Hard Problems

hardproblemsmovie.com is the website of a documentary made about the US team in the 2006 International Math Olympiad.

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Although American students on the whole rank well behind many countries in mathematics, American math Olympiad teams regularly finish among the top teams. While aiming to inspire and entertain, Hard Problems provides an insightful and thoughtful look at the process that produces successful teams, and ultimately, great mathematicians of the future

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The first part of the above quote raises some interesting questions about how educational effort should be prioritized.  Does effort directed to strong performance at the top levels compensate for, or compete with, that needed to maintain the basic levels of verbal and mathematical literacy that are needed for effective democratic decision making (as opposed to the woefully ill-informed nonsense that passes for debate about health care in the US for example)?

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