An Interview with Melanie Wood,
Olympiad Team Member
by Sylvia Wiegand, AWM President
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
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
MW: I like algebraic number theory!
SW: When you were at the summer camp, were there other
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
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
Copyright ©1998 Association for Women in Mathematics. All