Are maths challenges/olympiads a good measure of natural ability? Watch

gradians
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Take two people with the same age, education, and knowledge, neither having done a maths challenge/olympiad paper before, and make them do a paper. If one does much better than the other, does that necessarily mean they have more natural ability?

This sounds like a stupid question, but I'm curious to see what other people think. I don't mean overall olympiad success (which can usually be trained); it's how well they do at first glance.
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csmlady
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(Original post by gradians)
Take two people with the same age, education, and knowledge, neither having done a maths challenge/olympiad paper before, and make them do a paper. If one does much better than the other, does that necessarily mean that person has more natural ability?

This sounds like a stupid question, but I'm curious to see what other people think. I don't mean overall olympiad success; it's how well they do at first glance.
I mean it could be telling us that one person can understand things on their own better, and are more independent mabye. idk though mabye I'm thinking into it too much lol
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Zoqua
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(Original post by gradians)
Take two people with the same age, education, and knowledge, neither having done a maths challenge/olympiad paper before, and make them do a paper. If one does much better than the other, does that necessarily mean they have more natural ability?

This sounds like a stupid question, but I'm curious to see what other people think. I don't mean overall olympiad success (which can usually be trained); it's how well they do at first glance.
Depends. Maths challenges only really test a few narrow types of thinking skills, and some of the questions also do require (or rather are made insurmountably easier by) knowledge of certain theorems. 'Natural ability' is quite a vague phrase. If you mean do they have more natural ability in solving certain types of problems, then yes, but that might not translate into overall 'natural ability', it mainly says more about how you think about solving problems, for example someone who is very good at solving problems incredibly fast with quick methods will do better on an olympiad than someone who takes their time but still gets the right answer.

Basically 'natural ability' is quite a vague term. Certainly they have more natural ability for solving maths challenges (although to be fair you'd probably want to give them a series of maths challenges one after the other, not just one, to test overall ability), but maybe not natural mathematical ability? Sorry if I'm being vague myself here.

In the end though it doesn't really matter about your 'natural ability', it matters if you do the work (this applies for both exams and maths challenges), so it's really quite pointless trying to test 'natural ability' which people have no control over. It's what the person does with that natural ability is important. Sorry if that sounded like I was criticizing your question though, still a good question

Have a nice day
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mqb2766
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(Original post by gradians)
Take two people with the same age, education, and knowledge, neither having done a maths challenge/olympiad paper before, and make them do a paper. If one does much better than the other, does that necessarily mean they have more natural ability?

This sounds like a stupid question, but I'm curious to see what other people think. I don't mean overall olympiad success (which can usually be trained); it's how well they do at first glance.
Challenges test "quick" problem solving. Olympiads more in depth maths analysis. You can't really test natural ability but doing both types of questions, generally improves your maths ability.
Last edited by mqb2766; 2 weeks ago
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