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Does this mean anything to you? “Let nn be a positive integer. Compute the number of words ww (finite sequences of letters) that satisfy all the following three properties:  (1) ww consists of nn letters, all of them are from the alphabet {a,b,c,d}{a,b,c,d}; (2) ww contains an even number of letters aa;   (3) ww contains an even number of letters bb.”

It’s probably Greek to most people, but this problem was meaningful to the Israeli student team that just took first place at the International Mathematics Competition for University Students (IMC). The six students, all young men, five from Tel Aviv University (TAU) and one from Bar-Ilan University (BIU) in Ramat Gan (near Tel Aviv) beat out countries such as: Russia, Spain, the US, Netherlands and Britain. 

The Israeli national student team took first place at the International Mathematics Competition for University Students. A total of 546 students, enrolled in 96 universities from around the world, took part. The Israeli students made an impressive achievement, coming in first place for team rankings (234) and in the top ten in personal rankings. 

 

The competition, which took place online this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is meant for undergraduates up to the age of 23 years old. Students were given problems to solve from the fields of algebra, analysis (real and complex), geometry and combinatorics. The responses were evaluated by team leaders and other professors and assistant professors using criteria provided by the jury. Since its start 27 years ago, students enrolled in 200 universities from over 50 countries have participated in the competitions. 

 

Coming in second place was Saint Petersburg University (233 points), then Moscow University third (185 points) and Budapest University fourth (176 points). Other rankings were University of Bonn (Germany) in eighth place, University of Madrid (Spain) in 14th place, University of Maryland (US) in 18th place, University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) in 33rd place and University of Warwick (Britain) in 48th place. 

 

Personal achievements for Israeli students, Shvo Regavim and Noam Ta-Shma, from the School of Mathematical Sciences at TAU took the second and third places respectively in the personal ranking.

The first IMC took place in the summer of 1994 in Plovdiv, Bulgaia. 

The Israeli team included six students – five from TAU (four from the School of Mathematical Sciences, one from Blavatnik School of Computer Science and the School of Mathematical Sciences) and one student from the math department at BIU. The team was led by the coaches Dan Carmon and Lev Radzivilovsky, from TAU’s School of Mathematical Sciences. 

 

Shvo Regavim, the TAU student who placed second in personal ranking, said: “It feels great! The competition was hard and we were short on time, trying to answer all the questions, but I’m glad we achieved all the goals we set for ourselves. On a personal level, this victory is a major achievement, but I mostly enjoyed the challenge of solving high level mathematical exercises.”

 

Prof. Eilon Solan of TAU’s School of Mathematical Sciences, who was in charge of the team, said: “I’m proud of our excellent students that brought great honor to the country and to the university.The Israeli students were competing against the best young minds in the world, and showed impressive mathematical knowledge, along with creativity and improvisation skills, which allowed them to solve very complex equations under restricting time limits and in a competitive environment. I’m sure that those talented students will lead the Israeli market and academia to many achievements.”

 

Team coach Carmon commented: “The competition was hard and challenging, but our students successfully competed against very skilled and strong students from around the world. Making the competition online forced us all to make the needed adjustments. The Israeli team showed very high skills and I’m proud of the students and their impressive achievement.” 

These were the Israeli winners:

Shvo Regavim, School of Mathematical Sciences, TAU (second place in the personal ranking, Grand First Prize category). 

Noam Ta-Shma, School of Mathematical Sciences, TAU (third place in the personal ranking, Grand First Prize category). 

Ohad Sheinfeld, Department of Mathematics, BIU (sixth place in the personal ranking, Grand First Prize category). 

Roee Sinai, the Blavatnik School of Computer Science and School of Mathematical Sciences, TAU (ninth place in the personal ranking, Grand First Prize category). 

Lior Hadassi, School of Mathematical Sciences, TAU (First Prize category). 

Omer Bojan, School of Mathematical Sciences, TAU (First Prize category).

This year’s competition and next year’s competition in 2021 are organized by University College London. This year’s competition will be held On-Line and next year’s competition in 2021 will be hosted by the American University in Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria.

The problems are chosen by the International Problem Selection Committee from those received in advance by the president of the jury, Professor John Jayne.

 


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