Training for math olympiads

by D_Malik 1 min read29th May 201121 comments


Lately I've resolved to try harder at teaching myself math so I have a better shot at the international olympiad (IMO). These basically involve getting, say, three really hard math problems and trying your best to solve them within 5 hours.

My current state:

  • I have worked through a general math problem-solving guide (Art and Craft of Problem-Solving), a general math olympiad guide (A Primer for Mathematics Competitions) and practice problems.
  • I've added all problems and solutions and theorems and techniques into an Anki deck. When reviewing, I do not re-solve the problem, I only try to remember any key insights and outline the solution method.
  • I am doing n-back, ~20 sessions (1 hour) daily, in an attempt to increase my general intelligence (my IQ is ~125, sd 15).
  • I am working almost permanently; akrasia is not much of a problem.
  • I am not _yet_ at the level of IMO medallists.

What does the intrumental-rationality skill of LWers have to say about this? What recommendations do you guys have for improving problem-solving ability, in general and specifically for olympiad-type environments? Specifically,

  • How should I spread my time between n-backing, solving problems, and learning more potentially-useful math?
  • Should I take any nootropics? I am currently looking to procure some fish oil (I don't consume any normally) and perhaps a racetam. I have been experimenting with cycling caffeine weekends on, weekdays off (to prevent tolerance being developed), with moderate success (Monday withdrawal really sucks, but Saturday is awesome).
  • Should I add the problems to Anki? It takes time to create the cards and review them; is that time better spent doing more problems?