New Zealand Maths Team Selection!

May 01, 2019 at 2:05 PM

For the sixth year in a row, a Saint Kentigern student has been selected onto the New Zealand team of six mathematicians to attend the prestigious International Mathematics Olympiad (IM0), to be held, this year, in England. The Olympiad gathers the best secondary school mathematicians from around the world to compete in a series of very challenging mathematical problems from almost any field of mathematics. Year 12 student, Grace Chang, the only girl on the team, will join fellow team members from schools around New Zealand to travel to Bath, UK in July.

Grace follows in the footsteps of Saint Kentigern students, Kevin Shen (2014-2016) and Andrew Chen (2016-2018) who have also represented New Zealand on the team, with both boys selected for the 2016 team. Andrew played a significant role in mentoring Grace for her best chance at selection.

Grace has a particular passion for mathematics and started this year being awarded NZQA Scholarships in both calculus and statistics. She was only Year 11 when she sat these exams intended for Year 13 graduates!  

Whilst focussed on academic achievement, Grace also has a wide spectrum of interests and involves herself in all facets of school life from premier debating to swimming and cross country. Like so many Saint Kentigern students, she understands the value of leadership and service, and so offers her skills and time to coach and mentor others.

We are very proud of Grace’s achievement and look forward to hearing about her international experience in July.

Grace reports on her journey to selection for the New Zealand team:

‘The IMO is the premier mathematics competition for secondary school students around the world, and the oldest and most prestigious of the Science Olympiads. It is an annual event held in a different country each year in July. The IMO is a competition renowned for its exceptional difficulty with the most common score being 0 in 2018!

Olympiad mathematics is a style that is very different from typical school mathematics. Rather than pouring over textbooks and memorising formulas, Olympiad mathematics requires contestants to use maths in clever and ingenious ways.

Each year, New Zealand selects six students to represent our country. The selection process begins in September the previous year with a set of 10 selection problems. Students are given a month to solve these, from which 30 students are selected for a camp held in January. The week-long training camp is held in Auckland and students attend a variety of lectures and problem sessions, as well as sitting two squad selection tests. From these, a squad of 12 students is selected for further training and possible selection. The squad sits three team selection tests, including the British Mathematical Olympiad Round 2, the Australian Mathematical Olympiad and the Asia Pacific Mathematical Olympiad. From the results of these three tests, the final team of six is selected. This year, the team will be travelling to Bath, United Kingdom to compete.

I attended my first camp in 2018, where I was selected to the squad and finished 8th. Determined to make it into the top 6 this year, I continued studying throughout 2018 and was then fortunate enough to be selected this year.

Before my first camp last year, I had always viewed maths as something I was good at but didn’t fully understand the depth of. The Olympiad camp opened me up to a whole world of maths that I never really knew about. Through lectures and just discussion around problems with people, I was exposed to the true beauty and elegance of maths. For me, just getting to meet and interact with so many talented and passionate young mathematicians was eye-opening because for ‘academics’ there really aren’t many opportunities to meet talented peers, unlike for many other activities such as sport or music. Because of this, meeting new people from all over the world at the IMO is one of the things I’m looking forward to most, especially seeing how the beauty of maths is appreciated by all different cultures and people.

Due to the opportunities that Olympiads present in terms of meeting new people, exposure to new ways of thinking and opportunities to travel, I am a passionate advocate for getting more people involved. Olympiads are also offered for Chemistry, Biology, Informatics, Geography, along with the International Young Physicists Tournament. Many of these also offer camps where selection is open to any interested students. I would strongly encourage anyone who is passionate about any of these subjects to consider applying. The learning experience of being exposed to a deeper side of these subjects, driven by pure curiosity, is something simply incredible. Due to this passion, particularly for spreading interest in the Maths Olympiad, I currently voluntarily teach monthly Maths Workshops alongside the New Zealand Mathematical Committee. The goal of these is to expose young students who are interested in maths to a new side of maths, where the focus is on creative thinking. I am also the student in charge of the Maths Club and Mathex coaching at Saint Kentigern, nurturing the young students within our own school community.

Other than maths, I am also an avid debater, currently in the Premier Debating team. I was recently selected for the Auckland Regional Debating Development squad of around ten students in Years 11 or 12. I am also involved in UN Youth Auckland, attending regional and national events, including Model United Nations and Aotearoa Youth Declaration.

As someone with a strong passion for serving, alongside teaching maths, I also coach debating, serve on the local Howick Youth Council and volunteer at my local swim club as a coach. Other than this, I also have a love of sports, having been a competitive swimmer for 7 years, medalling at nationals. I was involved with orienteering this year, placing in the top 10 in Auckland for the second event of the sprint finals, representing the school at South-Eastern Zones swimming championships, and will also soon be competing in the Auckland Secondary Schools Cross Country.

There are so many opportunities, but I am particularly looking forward to my chance to compete with New Zealand IMO team in Britain!

Back to News List