I was watching the result of IMO 2014 where I found that China was on Top and USA, Russia were following China. This is not the exceptional case, you can pick the results of each IMO in some of the previous years and you will find that these countries have ranked in that order from a long time.

My question is what makes these countries so great in this field and What's the reason behind poor performance of globally known countries such as India, Brazil.

I shall be thankful if you guys compare the programs running for this purpose in all of the above countries and any advantage of being an IMO participant in high scoring and low scoring countries a participant have.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure how these things work, but, I have encountered two students forged in the fire of the Vietnamese Math Olympiad training program... they know things, things they ought not know. The contrast with usual US educated highschool kids is epic. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2017 at 6:33
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    $\begingroup$ @James LOL! Yes, the Vietnamese training program has had that kind of a reputation for a long time. When I was in training for IMO a few decades back, our coach said that he only has money for training by snailmail + one weekend. In VietNam, OTOH, they run an 8 week bootcamp in the jungle. With no distractions. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2017 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ The Lone Wolf, sorry about having to delete this from Math.SE. The other moderator I consulted agreed with me that it was out of place. Good luck here! $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2017 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ Since I was the one who suggested that lone wolf can get answer here and I don't think the wolf or I disagree with the fact that "yes it is the suitable site or this question". $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2017 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ I was also eager to have answer and here goes the one. $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2017 at 19:41

1 Answer 1


The book by Masha Gessen on Grigory Perelman has a fascinating description of the Russian math camps, specialized schools (e.g., Specialized Mathematics School Number 239 in Leningrad), and the instructors who excel in training the future IMO candidates. One such instructor was Valery Ryzhik (School 239), but the most influential was Sergei Rukshin:

"...the care and teaching of Perelman became the thing that gave meaning to Rukshin's life." (p.29)

Only countries with such a focussed culture and institutions surrounding the IMO and similar competitions can excel year after year.


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    $\begingroup$ The way the title of the book is printed is annoying. Technically, it reads "Persect Rigor." $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Jan 9, 2017 at 1:23
  • $\begingroup$ It seems that the phrase (from answer above) about Grigoriy Perelman school years should be seriously corrected:"...description of the Soviet Union (USSR) math camps, specialized schools...". Lots of now independed countries (Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Georgia, etc.) were parts of USSR at that times. $\endgroup$
    – Thinker
    Jan 10, 2017 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Thinker: While there is a valid point I find 'seriously corrected' a bit of an exaggeration. I would remark that the specific case mentioned in fact was/is in Russia (which was then part of the USSR) and that in addition it is somewhat common to refer to some conglomerates informally by a constituent; other examples would be Holland and England. I convert this to a comment to the concerned answer (where you could not post it yet yourself) $\endgroup$
    – quid
    Jan 10, 2017 at 15:02

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