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The Warsaw Voice » Other » October 28, 2009
Young Talent
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Medals for Math Buffs
October 28, 2009   
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A team of young Polish mathematicians won 11 medals, including five gold, at the 23rd International Championships in Mathematical and Logical Games in Paris Aug. 28-29.

The 30-member Polish team was selected through preliminary rounds organized by the Faculty of Fundamental Problems of Technology at the Wrocław University of Technology and the Wrocław Chapter of the Polish Mathematical Society.

Beautiful minds
The Polish team won five gold, three silver and three bronze medals, competing in a total of eight categories in Paris. Marcin Dublański came in first among college students, while Daniel Malinowski was first and Tomasz Dobrzycki second among high school students. Among junior high school students, Maciej Dulęba took the gold and Kamil Musiał grabbed the bronze. Among 5th and 6th grade elementary school students, Polish contestants bagged all the medals, with the gold going to Adam Nałęcz-Jawecki, silver to Damian Czarnecki, and bronze to Beniamin Stecuła. Among 3rd grade elementary school students, Daniel Murawski won the gold and Cezary Bednarz took the bronze.

A few preliminary rounds were held in Poland before the Paris finals, with the first round attracting 1,500 or so contestants. The semifinals were held in 20 cities in March. The best contestants were selected at national finals in Wrocław in May. They later represented Poland in Paris, accompanied by their tutors.

The International Championships in Mathematical and Logical Games have been held in Paris since 1987 and Poland has taken part since 1992. The competition is intended for outstanding students who receive individual guidance and attend extracurricular math classes. Competition finalists gain easier access to universities and free access to the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science at the Wrocław University of Technology.

Passion for teaching
Janusz Górniak, Ph.D., chairman of the Polish organizing committee for the championships, says that gifted students need teachers with a passion. Passion makes it possible for the teachers to "discover rough mathematical diamonds and polish them," Górniak says.

The competition is intended for math enthusiasts and all those who take pleasure and satisfaction in logical thinking and treat it as an intellectual exercise, says Górniak. The Polish organizing committee also includes Assoc. Prof. Marian Hotloś, foreman of the jury; Prof. Krzysztof Kołodziejczyk, director of the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science; Prof. Zbigniew Olszak, dean of the Faculty of Fundamental Problems of Technology; and Rościsław Rabczuk, Ph.D., honorary chairman of the organizing committee and member of the International Committee of Mathematical Games.

The Wrocław University of Technology is behind several educational projects that have helped spot the most talented students, Górniak says. Over the past 20 years, the university has provided special Talent Courses to around 2,000 high school graduates annually.

"Young people are fun to work with," Górniak says. "We teach them to think and try to show them that mathematics and physics are not so dreadful. But in order to inspire young people, the teacher needs to have a passion. Of my 120 associates at the institute, no more than five can be selected to work with children. They need to be superteachers, people who put their heart and soul into teaching, are able to inspire their students and are ready to give a free lecture at the crack of dawn on a Saturday for 500 students."

Math teachers committed to educating young people are becoming an extinct species these days, Górniak says. He adds that his own passion for working with young people is shared by Zbigniew Romanowicz, an expert in setting math tests for children, and Rościsław Rabczuk, another mathematician at the Wrocław University of Technology who was the first to establish contact with the French Federation of Mathematicians in Paris 23 years ago.

"We simply like teaching gifted kids," Górniak says.
Piotr Bartosz
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