Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program
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The Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (abbreviated MOP) is a 3-week intensive problem solving camp held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to help high school students prepare for math olympaids, especially the International Mathematical Olympiad. While the program is free to participants, invitations are limited to the top finishers on USAMO.
One purpose of MOP is to select and train the US team for the International Mathematical Olympiad. This is done at the start of MOP via a team selection test (TST). The results of the USAMO and the TST are weighted equally when selecting the US IMO team.
The other important purpose of MOP is to train younger students in Olympiad-level problem solving and broaden their mathematical horizons.
MOP is currently held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While the dates vary from year to year, MOP is generally held in the last three weeks of June. This year the dates are June 10-July 3, 2008.
Invitations are extended to the top non-Canadian finishers on USAMO. Students receiving invitations can be divided into four groups:
USAMO winners: The Americans among the top 12 finishers on USAMO are invited to MOP regardless of their age. Additionally, they are invited to take the Team Selection Test and are viewed as potential members of the American IMO team for that year.
Top non-senior USAMO finishers: In addition to the winners, the next 18 or so non-senior non-Canadian finishers are invited to attend MOP. This group is viewed as potential IMO team members for future years, although in extreme circumstances (including 2006) IMO team members for that year have been drawn from this pool.
Top 30 freshman: The top 30 freshman on USAMO are invited to attend MOP with the goal of providing them with a foundation in olympiad level mathematics.
For 2008, another group has been added. The girls who will be representing the United States at the Chinese Girls Math Olympiad will attend MOP to prepare for that contest.
Structure of the Program
MOP is divided into three groups that roughly correspond with the first three kinds of invitations. Black MOP consists of that year's USAMO winners and contains the IMO team members and alternates. Blue MOP is for the second group of invitees and mostly consists of students who just completed their junior or sophomore year of high school, although in exceptional cases some 7th and 8th graders have participated. Finally, Red MOP consists of all the freshman who were invited to participate. Students and instructors have discretion in selecting which group they're part of and may choose to transfer part way through the program; this generally involves members of Black dropping down to Blue or occasionally members of Red promoting themselves to Blue. The three groups take classes and practice tests separately, are given different levels of material to practice with, and to a certain extent are distinct socially. For the most part, Blue and Black are more closely associated to each other than either one is to Red; for example, members of Blue and Black are placed on the same teams for the team contest.
Each Weekday consists of three instructional sessions: 8:30 AM - 11:30 AM, 1:15 PM - 3:15 PM, and 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM. Classes usually consist of a lecture followed by a problem set. Solutions are often presented by students with the supervision of an instructor.
Timed and graded olympiad style tests are an integral part of MOP. Every few days, a 4-hour, 3-question test is administered in place of the afternoon lecture, and is graded with comments within 2-3 days.
Team tests also occur weekly. Students are divided into teams of five, and work on a set of twenty-five problems for approximately half a week. On the day of the contest, the teams present solutions to problems which have not yet been presented, in arbitrary order. The fun starts when all of the easy problems have been taken, and teams resort to certain creative methods in order to solve a problem.
The combination of these makes MOP an extraordinarily intense experience. One participant at 2007 MOP calculated that by the end of the second week members of Blue MOP had already spent more time in a classroom than most calculus classes do in a year, and by the end of the third week participants had spent 170 hours over 19 days either in class or taking practice test for an average of roughly 9 hours a day of math- and that's before time spent doing problem sets and working on the team contest outside of class is included.
History and Culture
MOP was created in 1974 as a training camp for the first United States IMO team.
At the time that MOP was established the official name was simply "Mathematical Olympiad Program", which was the source of the original abbreviation "MOP". At some point, however, the official name was changed to "Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program" and the official abbreviation became "MOSP". Despite this change, participants and alumni almost universally continue to refer to the program as "MOP". Although some administrators continue to use "MOSP" in official documents, students use "MOP" in every setting. One former participant testifies, "Any lost souls using the other appellation are looked upon with pity and regret."
MOP is not only a training camp but also a competition in and of itself. In addition to the regularly administered practice olympiads and the weekly team contest, returning students write and administer the ELMO (an amorphous acronym) and the USEMO (the USEless Math Olympiad).
Popular pastimes at MOP include chess, card games, Mafia, and Ultimate Frisbee.