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Mathematics = creativity + logic

August 13, 2008

Just imagine 283 young people, gathered together only for one reason – their shared passion for mathematics. It becomes even more interesting when you realize that all of them are from different parts of the world.

And, how do you think that Israelis and Iranians communicate with one another? The language of mathematics unites them, as the AUBG’s Provost Dr. Ann Ferren mentioned in her welcoming speech to the students participating in the 15th International Mathematics Competition (IMC). Although the official language of the competition is English, she believes that the most natural and the most common language for this conference actually is the mathematical one.

For seven days the American University in Bulgaria was animated with the brightness of these young people, coming from very different backgrounds and, at the same time, with very similar interests. From 26 until 31 July, 2008, the University was a host of the world largest mathematics competition – the 15th IMC. Two days were assigned for solving problems, and then the participants got the chance to meet and talk to each other, to share knowledge and experience, and to have fun.

As one of the winners of this year's competition Alexander Efimov from Moscow State University (Russia) says: "mathematics is anything else but boring." Alexander participated for second time in the competition and he was a winner for the second time. It is not surprising that he received a full scholarship at the University of Massachusetts, USA, to continue his education in a PhD program. Even though, soon he is going to the States, he intends to go back to Russia and to continue doing research. "The creativity is the basic part of solving problems; a person should put a lot of passion and creativity in order to get the right answers. Logic helps too but, I think, it is not determining alone how to solve a problem. I like problems, incorporating different fields of mathematics, not just the conventional algebra and geometry" shares Alexander. He got right 11 out of 12 problems and received 220 points, equal to the results of Przemyslaw Nazur from Poland and Bela Andras Racz, Hungary. The famous movie "Good Will Hunting" comes to mind. The feeling after seeing that movie is similar to the feeling you get after talking to the participants in this competition – dedicated to the sphere they like and filled with satisfaction because they are doing what they like most.

Sergey Slobodyanuk from Kiev, Ukraine, tells that participation in such competitions motivates him to develop further in the field and it is a good incentive to excel his knowledge. He is in the top 15 best results which explains his decision to continue his education in a graduate school, and once is done, to enter the academia as a faculty and a researcher.

One more commonly accepted opinion was refuted at the competition – that the mathematics is men’s job. Nilyufar from Iran shares: "A lot of women in Iran are studying mathematic and choose it as a professional career afterwards. I like it because is logical." She finds the competitions of that kind to be very useful because besides the many new friends from different countries she also gained new knowledge in solving problems. This is why she thinks victory is not the most important thing; far more important are the connections with the others and the opportunity to share her passion with students who talk in her favorite language – the mathematical one.

AUBG hosts the competition for 4th time and the organizers from University College – London are exceptionally pleased with the organization and the facilities the University offers to its guests. In spite of the worries of Mrs. Nadezha Affendova, Coordinator Office "Conferences and Institutes" at AUBG, connected to some visa issues, the satisfaction of the guests and the appreciation the University administration gets, make this science fest one of the most favorite summer events on campus. "We are happy that every year the number of participants is growing. For example, this year we have representatives of three countries for the very first time – Vietnam, Angola, and Israel," says the coordinator of the competition Mrs. Chrisina Draganova from University College – London.

And as the youths have their common language that overcomes barriers, mathematics surmount the cultural and religious differences of students coming from 36 countries, representing 4 continents, and compete at AUBG. Winner or looser – such definitions do not exist in their world – they are all winners - because they take home new experiences and emotions; and they become richer than before with at least one new friend from a different country.

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