Canadian math champ's skills add up to a perfect score

A 16-year-old from Toronto receives rare gold medal at international math contest. Canada's team also wins 3 bronze, 2 honourable mentions.

A 16-year-old Canadian was one of four students who achieved a perfect score at an international mathematics competition.

Jacob Tsimerman of Toronto scored 42 out of 42, making him one of 45 individual gold medallists at the 45th International Mathematical Olympiad in Athens.

"It was a great feeling," said Tsimerman, a Grade 10 student. "I knew I would do well, but not win the thing."

Prof. Felix Recio of the University of Toronto is one of Team Canada's coaches.

"The chances of achieving that is as low as the chances of having a world record in Olympic competition," said Recio. "For a student to get gold and a perfect score, the talent and dedication and practice that they have to possess is incredible."

His family left Russia for Israel when he was two years old. They moved to Canada seven years ago.

"We found that he has a very strong, unusual potential of mathematics when he was in first grade," said Tsimerman's father, Peter. He said his son was solving Grade 8 problems at an early age.

To qualify, Tsimerman had to solve problems like this one from the 2004 Canadian Mathematical Olympiad:

Let T be the set of all positive integer divisors of 2004 to the power of 100. What is the largest possible number of elements that a subset S of T can have if no element of S is an integer multiple of any other element of S? Solution: Canadian Mathematical Olympiad 2004 (in pdf format).

Tsimerman is off to the University of Toronto in September, disqualifying him from next year's high school math Olympiad.

Tsimerman has been training for three years, crunching numbers up to four hours a day.

About 500 students competed in the international event last week. Tsimerman's five teammates from Canada won three bronze medals and two honourable mentions.

The other members of the Canadian team were:

  • Oleg Ivrii, Toronto.
  • Janos Kramar, Toronto.
  • Dong Uk (David) Rhee, Edmonton.
  • Peng Shi, Toronto.
  • Yufei Zhao, Toronto.

Team Canada placed 21st out of 85 competing countries. China took the top prize.