Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is THIS really the correct way to judge math and science talent ?

  1. Dec 29, 2011 #1
    After a lot of thoughts , I quite agree that the present system which the world has adopted say NOTHING about the math and science talent ! Do you people really think those ... umm Math and science Olympiads say something about your knowledge in math and science ? I don't think so !

    I noticed that there are people who understand math and science very well and in detail but still they fail to do the Olympiads or even the examination system. Olympiads are just mere solving and nothing else ! I know there are many people who don't possess good and conceptual knowledge but still they perform in some Olympiads. Even some people by mere cramming and memorizing perform in these GOD DAMN exams !

    Please discuss.....
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 29, 2011 #2
    The kids who do well on the Olympiad exams/SAT test(primarily Math section) obviously have some talent because they are able to comprehend what is being asked of them...and that's half the battle with these tests.
  4. Dec 29, 2011 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    So far as I know, in most cases Olympiads are voluntary. If they bother you so much, why do you pay any attention to them?
  5. Dec 29, 2011 #4


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Well, the fact remains that many winners of the IMO and the Putnam have gone on to win the Fields Medal. Now, unless you're arguing that the latter is also not a true indication of mathematical ability, you have to concede that these high level competitions count for something.

    Not everyone who wins (or does very well) at an Olympiad goes on to become a distinguished mathematician or scientist. But many distinguished scientists have a history of having done very well in such competitions.

    And Olympiad type competitions are NOT about cramming and regurgitating facts. If anything normal school exam problems are susceptible to this criticism. Olympiad-type problems require a deeper understanding of concepts and how to use them in actual problem solving and proofs. They test insight far more than memory.

    And I also submit to you that, while one can train for Olympiads and improve one's performance, natural ability does a whole lot more to determine one's final performance.
  6. Dec 30, 2011 #5
    Ok , thanks for your replies.. Still I find that there are people who have less knowledge than others and still they manage to excel in these Olympiads. I also find that deep rooted theoretical knowledge in some way is not too much related to problem solving ability.
    Is this true ? Any views ? I am in class 10th , 15 years and I never got very good positions in these Olympiads.

    I gave several other competitions in India but my performance seems to be worst in these Olympiads only !
  7. Dec 30, 2011 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    How do you know they have "less knowledge than others?" Have you done some kind of intelligence testing on them? Or do you just have a lower opinion of them based on your interactions with them or perhaps the grades that they get? There are all sorts of reasons why people get poor grades or are not articulate among their peers that have nothing to do with intelligence.

    Further, what does it matter?

    The world is full of less-than-stellar people who have achieved great things. It is quite likely that at least one time in your life you are going to work for one of them.
  8. Dec 30, 2011 #7
    Most of us never competed in a national math olympiad so that the opinions are at least partially unjustified.

    However, I occasionally look at some of these problems and, boy, are they difficult!

    Many people are very good at math. I bet that at least 0.5% of eighth graders know at least calculus (at least I and one of my middle school friends did). However, the math olympiads test much more than just knowledge, they test ingenuity and critical thinking. Looking at a problem from every angle is definitely a good skill in mathematics. I do not see any harm in participating in it as long as one doesn't go overboard (competing instead of socializing or even learning different mathematics).

    As a bonus here is Terrance Tao's advice on math competitions for young mathematicians.
  9. Dec 31, 2011 #8
    Again I know because of the interactions and also the other aspects ! Anyways do you think Olympiads are indicative in terms of a person's abilities and insights in mathematics and science ?

    There are many people who are good researchers and can think deeply about the aspects but yet they fail to excel in Olympiads. Why ? This is because Olympiads want solutions first.

    Olympiads check problem solving ability rather than the good research ability and insightful thoughts of a person. Isn't this true ?


    The people who get good ranks in Olympiads are good in problem solving ability. I concur.

    "The people who get good ranks in Olympiads possess far vast knowledge and insights in math and science". I do not agree !

    My weakness has always been problem solving. I don't know the method does not strike to me instantly. How can I improve it ?:frown:

    Snicker , thanks for that site.
  10. Jan 1, 2012 #9
    I've take part in Math Olympiads in China when I'm a high school student.I learned by my self and got a book then read it.I found I fear every hard problem I met because I can't solve it,even don't know where to start to think.And I also feel it boring because Olympiads problems had less connection in method or between each other(maybe that's not true).At last I give up Olympiads.

    So I'm a loser in math Olympiads and I always feel sorry for that years ago.And I heard that at least half of the graduates in top graduate schools in America are Olympiads winner.Maybe it really means ability in math.
  11. Jan 1, 2012 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Better luck next time :devil:
  12. Jan 1, 2012 #11
    To me, they are both a test of knowledge and a test of cramming power.
    Look, these tests, as my experience with them tells, are filled with some problems that require presence of minds, capability of combining various concepts, utilizing the previous knowledge of various classes and all. They challenge you and make you tough.
    On the other hand, if you have already got coaching for a certain exam, you have just crammed the way of performing questions.
    Also, these test include some questions that only a student who has done that type can answer. Maybe here I am wrong. Maybe brilliant students, with strong basics, can crack the exam well. But still, for above average, they are baseless.
  13. Jan 1, 2012 #12
    Significant one liner.
    Certainly, it is bad experience with them that makes you hate them. If you are scoring high marks, you are in love with them. You want more and more.
  14. Jan 1, 2012 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Compare with the olympic games: Throwing a spear doesn't seem like a very useful thing to do or be good at, but the fact of the matter is that winning a gold medal in spear throwing shows supreme athletic skill and amazing physique.
  15. Jan 1, 2012 #14
    I'm like you sankalpmittal, I understand the math, but I can't solve the problems.
  16. Jan 4, 2012 #15
    Thanks for all the replies ! I think the practice is the only key to perform in these exams well....

    Anyways thanks again !!!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook