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Math Contest Photos and History

Sometimes people ask me a bit about how I got into math as a kid, and what my experience was like growing up as a teenager. This page is a short answer to that question, but it’s here for people’s curiosity and is probably not useful as study advice. For actual advice on preparing for contests, see Contest FAQs.


In elementary school, I had no particular special training, and followed the typical American school curriculum. I taught myself algebra out of a rather standard workbook. I did not learn any combinatorics or geometry (in fact, I hardly knew they existed), and the extent of my number theory education was refusing to believe a teacher who told me that the prime factorization of an integer was always unique. It made for a cute story, and not much else.

The first time I heard of a math contest was the start of 7th grade, in 2008. I was told there was a math club, and joined to see what it was. The tryouts for the math club were an old MathCounts school round. It was an eye-opening experience for me because it was the first time I had encountered so many problems that I did not know how to solve.

Around the time, the USA Junior Math Olympiad was created, and back then it was much easier to qualify than it was today. After two years of working through many past problems, I placed highly in the first 2010 USA Junior MO (the problems were much easier by today’s standards). Although I wasn’t invited to MOP because I was only in 8th grade, that success motivated me to keep studying.

Over my high-school years (2010-2014), I was mentored by Zvezda Stankova at the Berkeley Math Circle, and at her recommendation I took a few university courses as well. Besides that I self-studied a lot of past contest problems (and tried writing a few of my own), and went back to my middle school as an amateur coach for their MathCounts team.

I got to attend MOP in 2011 and 2012, then under the leadership of Steve Dunbar and Zuming Feng. But I did poorly on USAMO 2013, and did not qualify for that year’s MOP. (I attended the Research Science Institute that year instead.) Back then, there was no redemption for a poor 11th grade USAMO performance, so that single score not only lost me a chance to attend IMO 2013, but made me ineligible to qualify for the USA team at IMO 2014 either.

I wasn’t ready to give up on my IMO dream, and spent my senior year flying back and forth to Taiwan, for which I had dual citizenship. I ended up on that year’s Taiwan team and earned a gold medal as TWN2.


Evan Chen at the USAMO 2014 awards ceremony, with a large prize money check Taiwanese team at 2014 International Math Olympiad in Cape Town, South Africa

Here is a stack of used scratch paper from my contest preparation over four years of high school.

A stack of scratch paper from Evan's math contest career, with a USAMO winner medal and an IMO gold medal on top.

The medal on the left is a USAMO winner medal; the medal on the right is an IMO gold medal, both from 2014.

Score log#

Here were my scores on various contests over the years, in reverse chronological order. These probably should not be taken seriously, but I’ll forget them if I don’t write them down.

(Scores for TSTST are approximate since papers were not returned.)

2014 season

  • AMC 12A 2014: 141.0
  • AMC 12B 2014: 126.0
  • AIME I 2014: 9
  • USAMO 2014: 41 (top-12)
  • IMO 2014: 36 (gold medal)

2013 season

  • AMC 12A 2013: 121.5
  • AMC 12B 2013: 115.5
  • AIME I 2013: 14
  • APMO 2013: 35 (perfect)
  • USAMO 2013: 8

2012 season

  • AMC 10A 2012: 141
  • AMC 12B 2012: 123
  • AIME I 2012: 10
  • USAMO 2012: 21
  • TSTST 2012: 40 (approximate)

2011 season

  • AMC 10A 2011: 132
  • AMC 12B 2011: 105
  • AIME I 2011: 5
  • USAJMO 2011: 29 (top-12)
  • ELMO 2011: 14 (silver)
  • TSTST 2011: 0 (approximate)

2010 season

  • AMC 8 2009: 25
  • AMC 10B 2010: 130.5
  • AIME I 2010: 6
  • USAJMO 2010: 37 (top-12)

2009 season

  • AMC 8 2008: 24
  • AMC 10B 2009: 87.0
Updated Wed 15 Nov 2023, 17:49:45 UTC by 72c84e3d4151