The largest school competition in the world was created by IMPA
Brazil has two major mathematical Olympiads. The Brazilian Mathematical Olympiad (OBM) was founded by the Brazilian Mathematical Society in 1978. The OBM organizers a national contest and several state and regional ones, involving about 500,000 students every year, from 6th grade to the undergraduate level. In addition, it OBM represents Brazil in the main competitions around the world, including the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO).
Brazil has been participating in the IMO since 1979, when it ranked 22nd among 23 countries, uninterruptedly to this date. Thus far, Brazilian students have brought home 9 gold medals, 43 silver and 73 bronze medals. The country´s best collective result was 15th among 109 countries, at the 2016 IMO in Hong Kong.
The 2017 International Mathematical Olympiad took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from July 12 through 23. It was the largest to date, with 615 contestants and a total of 1560 participants, from 112 countries. The organization of IMO 2017 in Brazil was widely considered a great success.
At the initiative of IMPA, in 2005 the Brazilian government launched the Brazilian Mathematical Olympiad of Public Schools, an ambitious effort to promote interest in mathematics and identify talented students across the country. The OBMEP reaches virtually every student from 6th grade to the end of high school, totaling around 18 million children in over 53,000 schools. This makes it, by far, the largest school competition in the world.
The competition itself is accompanied by scholarships and various training programs for teachers and students, especially the medal winners, sponsored by the national agencies CAPES and CNPq. While the OBMEP has shown to be a very helpful recruitment channel for math majors, it has also been particularly successful in channeling resources for the mathematics training of students in various careers, from engineering and technology to the life sciences and even the human sciences.
A number of independent studies have demonstrated that mathematical Olympiads do have a significant impact in school performance. For instance, it has been observed that schools which participate actively in the OBMEP exhibit performance rates well above those with a less active stance. The difference correlates to an additional 1.5 year of education, which is truly impressive.
Starting from 2017, the national contests of OBM and OBMEP have been merged into a single Olympiad, open to all Brazilian schools – public or private – which enhanced even further its breadth and scale. The OBM committe remains responsible for the final stage, which includes the selection of the Brazilian representatives in international competitions. Another big challenge for the near future is to start extending the Olympiad to elementary school, that is, 1st to 5th grade.