Mathematical Bridges for Talented Youth

A particular focus of our group is to establish bridges between current mathematical research (and leading researchers!) and young mathematical talents, and the general public at large. Contrary to frequent belief, mathematics is a lively research field carried out by live people, and mathematicians enjoy personal interactions! Perhaps even more surprisingly, even young people can contribute to relevant research — this includes undergraduate students and even high school students! Mathematical talent often shows early, and hence we want to bring together talented and interested students in contact with exciting current research in mathematics. We are involved in bridge building both at an international level and for local students in the Bremen area. Among our initiatives are the following:

Heidelberg Laureate Forum

The Heidelberg Laureate Forum is an annual event that invites the winners of the Abel Prize, the Fields Medal, and the Turing Award (the “Nobel Prizes in mathematics and in computer science”) together with a hundred “young scientists” from both fields — university students up to postdocs. We support the Heidelberg Laureate Forum annually as a member of its Scientific Committee. Interested young scientists can apply every year here!

“Modern Mathematics” International Summer School

The “Modern Mathematics” International Summer School is a regular event for international students at the age of transition between high school and university and brings them in close contact with each other and with some of the most exciting research mathematicians for 10 days of close interaction. The summer schools 2011–2017 have taken place in Bremen/Germany and Lyon/France, the next one is scheduled for 2019 in Bremen.

Mathematik in Bremen!

Younger people with interest in mathematics find interesting opportunities offered by the “Mathematik in Bremen!” society, including bi-weekly mathematics circles for various age groups.

International Tournament of Young Mathematicians

We actively support a novel kind of research competition for high school students, the “International Tournament of Young Mathematicians” (ITYM): this is a competition that reflects mathematics research much more closely than more familiar competitions: it involves team work, the problems have research character (one has several months research time and is encouraged to visit the library!), the teams have to present the solutions “conference style”, and they are peer-reviewed by other teams. The tournament brings together teams from different countries, and it takes place every year in a different country. The ITYM 2014 took place in Bremen, and the winners were invited to Oslo for the awarding of the Abel Prize by the King of Norway.

International Mathematical Olympiad

 

One special previous highlight is the organization of the 50th International Mathematical Olympiad IMO 2009 in Bremen/Germany, and in particular the 50th IMO anniversary celebration in the presence with some of the world’s leading research mathematicians that in their youth were IMO participants themselves: Béla Bollobás (Cambridge/UK and Memphis/UK), Timothy Gowers (Cambridge/UK), László Lovász (Budapest/Hungary), Stanislav Smirnov (Geneva/Switzerland and St. Petersburg/Russia), Terence Tao (UCLA/USA), and Jean-Christophe Yoccoz (Paris/France)“; the anniversary ceremony was hosted by Martin Grötschel and Günter Ziegler (Berlin).


We are also making a serious effort to collect lasting values from these events and to make them available to interested people everywhere. Among these projects is the book “An invitation to mathematics”  with 14 contributions, many of them by top-level research mathematicians, written for young people with interest in mathematics. This book is the outcome of a special bridge-building activity in its own right: most contributions are authored by world-leading research mathematicians; they were all carefully edited jointly with Malte Lackmann (at the time a recent IMO medal winner) in cooperation with a team of young test readers at the age of transition from high school to university. “An invitation to mathematics” has been translated to German; the Chinese translation is about to appear.


          FrontCoverGerman          

Another outcome is the special issue of the “American Mathematical Monthly” with several articles based on the “Modern Mathematics” summer school 2011 in Bremen. Many of its articles have been translated into Chinese.


We should mention that our projects have indeed led to several interesting research projects and publications between leading researchers and young “math kids” at high school or young university age. Here are some of them:

  • Aimeric Malter, Dierk Schleicher, and Don Zagier: New Looks at Old Number Theory. Amer. Math. Monthly, March 2013, Vol. 120, No. 3, pp. 243-264 (article): a joint publication with a high school student (13 years at the time) and a leading number theorist, revisiting some classical topics of number theory that have come out of the first “Modern Mathematics” summer school and that resulted in a youth science project of Aimeric.
  • Ben Heuer and John Conway: All Solutions to the Immobilizer Problem. The Mathematical Intelligencer, December 2014, Vol. 36, Issue 4, pp. 78-86: a joint publication between one of the most prolific living mathematicians and a participant of the 2013 “Modern Mathematics” summer school, then a beginning university student, on one of Conway’s combinatorial challenges.
  • Dierk Schleicher and Robin Stoll: Newton's method in practice: finding all roots of polynomials of degree one million efficiently. Journal of Theoretical Computer Science (to appear) (arxiv): this research, with a 16-year-old high school student at the time, has shown that contrary to common belief among professional researchers, Newton’s method is a very efficient tool to find all roots of polynomials of polynomials even of very high degree — in some cases, faster than professional software by orders of magnitude!