Treviño coaches Chihuahuan math team to national championship

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Enrique Treviño helped coach a team of high school students from the Mexican state of Chihuahua to a first place finish in the XXVII Mexican Mathematical Olympiad in late November.

The competition took place in San Miguel Regla, Hidaldo, México. This was Treviño’s tenth appearance at the Olympiad, his eighth as a coach. He competed as a student in 2000 and 2001. In fact, his exposure to the Olympiad as a student navigated him to a career in mathematics.

“I had a coach who was influential on me and how I teach and view life in general. I wanted to give back. I enjoy the students,” he said of his continued involvement.

As one of five coaches of the Chihuahuan team, Treviño is charged with visiting high schools in the state to test students and identify 200 candidates to compete in the statewide competition in June. Then, twenty of those students are selected to train for three months to fill one of six seats to represent Chihuahua at the Mexican Mathematical Olympiad in November.

The students are tested in four areas at the Olympiad: algebra, geometry, number theory and combinatorics. They have two days, four and a half hours each day, to complete six questions individually.

This year, three of Treviño’s students earned a gold medal and three earned silver medals. 

“Chihuahua hadn’t won the Olympiad since 1997, so it was a great achievement,” Treviño said.

The team is young, so Treviño expects them to win again next year — by a lot.

The three gold medalists are now in the running for one of six spots for the International Math Olympics in July. Treviño continues to coach them with the help of a blog, but this time, he has no say in who gets to go.

On the homefront, Treviño uses his Olympiad experience when teaching the Lake Forest College math class Abstract & Discrete Mathematics — minus the four and a half hour exams. He also helped Professor of Math and fellow Olympiad veteran David Yuen prepare Lake Forest students for a similar U.S. math competition called the Putnam, which took place in early December.

“When I contributed to the Putnam sessions, I taught the students the techniques I teach my Olympiad students and I used the same problems,” he said. “It seems like Lake Forest students did well, so the Olympiad had an impact on Lake Forest in that way.”