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Major tasks for tomorrow's clever minds

At the awards ceremony for the Bavarian state round of the Maths Olympiad at the University of Passau, climate expert Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber motivates pupils to become active in climate protection. By Nicola Jacobi

It's in their minds that ideas and strategies for the future grow. They are the best mathematics pupils at their school and the best in Bavaria. At the state round of the 59th Mathematics Olympiad, held once again at the University of Passau from 21 to 23 February, they certainly proved that. On this occasion, furthermore, at Sunday's awards ceremony, a very special guest did himself the honour of being among those who offered their congratulations: Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, himself a physicist and one of the best known German climate researchers.

Professor Schellnhuber, born in Ortenburg, who is emeritus director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and acknowledged worldwide as an expert, congratulated the pupils. In his lecture entitled 'Outsmarting the Climate Crisis', he encouraged them to become active, to commit themselves, and to build up their knowledge and exploit their potential to counteract the climate crisis with creative ideas.

We aim to reach pupils who excel at mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology and need more input than they get at school.

Dr. Erich Fuchs, Managing director of the FORWISS Institute, University of Passau

The Maths Olympiad

A total of some 2200 pupils took part in the second round of his year's Maths Olympiad in Bavaria alone. These talented young thinkers have been busy since as far back as November 2019, because the competition is divided into several stages. The best from academic years 7 to 12, a total of 212 pupils from 122 Bavarian secondary schools, were finally invited to come to Passau to take part in the central state round.

During the two days of that round on 21 and 22 February 2020, everyone faced the familiar challenges once again: think, calculate, prove. In written examinations each lasting four hours, the participants solved challenging mathematical problems involving geometry, algebra and combinatorics. And they were pretty successful: half of them were rewarded with a first, second or third prize. The 40 best pupils from the state round in Passau qualified for a four-day selection seminar, at which 15 will be selected to represent Bavaria at the federal final.

The principal organiser is the Verein Mathematik-Olympiaden e.V., which has declared itself responsible for this competition, held right across Germany each year. This association organises the first three stages of the competition in Bavaria and, in particular, holds a central state round, which takes place alternately at the universities in Passau and Würzburg. The aim of the competition is to promote pupils' mathematical talent.

"We aim to reach pupils who excel at mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology and need more input than they get at school", adds Dr. Erich Fuchs, principal organiser of the event and managing director of the FORWISS Institute at the University of Passau. "For us at the Faculty of Computer Science and Mathematics, the Maths Olympiad is also an opportunity to show the University of Passau to tomorrow's students." Meanwhile, Fuchs has been able to set up a large, efficient network with sponsors from the university, the surrounding schools and regional enterprises, and that has made it possible to coordinate the state round every two years.  

The Earth's climate is one of the most complex systems that exists. You need to apply mathematics to understand it.

Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Physicist and Climate Researcher

Climate protection and mathematics

This event doesn't merely aim to give these specially gifted young people tasks to solve and test their mathematical knowledge. It is also, and above all, a matter of stimulating tomorrow's clever minds to assume responsibility – also beyond the realm of science. At the awards ceremony, the climate researcher Hans Joachim Schellnhuber did that very effectively by explaining the way mathematics and climate protection fit together: "The Earth's climate is one of the most complex systems that exists. You need to apply mathematics to understand it. Climate change will alter the conditions we live in. You, the young, are important. On the one hand you're the victims, but on the other you're also the ones who have the potential to find creative solutions."

Nicola Jacobi is employee in the field of science communication in the University Association Transfer and Innovation in Eastern Bavaria (TRIO).


More Info (Links in german):

MOBy e.V. (short for "Mathematics Olympiad in Bavaria")

Mathematics Olympiads in Germany

Maths Olympiad at the University of Passau

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