An Interview with Melanie Wood,
Olympiad Team Member

by Sylvia Wiegand, AWM President

From AWM Newsletter, Vol. 28, No.4, July-August 1998.

For the first time, the U.S. Mathematical Olympiad team includes a young woman, Melanie Wood from Indiana. She shared First Place Honors on the USAMO with Alexander Schwartz from Pennsylvania. Both had participated in the 1996 and 1997 Mathematical Olympiad Summer Programs; they will be outstanding representatives of the USA at the 1998 IMO, to be held in Taipei, Taiwan July 15 and 16.

SW: How do you feel about the Olympiad and being on the team?

MW: I'm tremendously excited about it and about getting to go to Taiwan.

SW: How did you get started with this?

MW: I've participated in the Math Olympiad summer camp for two summers, after grades 9 and 10. I loved the camp and set the goal to make the team. I knew there had been no female before. I worked hard to learn the mathematics involved and prepare for the test; when it came I was ready. At first I worried about the pressure there might be to perform well in Taiwan if I made the team, but now I think it will be okay.

SW: Do you notice a difference between girls and boys in their attitudes towards competitions? That girls don't like competition?

MW: I've known so few females interested in math, I couldn't say. For me, I hated the idea of winning and competing. This is something I've had to work at and get over. That seems to be a difference between me and the boys, but I don't know if it's a gender thing. There's so small a sample.

SW: Did you know there's an Association for Women in Mathematics and there are a lot of women interested in mathematics? At a lot of universities, fifty percent of the undergraduate math majors are female. But still there aren't many women involved in math competitions.

MW: No, I didn't know that.

SW: We'll send you some materials. What math do you like?

MW: I like algebraic number theory!

SW: When you were at the summer camp, were there other girls there?

MW: The last two summers there were 2 girls, and last year there were 23 boys. Usually there are about 30 boys and 1 or no girls.

SW: Do you think that makes it hard for the girls?

MW: I've been in on discussions of whether girls should be given some preference so that there would be at least 3 or 4. That seems to me to be a bad idea. If you jump down (in standards) to get girls, the girls would have trouble, especially in this camp.

Web Editor's Note: The Results of the Olympiad

The 39th International Mathematics Olympiad was held in Taipei, Taiwan on July 15-16, 1998. The American team, consisting of six high school students including Melanie Wood, placed 3rd overall and each member of team won an individual medal. Melanie Wood won a silver medal. Further details can be obtained from the press release.

AWM Newsletter.
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