Mathematical contests and events
Correspondence takes place between students and the staff of NMS. Students receive theoretical materials and sets of tasks, get acquainted with the theory and solve the problems. The students then send their solutions to the NMS where these solutions are corrected and sent back to the students with comments and new materials. In this way, four sessions are held each school year.
Little University of Mathematics (Mazā matemātikas universitāte, MMU) is a series of lectures organized by the NMS during the school year for students from Grade 10 to 12. Mathematics teachers are also welcome to attend these classes.
The Little University of Mathematics has its origins in the sixties. Since then, with brief interruptions, the classes have taken place each school year about once a month. Typically, each class consists of two lectures, each 90 minutes long.
Many leading Latvian mathematicians, University of Latvia faculty, researchers and students have participated in the Little University of Mathematics as listeners and speakers.
The topics of the lectures are quite diverse – they include branches of mathematics and topics that are not widely discussed at school, as well as lectures of higher mathematics topics presented in an accessible way. Some lectures give an advanced and expanded review of the school course topics. Topics useful for preparation for mathematical contests are also discussed.
The Professor Littledigit’s Club (Profesora Cipariņa Klubs, PCK) is an extramural math contest that is aimed at students from Grade 5 to 9, although younger students can also participate.
The Professor Littledigit’s Club is the oldest and the richest in traditions among the Latvian extramural math competitions. It was founded in the 1974 when, after the Extramural Mathematics School had hosted the first Open Mathematical Olympiad, Velta Juršēvica, the editor of the newspaper “Pionieris”, turned to Agnis Andžāns asking to organize a similar competition that would run throughout the school year.
Every school year there are 6 rounds of the competition. In each round, 8 problems are offered to the contestants, with each problem being worth five points, the total maximum score thus being 40 points. The solutions can be sent to the NMS either by regular mail or e-mail.
The contestants may participate in as many rounds as they wish. Since the very beginning, the Professor Littledigit’s Club has allowed tasks to be addressed both individually and in teams.
The Young Mathematicians’ Contest (Jauno matemātiķu konkurss, JMK) is a math contest for junior students (up to Grade 7) The Young Mathematicians’ Contest can also be regarded as a kind of “warm-up” for those who take part in the Professor Littledigit’s Club.
Usually during the school year there are 5 rounds. In each round contestants are offered to solve 5 tasks, with each problem being worth five points, the total score thus being 25 points. Pupils can participate in any round. Problems can be addressed both individually and in teams.
Since the Professor Littledigit’s Club tasks are not too easy and it is usually difficult for younger pupils to solve them, in 1991 Mārīte Seile, a math teacher from Preiļi 1st Secondary School, had the idea to organize a local competition similar to the Professor Littledigit’s Club.
A very important reason why this competition was established was the pupils’ psychological attitude towards PCK. For many pupils, especially the younger ones, these tasks are too difficult. Sometimes a pupil may lose any interest in mathematics at all. The primary goal of the Young Mathematicians’ Contest organized by Preļi 1st Secondary School has been largely to raise the pupils’ self-esteem. The Young Mathematicians’ Contest is intended for 4th to 7th graders, but also younger pupils can send their solutions. The problem set also includes a couple of simple problem, which can be easily solved by any pupil. It is very important for the pupil that he is able to solve a task in the contest, which boosts his self-confidence and enhances the perseverance.
Mathematical Olympiads in Latvia
The National Mathematical Olympiad takes place in 4 stages.
The first stage (or the Preparatory Olympiad) is a school-wide contest for students from Grade 5 to 12 and usually is held in late November. The second stage (or the County Olympiad) usually takes place in early February. This stage is organized separately for students from Grade 5 to 8 and students from Grade 9 to 12. Participants are nominated by each school. Based on the results of the second stage, several students from each district are invited to the next stage — generally chosen among the top scorers. The third stage (or the National Olympiad) is held for students from Grade 9 to 12. This stage takes place in Riga, usually before the spring break. The most successful participants are invited to participate in the fourth stage. Unlike the previous ones, there are 5 tasks to solve in this stage – the same for all participants, regardless of their grade. The results of this stage are used to select the IMO team.
The origins of the high school math Olympiads in Latvia lie in 1945-46, when Department of Mathematics at the Latvian State University (now the University of Latvia) held the first Olympiad. This kind of math competitions has been regularly held for students since the 1949-50. In the subsequent years the Olympiad, supported by the Ministry of Education, covered the whole territory of Latvia.
