Yes, you might be able to do better than Terry Tao

There’s a discussion on the Quora website about how Terry Tao, the most celebrated mathematician of our days, would do now if he went in for the International Mathematical Olympiad, a competition for high school students which he took part in as a young teenager.

For itself, the discussion seems pointless to me. However, some of what’s said in the comments is instructive for current school students. For example:

“He might not find it easier than before. The reasons include:

“Purely in terms of technical ability… one’s peak time is typically the age of 18–20 years. A mature mathematician, regardless of how great he is, has no advantage over young students.

“There is a lot of time pressure… when you take IMO. Considering Terence Tao’s age [41], he should not be as fast as when he was young”.

As an older teenager, you will not know as much maths as an older research mathematician, but you may well be quicker, and smarter at the details of mathematical “tricks”.

Terry Tao is Chinese-Australian by origin, and now works in the USA. This is his blog: