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NCSSM senior Emily Wen was one of four competitors selected to represent the United States at this year’s European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO), held in Florence, Italy, this spring. Wen earned a bronze medal and tied for 80th place out of 192 competitors. As a team, the U.S. placed second out of 52 countries represented.

Modeled after the International Math Olympiad, EGMO was established to encourage the passion of girls for mathematics and problem solving, as well as a commitment to narrow the gap in female participation and results at international competitions. Organizers note that only 10% of International Math Olympiad participants are female. The format of the contest requires teams to solve three problems on each of the two days of competition through written mathematical proofs.

Wen’s propensity for mathematics shows in her transcript, which boasts nine math courses, exceeding the school’s five-class requirement. NCSSM Math Instructor Philip Rash, who taught Wen in his Numerical Analysis class this spring, has known of the gifted student and competitor by name since she was in 8th grade. Back then, Wen competed on the North Carolina regional team for the American Regions Mathematics League’s annual competition. Since then, she has competed and succeeded at numerous math competitions like the 2017 Siemens Competition in Math and the Duke Math Meet.

The proof-based nature of the problems presented to students in EGMO and similar competitions deviates from what many are used to in the classroom. “The questions are much more open ended,” Rash explains. “There is not a clear direction… it’s almost more like writing a math essay.” EGMO problems are all very advanced, exceeding the level of calculus that most high school students encounter. “For a student like Emily, calculus is more the beginning,” Rash said. He described the opportunity to teach her and observe her level of passion as “humbling.”