurs of creativity, which I do not possess. My mind is essentially analogous to that of a robot. I am able to solve ordinary differential equations, understand concepts such as divergence and curl, yet am unable to solve simplistic mathematical problems, let alone more complex ones. How can I boost my mathematical problem solving proficiency? Note that I am 12 years old, and I desperately require assistance when it comes to preparing for olympiads.
 

fresh_42

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Those things are usually a matter of practice, yet not alone. Some people are simply more talented than others when it comes to very specific qualities, and solving mathematical riddles under pressure is a specific quality. Nevertheless you can improve by training. E.g. you could participate in our monthly math challenges, and / or solve the old problems you will find here:
Just tackle those you think you have the knowledge for, or can get the knowledge fast by reading a Wikipedia page.

Of course you can also search the internet for examples, but it is hard to find suitable ones. We have websites with old olympiad problems (partly with solutions), and I assume similar in your country. That's another source for practice.
 
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Vanadium 50

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You've asked this before. Twice. It is unlikely that you will get any better answers this time, and indeed, it sounds like you are not planning on following the advice you got last time. Some people might even interpret these messages as humblebragging.

My mind is essentially analogous to that of a robot.
This does not sound good to me. You should probably discuss these feelings with your parents and not strangers on the internet.
 

symbolipoint

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Howbeit, it does require high order thinking and spurs of creativity, which I do not possess.
How do you know? You're only 12 years old. You have a lot still to learn and a lot of time still to learn it in. It's way too early to pass judgment like this on yourself.
 

mathwonk

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Relax. I am a retired professional mathematician with a long list of research publications, yet, when I was 12, I was mostly trying to perfect my ability to do arithmetic problems like 9x7 = whatever. If you care about my own assessment of my creative abilities, (which I am actually proud of), I always thought my enjoyment of comic books (Donald Duck, Count of Monte Cristo), was helpful! You will be just fine. The more fun you have the more creative you will probably be. Give yourself some slack, or rather a lot of slack. Forget contests and find a topic you enjoy, and then,,,well,..enjoy it! good luck.

If on the other hand you are really interested in doing well in competitions, in my experience that is associated with practicing on similar competitive tests in preparation for the actual test. I.e. very few people can solve a new creative problem in a short amount of time on a test, under pressure, so the winners are usually those who have spent the most time practicing in advance, so that the problems they see on the test are ones they have already solved before. I myself spent a lot of such practice time and thus did fairly well on such tests, and won a lot of trophies for my school. What I did not realize was how little this had to do with actual mathematical ability, or creativity, or research potential, which i had to learn later.

I.e. math contests are fun for some, and some math stars excel at them, but they may have little to do with actual research potential for many of us.
 
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Ygggdrasil

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I listen to a podcast by author Malcolm Gladwell called Revisionist History, and in a pair of episodes, he makes a very compelling argument that timed tests (he focuses on the LSAT for law school admissions) overvalue certain types of intelligence over others, and often timed tests end up rewarding the wrong types of skills needed for many fields. You may find it to be an interesting listen:

 

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