Activities

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

Math Olympiads are prestigious Mathematical contests that aim to stimulate an interest in Maths and improve the mathematical skills of those who participate. Typically, children all over the world who are Math wizards get to participate in at least one Math Olympiad during their school years. What are the ways in which parents can help their kids ace in these Olympiads? Let us see.

## 1. Start young

If you find an aptitude for Maths in your child, start preparing him early, and enrol him in small scale competitions in the school or region. This will develop in him a love for Maths and Maths competitions. Online tests are also very useful. There are also old Math Olympiad papers available on the internet.

## 2. Cover the basics

You might be tempted to start with giving your child complex and advanced mathematical problems to solve. However, this strategy might end up backfiring because he might be discouraged from the whole enterprise if he cannot solve them easily. It is important to begin with the basics and build from there slowly. These basics include the following, depending on the age of the child:

1. Ordering of numbers
2. Identifying odd and even numbers
3. Understanding place value
4. Understanding decimals
5. Knowing how to skip count
6. Understanding patterns in number sequences
7. Understanding different math symbols
8. Understanding fractions
9. Understanding percentages

## 3. Know the Syllabus

You will lose valuable time if you are not familiar with what exactly the topics are in the syllabus for the contest. Typically, questions come from geometry, arithmetic of integers, quadratic equations and expressions, coordinate geometry, trigonometry and so on.

## 4. Practice and mock tests

It is extremely important to let your child practice as many tests as possible, both physical and online. Always ask him to attempt these tests in a time bound manner, under typical examination conditions. It is also extremely important to do all past year Olympiad papers and mock tests.

## 5. Get help from an expert

Usually, unless your child is a math wizard of the first order, he will face problems while attempting Olympiad questions. Therefore, it is important to have an expert’s help. Typically, the expert is the child’s own math teacher. After doing each Olympiad practice test, get your child to note down the questions he has problems in, and take them to the teacher so that they can be explained.

## 6. Never slack on school work

One must not get too carried away with math Olympiad preparation that school work gets neglected. The topics taught at the school math class may not be as tough as the questions that one faces at the Olympiad, but remember that without the basics firmly in place, no higher order skills can be developed. Therefore, never slack on school work, and submit homework on time.

## 7. Consult books

Even in this age of the internet, books are a trusted source of knowledge. There are many recommended books, some of which are given below:

1. Elementary Number Theory by Gareth A. Jones
2. Mathematical Olympiad Challenges (Publisher: Birkhauser)
3. Challenges and Thrills of Pre-College Mathematics by V. Krishnamurthy
4. Schaum’s Outline of Combinatorics
5. Problem Solving Strategies by Arthur Engel

## 8. Use resources on the internet

The internet is a virtual storehouse of endless websites on mathematics. The challenge is to select the right ones for you. AoPS Online is a very popular portal that helps your child learn to solve problems analytically. It offers an interactive online math curriculum for students of grades 5–12. Another useful website is Olympiad Genius. There are also many math students who have benefitted from Cheenta. Alternatively, you could use worksheets found online. For example, you could use this printout from PDFSimpli to fill out your table of trigonometric ratios.

## 9. Prepare notes for quick revision

The basic formulae and other facts of maths for revision should be noted down in a handy book for a quick revision before the exam. This handy book should be the child’s companion during the months leading to the Olympiad itself. Another effective method is to have the formulae written down on flash cards. For example, all the basic formulae on fractions such as for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions can be on one flash card. This way, for each topic, there can be a flashcard, and you can go through these flashcards as often as possible with your child.

## 10. Never give up

A final tip is ‘never give up’. It is easy for your child to be overwhelmed by the difficult questions of the Olympiad as he attempts the past year papers, but rest assured that things get easier as he gets more and more practice.

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