USAMO and the Election, by J.B.

Today I have my first invited guest blogger, J.B. He is a 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 USAMO qualifier. He was also selected to be on the US team at the Romanian Masters in Mathematics competition. Also, he placed 6th at the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad. Here is his piece:

The analysis is based on the list of 2009 USAMO qualifiers.

There is a rule that if nobody naturally qualifies for the USAMO from a state, then the highest scoring individual will qualify. Unfortunately, this means that we must remove those states with only one USAMO qualifier. We have 33 states remaining. If we sort these strictly by number of USAMO qualifiers, then we find the following result.

States with at least 4 USAMO qualifiers (24 total) voted for Obama, with the following exceptions: Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, and Missouri. In addition, of the two states with 3 USAMO qualifiers, one voted for Obama and one for McCain. The remaining states with 2 qualifiers (5 total) voted Republican.

Now this is not really unexpected. States with very large populations tend to be democratic and also produce more USAMO qualifiers. The most notable exceptions are Georgia and Texas, both of which were indeed exceptions (major outliers, in fact) above. This prompts the following consideration.

States with at least 8 USAMO qualifiers per 10 million residents (25 total) voted for Obama, with the following exceptions: Florida, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Missouri, and Georgia. Of these, all but Georgia fall within 50% of the target 8 USAMO qualifiers per 10 million residents. Georgia has 18 qualifiers per 10 million residents. Note also that the entire USA has 16 qualifiers per 10 million residents.

Furthermore, if USAMO qualifiers had been used instead of population for determining electoral votes, Obama would have won with 86% of the vote rather than 68%. In general, if the Democrat can secure all those states with at least 1 qualifier per million residents (plus DC), he will win with 303 votes. He can even lose the three red states in that category (Georgia, Missouri, and South Carolina) for exactly 269.

USAMO qualifiers per 10 million residents (for states with more than one qualifier) are:

• NH — 122 (all of their qualifiers are from Phillips Exeter Academy)
• MA — 55
• ME — 30
• CA — 29
• NJ — 29
• CT — 29
• VA — 28
• MD — 25
• WA — 21
• IN — 19
• OR — 19
• NY — 18
• GA — 18
• IA — 17
• NM — 15
• MI — 15
• PA — 14
• MO — 14
• SC — 13
• IL — 13
• NC — 13
• OH — 9
• CO — 8
• MN — 8
• UT — 7
• KS — 7
• WI — 7
• KY — 7
• TX — 7
• FL — 6
• LA — 5
• AL — 4
• TN — 3

The states with only one USAMO qualifier are WY, VT, ND, AK, SD, DE, MT, RI, HI, ID, NE, WV, NV, AR, MS, OK, and AZ. The only blue one of these which falls below 8 qualifiers per 10 million is Nevada (we would expect it to have at least 2 qualifiers to fit the expected pattern). Otherwise, it is at least possible that each state fits the pattern of 8 qualifiers per 10 million residents if and only if it votes Democratic.

Share:

1. Maria Roginskaya:

An interesting side observation is that the results from NH shows that kids from a boarding school perform better. One can certainly speculate about selection involved, but having an experience of studying in a boarding school I can point for two factors which are of positive contribution. First – by placing kids in the same living condition one creates more homogenious culture. Second – vast majority of the adults one have around are teachers, which means that the academical studies becomes focus of comparision. Finally, the main draw-back of a boarding school – the shortage of unconditional support from a close related adult, which makes the life more tough, is again a benifit when it comes to the competitions – one is used to handle the pressure. Wonder if it may be a reason enough to create a goverment funded elit mathematical boarding school 🙂

PS. I think an idea for the state to take over forstering children, so that more efficiently make them useful for the Society was at some point popular in Soviet. So the suggestion above is just one more illustration that too much focus on the competitions is against the “traditional American values”

2. Tony:

You said “PS. I think an idea for the state to take over forstering children, so that more efficiently make them useful for the Society was at some point popular in Soviet. So the suggestion above is just one more illustration that too much focus on the competitions is against the “traditional American values”.

The soviet model, though ideologically sound, ultimately didn’t work. Life is, and always has been competitive, in education as much as any other sector of society. Centralised centres of excellence however worry me. Far better to enable the gifted locally and encourage all to lift standards.

3. rizshel:

large populations should really be democratic in their elections, and I think its just more on people’s concern and that I should say is right. The leaders should not just been chosen from individuals but to all peoples concern to be free from biases and to have a fair choice.