NRICH and Olympiads

Stage: 4 and 5

Many exceptional young mathematicians are involved with the Mathematical Olympiads and Maths Challenges. There is a vibrant community on the Ask NRICH pages where you can discuss issues that arise with problems you meet and the training for events. For those unfamiliar with Ask NRICH, it is an online mathematics discussion board where school students can post questions and receive advice on how to solve their mathematical problems. The feel of the board is very much about helping students to learn how to work through the mathematics themselves, rather than giving out solutions. This style of learning is ideal for Olympiad Training, and there is usually a vibrant set of threads concerning BMO1 itself.

However, NRICH is more than an online discussion forum: the main NRICH website contains thousands of mathematical problems on all aspects of mathematics for ages 5 to 19. The NRICH staff spends a good deal of time inventing fascinating, engaging, rich mathematical tasks. The new problems appear on the website each month, and the older problems are all available through the search facilities.

A successful mathematical Olympian will undoubtedly be an expert mathematical problem solver. We are often asked to suggest suitable problems for these students to try from the NRICH website: this page contains some suggestions.

A typical NRICH problem will provide scope for exploration, investigation and extension: in short, plenty of mathematical ideas for the gifted young mathematician to get stuck into.

Some of our material is very similar in content to Olympiad questions, but NRICH problems cover the whole range of mathematical activity. This means that you can extend the type of thinking you have found enjoyable in Olympiad problems to other areas of mathematical activity that you are interested in, or studying at school.

The best way to get a feel for the rich set of offerings from the main NRICH site is to try a few problems. Here is a list of great starting points.

Problems to try

There are many, many problems for you to try. One way forward is to type a topic into the 'Search NRICH' box at the top of the page and see what comes up. Our problems have a 'Stage' rating (stage 3 is about 11 to 14, stage 4 is about 14-16, stage 5 is about 16-18) and a 'Difficulty rating' from 1 to 3 stars. Although you might be interested in some of our most difficult problems, all of our problems can lead to fascinating and very deep mathematical thinking. (If you don't believe us, try out some of the stage 2 problems, and ask yourself the question 'What if?' from time to time!)

To begin with, you might try looking at our best selection of NRICH starter problems. It is good to be creative and thoughtful about these problems and follow the questions which naturally arise in their solution. You might find that these offer opportunites to start discussions on Ask NRICH!

If you want to get straight into the three star material, you might want to look at some of the following, which are in no particular order:

Modular Fractions

Circular Circuitry

Twisty Logic

Ford Circles

Bicentric Quadrilaterals

Making More Tracks

Squareness

Scale Invariance

Cheese Cutting

Overbooking

Drug Stabiliser

Squirty

Don't forget that many of the problems lead to other problems. The 'Tag Clouds' at the foot of the page will be a useful guide.

Science and Applied Mathematics

There are dozens of fascinating areas of mathematics in the wider sense and many past Olympians have gone on to careers in applied mathematics, the sciences or computing. You could see what drew them by looking at the fascinating, and often very challenging, scientific and applied mathematics problems on the stemNRICH pages.

If you are nearing university, you might look at the collections of problems in the Prepare for University section.

Things to read

NRICH has plenty of articles on mathematics. These differ from typical articles on the web because they often include activities and problems for you to try as you read through them. They usually have associated problems on the NRICH website.

These 6 introductory articles are particularly well suited to the sort of mathematics encountered on Olympiad problems

Introduction to Number Theory

Modular Arithmetic

Chinese Remainder Theorem

Mathematical Induction

Euler's Formula

Euclid's Algorithm I

These articles offer some other fascinating insights into mathematics. They all contain mathematical things to try and naturally lead into problems on the main NRICH site.

Logic, Truth Tables and Switching Circuits Challenge

Some circuits in graph or network theory

The four colour theorem

An Introduction to Complex Numbers

Approximations, Euclid's Algorithm & Continued Fractions

Whole Number Dynamics I


This page scratches the surface of the NRICH offering. We hope that you find many hours of stimulating mathematical activity on our site!