A Brief History

Mathematical Olympiads are extracurricular competitions which have grown very rapidly during last several years.  In the Latin-American and Caribbean region, in addition to many national Olympiads there are regional competitions such as the Ibero-American Mathematical Olympiad and the Southern Cone Mathematical Olympiad.  These events have several goals, including discovering mathematically talented students, exchanging experiences among mathematics teachers, and fostering scientific talent and initiative among young people.  Olympiads meet these goals by presenting students with challenging problems whose solutions require creativity, imagination, and ingenuity.

 

In Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1997, the Team Leaders of the countries competing in the XII Ibero-American Mathematical Olympiad proposed a new Olympiad.  This was developed into the Central American and Caribbean Mathematical Olympiad (CENTRO) with the support of the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI).  The goal was to expand opportunities for young people in Central America and the Caribbean.  

 

The CENTRO is open to students under the age of 16 who have neither competed in a more advanced Olympiad nor competed in a CENTRO more than once.  This gives participating countries space to motivate and develop talented young students and prepare them for higher level competitions. 

 

The first CENTRO, sponsored by the OEI, was held in Costa Rica in 1999.  The participating countries were Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.   The CENTRO has become an annual event and since 2009 is no longer sponsored by the OEI.  In 2010 English-speaking countries were invited for the first time and Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the US Virgin Islands became the first such countries to compete.

 

Aspects of Organization

The CENTRO is held each year in a participating country.  Each national delegation consists of three Student Competitors, one Tutor, and one Team Leader.  The event actually begins when participating countries submit proposed questions and solutions to a team of editors approximately three months before the exams take place.  These are vetted to ensure that the questions are original, have not been used in another competition, and are appropriate for a competition of this standard.  In the days leading up to the competition, the Leaders meet in isolation to assemble the test from the proposed questions. 

 

The competition itself is a test held over two days. Each day, students receive a paper with three questions and they are allowed four and one-half hours to produce their solutions.   A Team of Coordinators is responsible for evaluating their work.  They must strive to agree on the scoring with each country’s Leader and Tutor, in accordance with the established rubrics.   On rare occasions, a disagreement cannot be resolved between the Coordinators and a country's Leader and Tutor.  In this case, a Jury comprising all Leaders and Tutors makes the final decision. 

 

Following the traditions of the International Mathematical Olympiad, the Ibero-American Mathematical Olympiad, and other Olympiads, half of the participating students receive medals.  These are Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals awarded in the ratio of 1 : 2 : 3.  Students who do not qualify for a medal but correctly and completely solve at least one problem on the test receive Honourable Mention.  In 2000, the El Salvador Cup was also established.  This is given each year to the country that has made the greatest relative progress over the last three years.