For many years, the task sets for all stages were prepared by the Professor Agnis Andzans of the University of Latvia. Since 2009 task sets are prepared by a special committee.
The Open Mathematical Olympiad is an initiative of the NMS. In 1974 the students of the Department of Physics and Mathematics had the idea to organize a republic-wide Mathematical Olympiad, in which each student could participate, regardless of the success in the National Mathematical Olympiad stages. An additional objective was to give pupils of junior grades an opportunity to participate in the Olympiad. Thus the first Open Mathematical Olympiad took place in 1974 and was attended by 316 participants: students from Grade 7 to 12 from all over Latvia. In the subsequent years even younger pupils started taking part in the competition. The idea of the Open Olympiad proved to be fruitful and attractive: later similar open Olympiads were organized by the physicists, astronomers, geographers, philologists, etc.
Now the Open Mathematical Olympiad has become the most popular educational Olympiad in Latvia. Since the 1998-99, the Open Mathematical Olympiad has received around 4,000 student applications every year. The Olympiad takes place in late April, on a Sunday; every year around 3000 pupils take part in the Olympiad, some pupils even from the third and fourth grade (these contestants deal with the tasks for the fifth grade).
The first Baltic Way competition – Baltic Way `90 – took place in Riga, Latvia, in 1990. The name of the competition comes from the mass demonstration for the freedom of the Baltic states organized in August 23, 1989, when people from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania stood hand in hand along the road from Tallinn to Vilnius. Participants in Baltic Way `90 and Baltic Way `91 were student teams from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, two teams from each country. Since 1992 teams from other countries surrounding the Baltic Sea have been invited. Now around 11 teams participate in the contest: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany (represented mainly by Rostock and Hamburg), Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia (represented by St.Petersburg). Though Iceland is not formally a Baltic country, it is invited because it was the first country in the world to recognize the independence of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in 1991.
The participating teams consist of five contestants each, a leader and a deputy leader. The contestants must be secondary school students. The contest offers 20 mathematical problems selected by the jury. The contestants are given 4 hours 30 minutes to solve the problems. Each team works together and the team members are free to discuss the work between them.
The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is an annual six-problem, 42-point mathematical Olympiad for pre-collegiate students and is the oldest of the International Science Olympiads.
Since Latvia regained its independence, our students have regularly and successfully participated in the IMO.
Each year, taking into account the previous results in math contests, around 80 candidates are selected for regular classes throughout the school year in order to prepare for the international math contests. These classes are held every week except winter and spring breaks and cover material which is useful for IMO problems.
The European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad is an international mathematics competition similar in style to the International Mathematical Olympiad, with two papers taken on consecutive days. Participating countries send teams consisting of four female mathematicians of school age. EGMO 2012 was held in Cambridge, United Kingdom in April 2012, EGMO 2013 was held in Luxembourg, EGMO 2014 was held in Turkey and EGMO 2015 will be held in Belarus.
Latvian teams have taken part in the EGMO since the very first Olympiad in 2012.
During the school year there are four rounds: three rounds are held in schools, the fourth and final round takes place in the center of a county.
Any 4th grader may participate in the first 3 rounds. The fourth round is open to students who have achieved the best results in the first three rounds. The tasks for the first three rounds are offered by the NMS, but the fourth round is organized simultaneously with the Lithuanian National Mathematics Olympiad for fourth grade students, and the task set for this round is developed together with the Lithuanian colleagues.
Basically there are two Olympiads. The first is the Latvian scale Olympiad of four rounds where the winner is determined based on the results of all four round. The second is the regional Olympiad where Olympiad winners are determined based on the fourth round, evaluating together Latvian and Lithuanian students.
The idea of this Olympiad was developed in cooperation with the Lithuanian colleagues. The Šiauliai University annually organizes a Mathematical Olympiad of 3 rounds for the 4th-5th graders. In the winter of 2004 the Lithuanian colleagues offered teams from other countries to join the Olympiad. Thus in May 2004 several Latvian schools took part in the Olympiad. At that time, students were offered the problems of the Lithuanian National Olympiad. Since the 2004-05 school year the Olympiad has been a traditional annual event for junior pupils in Latvia.