Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

Sr. James Tao Wins Gold at International Math Olympiad

Senior James Tao outdid himself this summer, winning a gold medal competing for Team USA at the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). This is perhaps the biggest international competition in all of high school mathematics, and in the 40 years the IMO has existed, only about 10 other students from the Chicago area have been named to Team USA, let alone won gold. Tao competed on the 23rd and the 24th of July in Santa Marta, Columbia, against 600 of the world’s most talented students, representing more than 100 countries.

James Tao helped lead Team USA to an impressive third overall in the competition. Steve Dunbar, Director of Competitions at the Mathematical Association of America, lauded this result as "a very good international showing by the U.S. team." Because of his participation and performance, Tao will now have a division of the North Suburban Mathematics League of Illinois named after him.

Tao’s success in mathematics competitions this year led to his selection for this elite team; In February he took 1st place in the prestigious Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament against 1000 elite math students, and in March he placed third overall at the Romanian Master of Mathematics competition, leading Team USA to a gold medal.

Dr. Michael Keyton, who worked with Tao in his independent study this year, spoke highly of him: "James is a rare student of mathematics who looks at generalizations of solutions rather than details of particular problems. His interest far exceeds competitive mathematics,  and he is one of the few students I have encountered who investigates as well as solves in the mathematical realm."

Held annually since 1959, the IMO is the premier international pre-collegiate math competition, which consists of six-problems that teams solve over two days, worth a total of 42-points. The competition, according to the Mathematical Association of America, features problems taken from topics that include combinatorics arguments and identities, graph theory, probability, number theory, complex numbers in geometry, and combinatorial and advanced geometry.