The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is a mathematical olympiad for pre-university students, and is the oldest of the International Science Olympiads. The first IMO was held in Romania in 1959. It has since been held annually, except in 1980. More than 100 countries, representing over 90% of the world’s population, send teams of up to six students, plus one team leader, one deputy leader, and observers.
The content ranges from extremely difficult algebra and pre-calculus problems to problems on branches of mathematics not conventionally covered in secondary or high school and often not at university level either, such as projective and complex geometry, functional equations, combinatorics, and well-grounded number theory, of which extensive knowledge of theorems is required. Calculus, though allowed in solutions, is never required, as there is a principle that anyone with a basic understanding of mathematics should understand the problems, even if the solutions require a great deal more knowledge. Supporters of this principle claim that this allows more universality and creates an incentive to find elegant, deceptively simple-looking problems which nevertheless require a certain level of ingenuity, often times a great deal of ingenuity to net all points for a given IMO problem.
The selection process differs by country, but it often consists of a series of tests which admit fewer students at each progressing test. Awards are given to approximately the top-scoring 50% of the individual contestants. Teams are not officially recognized—all scores are given only to individual contestants, but team scoring is unofficially compared more than individual scores. Contestants must be under the age of 20 and must not be registered at any tertiary institution. Subject to these conditions, an individual may participate any number of times in the IMO.
The International Mathematical Olympiad is one of the most prestigious mathematical competitions in the world. In January 2011, Google sponsored €1 million to the International Mathematical Olympiad organization.