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Robitaille wins gold medal at International Mathematical Olympiad

2019 U.S. International Mathematical Olympiad team members include, from left: Edward Wan, Daniel Zhu, Brandon Wang, Colin Shanmo Tang, Luke Robitaille, and Vincent Huang. Photo courtesy of Mathematical Association of America.
2019 U.S. International Mathematical Olympiad team members include, from left: Edward Wan, Daniel Zhu, Brandon Wang, Colin Shanmo Tang, Luke Robitaille, and Vincent Huang. Photo courtesy of Mathematical Association of America.

Luke Robitaille, a member of The University of Texas at Arlington’s Mid-Cities Math Circle, earned a gold medal and helped lead a team of United States students to a first-place tie with a team from China in the 60th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), held July 11-22 in Bath, England.

Robitaille, a 15-year-old homeschooled student from Euless, was one of six U.S. team members to receive gold medals for their individual high scores in the Olympiad, known as the world championship mathematics competition for high school students. His teammates were Vincent Huang, Colin Tang, Edward Wan, Brandon Wang and Daniel Zhu.

The team’s overall score was determined by adding up the members’ individual scores. The U.S. team and China tied for first place, each scoring 227 out of a possible 252 points.

The team prepared for the Olympiad at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh during the Mathematical Association of America’s Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program, where they trained with other top high school math students from around the world.

“It was really a great experience to have the opportunity to be on such a great team to represent the USA at such a major event,” Robitaille said. “It was wonderful that it was such an international experience with so many countries represented. I hope to be able to represent the USA again at the IMO 2020 in St. Petersburg, Russia.”

Robitaille and other members of the U.S. team had to go through a rigorous qualifying process to secure spots on the team. The IMO requires individuals to work on three difficult problems for four and a half hours and then repeat the process with three more questions the next day.

Robitaille’s stellar showing at the IMO is the latest in a series of his superlative performances at national and international mathematics competitions. In January 2019, he won the “Who Wants to Be a Mathematician?” contest, sponsored by the American Mathematical Society. In 2018, as an eighth-grader, he won first place awards at the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament at MIT and at the American Regions Mathematics League contest, which are both high school competitions.

He also became the only person to repeat as champion of the national MATHCOUNTS Competition Series for middle school students, after claiming the title in 2017 and 2018. Following each of those victories, he appeared on the syndicated national TV talk show “Live with Kelly and Ryan”. He also placed second at the 2016 MATHCOUNTS contest.

Robitaille credits the UTA Mid-Cities Math Circle with helping him develop his extraordinary math skills. The Mid-Cities Math Circle is a seminar series for high school and advanced middle school students, as well as teachers and college students, that meets at UTA periodically during the school year. The Mid-Cities Math Circle gives students the opportunity to solve challenging problems and hear guest lecturers on various math topics.

Dimitar Grantcharov, UTA professor of mathematics, is director of the group and this year named Robitaille an assistant director. Robitaille began attending sessions when he was 7 years old and by age 10 had already taken some graduate classes. At age 11 he was the best among all the students in Math Circle, Grantcharov said.

“Congratulations to Luke and his teammates on this wonderful achievement,” said Jianzhong Su, professor and chair of the UTA Department of Mathematics. “This result is a testament to all of the hard work and preparation he has done, in addition to his amazing aptitude for mathematics. I also want to thank Professor Grantcharov for his tireless efforts in coaching and mentoring the Math Circle for many years.”

Learn more about the Mid-Cities Math Circle at https://midcitiesmathcircle.org/.