All systems gold for ORT Argentina maths supremo


There’s talented, there’s gifted and then there’s Ariel Zylber. At the tender age of 16, this student in the Electronics track at ORT Argentina’s Almagro High School has won the gold medal at the Cono Sur Mathematics Olympiad and is looking to repeat the feat at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in Kazakhstan this week.

Ariel out-gunned 40 students from eight South American countries at last month’s Olympiad in Brazil and, although surprised by his victory, was matter-of-fact about it.

“It was very hard and there were many very good students there. But I was also very good so I managed to beat them,”? he said just hours before leaving Buenos Aires on the long flight to Central Asia.

Despite his age, this is already the second Cono Sur Mathematics Olympiad in which he has competed “モ he won a bronze medal in last year’s event in Argentina. “This year’s competition was not easier; I am getting better,”? Ariel said, putting the improvement down to simple hard work and the support provided by ORT.
“We have very good maths teachers and the school helps me a lot to attend the international competitions. It would have been very much harder to advance the way I have done in maths at any other school.”?
This week’s competition promises to be quite a challenge: the IMO is considered the most prestigious contest of its kind for school students and attracts hundreds of participants from scores of countries.
At last year’s IMO, which was held in Germany, Ariel received an honourable mention meaning he managed to provide at least one completely correct answer to the set problems “モ no mean achievement in a competition where 19 maths whizzes were unable to figure out any of the problems and dozens more only managed to answer certain elements correctly.
But he goes into this competition a little bit older, a little bit more experienced and with the benefit of weeks of intensive training at Buenos Aires’s City University. Before Brazil he spent two weeks at the university cracking mathematical problems all day long and he completed another brain-bending fortnight there in the lead up to Kazakhstan.
Fortunately, his abilities are not confined to maths and he is able to catch up quickly with his classmates after each competition. Which is just as well because Ariel is due to fly to Canada next month for a few days of computer programming and algorithmic problems at the International Olympiad in Informatics.
He loves the competitions not only for the fun of travelling and meeting people from around the world but for the simple pleasure of solving mathematical problems. He admits to having a particular fondness for combinatorics, which concerns the study of finite or countable discrete structures. Ariel is not the first Jew to feel an affinity for this branch of maths: Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra established the symmetry of binomial coefficients in the 12th Century and 200 years later Rabbi Levi ben Gerson (known as Ralbag) obtained a closed formula.
Amidst the kvelling at ORT Argentina, no one is prouder than maths undergraduate Julian Eisenschlos.
Julian graduated from ORT three years ago and now works there part-time as an extra-curricular tutor. No stranger to international competitions “モ he was at the 2006 IMO in Slovenia and won a gold medal at the Ibero-American Mathematics Olympiad in Portugal in 2008 “モ Julian has been running Ariel through his paces at City University over the past two weeks.
“Ariel’s great and he has a great future,”? Julian said. “He is very young to have accomplished as much as he has and that, in itself, is a sign of his ability. I think he’s going to perform really well this year. And even if he’s not satisfied with his performance, he’s still young enough to compete again next year. But I’m confident that he’ll do great.”?
He agreed that the supportive environment at ORT contributed hugely to students’ ability to compete internationally.
“When I was travelling to competitions ORT allowed me special days to take exams and the teachers were always available to help me as I caught up on the class work,”? said Julian, who is wondering whether to pursue an academic career or a more lucrative path in designing computer games. “It would be more difficult to do this at another school.”?