The South African Mathematics Olympiad is an annual mathematics competition for high-school students in South Africa. The competition is organised by the South African Mathematics Foundation, and comprises three rounds which increase in difficulty. The final round of the 2019 South African Mathematics Olympiad will take place on Thursday, 25 July, and the top ten junior (Grade 8 and 9) and senior (Grades 10—12) competitors will be invited to a prize-giving evening taking place on 14 September 2019. At the same time, the problem selection committee will meet to start setting the 2020 papers.

According to the SAMF, nearly 100000 students participated in the 2017 edition of the competition. The numbers for the 2019 competition are likely to be similar. These students all write the first round of the competition, which learners write at their individual schools in March every year. The papers are marked at the school, and any student with more than 50% is invited to participate in the second round of the competition. The top 100 junior and 100 senior students from the second round are invited to write the final round which takes place at regional centers around the country. There are also a number of international students who opt to enter the competition, both from the SADC region, and from further abroad. This year there are students from Swaziland and Nigeria who qualify to write the final round. The list of students who qualify to write the final round is available at

The final round paper is quite challenging. The senior paper consists of six questions for which students are expected to submit complete, written solutions, and which typically require the students to prove various propositions. The junior paper also requires complete written solutions for its 15 questions. The students are given four hours to solve and write solutions for as many of the problems as they are able. This format is in contrast to the first round, which is a multiple choice paper, and the second round in which the students provide numerical answers only. In the two weeks leading up to the final round this year, I plan to take a look at and write about the questions from the 2018 senior final round paper.

The South African Mathematics Olympiad is the primary method used to select students to attend a training camp in December. This camp is the first in a series of camps which make up the selection and training program for the South African teams for the Pan-African and International Mathematics Olympiads. The 2019 Pan-African Mathematics Olympiad was hosted by South Africa, and took place in Muizenberg during the first week of April. The 2020 Pan-African Mathematics Olympiad will take place in Tunisia. The 2019 International Mathematics Olympiad is currently (while I’m typing) taking place in Bath in the United Kingdom, and the 2020 International Mathematics Olympiad will be hosted by the Russian Federation.

The South African Mathematics Olympiad is made possible by sponsorship from Liberty (a South African financial services company) and SAICA (the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants).

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