Melbourne girls in contention for Australian maths and informatics Olympiad teams

Melbourne girls in contention for Australian maths and informatics Olympiad teams

Two year 12 students from Methodist Ladies’ College in Melbourne are competing against 29 boys for a small number of places on Australia’s teams for the international mathematical and informatics Olympiads.

Michelle Chen was one of 15 senior students at the recent Australian Mathematical Olympiad Committee (AMOC) Selection School vying for a place on the national team that will compete at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in Hong Kong in July this year. Ten junior maths students ranging from year 7 to 10, including one girl, trained in a bid to be considered for IMO teams in future years.

Belinda Shi (pictured above) was one of 16 students at the recent Australian Informatics Olympiad Committee (AIOC) Selection School with a chance to represent Australia at the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) in Kazan, Russia, in August 2016. IOI contestants need to use information technology skills for problem analysis, design of algorithms and data structures, coding and testing.

Michelle, Belinda and the other contenders recently completed the 10-day intensive AMOC and AIOC selections schools at Macquarie University that wrapped up on 19 and 20 April respectively. Six IMO and four IOI team members will be officially announced and presented with their Australian team blazers at Parliament House, Canberra, on 20 June.

The Australian Mathematics Trust (AMT), a not-for-profit organisation, coordinates the training and selection for the Olympiad programs. Optiver is an official sponsor for the AMT’s Olympiad programs. The Mathematics/Informatics Olympiads are supported by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training through the Mathematics and Science Participation Program.

Since attending the AIOC Selection School for the first time last year, Belinda feels that she has ‘definitely improved a lot’. ‘It’s really a lot of fun and you learn so much. It extends you beyond the work that you do at school, and I quite like that’, she said. ‘While there is still a community perception that learning about programming is more of a male thing to do, I think that people, including females, are realising how great programming can be, how useful it is.’

When Michelle went to her first maths training school for the IMO in 2014 she was the only girl. ‘I found the maths really hard at first and I didn’t really know anyone, but it got better after I attended a few more training schools’, she explained. ‘You get an opportunity to talk to people who are also good at maths. You feel a bit competitive, but at the same time everybody is happy to help each other out. I feel comfortable asking other students for help.’

To encourage more school girls to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the AMT and Australian Science Innovations jointly administer Curious Minds, a hands-on extension and mentoring program for girls. The program is supported by the Australian Government, the Australian National University and PricewaterhouseCoopers.