A Plus for Canada at the Math Olympiad

Nikita spoke with members of the award-winning Canadian team that participated in this year’s International Mathematics Olympiad. 

Team Canada recently made national history at the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). Each of the country’s six team members—Thomas Guo, Michael Li, Eric Shen, David Tang, Edgar Wang, and Zixiang (Peter) Zhou—won a medal, placing Canada twelfth overall among 105 countries.

Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the team turned in one of the best performances in Canadian history. I recently spoke with four of the six high schoolers via Zoom to learn more about the competition and their passion for Math.



The IMO is the most prestigious high school math competition in the world. The Olympiad consists of two papers and takes place over the course of two days. Each paper has three questions to be answered in four-and-a-half hours. 

“The point of the Olympiad is to show that doing math is very fun,” Edgar said. “A great part of the IMO is the people you get to meet, how they do math, and what sort of cultural things they do.”

Thomas was enthusiastic, too, about the opportunities the Olympiad presents. “That's why they bring all these people together from different countries, so you can meet different people and see their cities,” he said. Thomas has been participating in the high school competition for the past four years.



Typically, one of the competing countries hosts the IMO. This year, it was Russia’s turn. However, due to the pandemic, each participant wrote the contest in their home country.

“It’s sad,” Edgar said. “But I'm glad the Olympiad still happened.”

Even if math isn’t your favorite subject, there’s no reason that you can't still be excited about it, Eric said. It may just mean that the areas of math you’re exposed to at school aren’t the ones that interest you. “There are a lot of things outside school math that I think will appeal much more to the general population,” he said. 

Eric suggested that kids who don’t like math try to think of it as a puzzle. “If I didn’t tell you that it was an Olympiad problem, and said that it was just a riddle, you wouldn't think of it as a math question,” he said.

If you already like math, the award-winning team members suggested entering a competition or working on math problems for fun to sharpen your skills.

“For people who want to do math competitions, the best way is just to do them,” David said. “You shouldn’t be scared. As long as you keep doing them, you’ll get better.”

Photo courtesy of the author