This was an interesting article earlier in the month about the strong interest that elite universities are taking in recruiting the best students from China. William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s admissions dean, has the following to say in the article:
Even fifth-graders in Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline, who as adults will face international competition for jobs, should begin beefing up their academic résumés if they want a shot at an Ivy League education, Fitzsimmons said.
“We’re trying to send a message to young people, as young as primary school, to make the most of their studies,” he said, “because they’ll be competing with students around the world later on.”
It won’t surprise Math Circle participants but the qualities that are attracting elite universities to China are mathematics and problem solving abilities.
The first Shing-Tung Yau High School Mathematics Awards, named for the Harvard math professor who organized it, drew more than 900 students from all corners of the country. The 40 finalists who assembled for three days in Beijing had spent the past six months preparing to shine – not only for the judges, which included three Harvard professors, but also for the admissions deans they would meet.
“This is a historic event,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’re trying to get out the word that Harvard is world class in math, science, and engineering, not just in the humanities.”
…Professor Yau, chairman of Harvard’s math department who conceived of last month’s competition, has returned to his homeland to not only spur the improvement of math education in China through the contest, which rewards students for creativity and collaboration, but also to help funnel a generation of Chinese high school students into America’s premiere colleges.
This competition will enhance the experience for everyone attending US universities, but it also requires that students prepare themselves to compete against this new international standard. Programs like the AMC contests and Math Circles are intended to do just that. The article ends with this comment about a boy who had been profiled. I think Math Circle participants will find it very familiar even if the report finds it remarkable:
The next morning, a Saturday, Tiger showed up at his school’s weekly math club and spent three hours learning about number theory – “just for fun,” he said.
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