Photo Friday: What can a Math Olympiad Tell You About Your Relative?

Have you ever heard of Math Olympiad? I don’t know how many people participated in various competitions while they were in school. I also don’t know if the competitions were limited only to kids in the Gift and Talented Program. What I do know, is that I participated in Match competitions in Elementary and Middle School and I enjoyed them.

Math Olympiads 1980 Patch
Math Olympiads patch from the late 1980s

I took this photo using my light box. Inside the lightbox, I built a platform covered with a small piece of white muslim, that the patch could rest again. This allowed me to angle my camera better to capture the patch. The light I used was artificial and came through the filter of tissue paper into the box. (Notice how the light is concentrated in the top most part of the photo?)

I had trouble photographing this patch for legibility. Even with the Macro setting enabled, the embroidery made capturing the object a challenge. I basically kept playing with different settings and zoom until I could finally read the word “Math Olypiads” clearly.

What I also loved about the patch, is that it came with a document. The document has a date on it, so I know when I received this particular patch.

Math Olympiads 1980 Patch
Certificates help tell the stories of our ancestors (or ourselves)

I now know that I received this particular patch from participation in the 1987-1988 program. I find it funny that the certificate reads “Mathematical Olympiads for Elementary Schools” and then mentions that I went to a Middle School.

I can also see the signature of my principal Mrs. L Sheehan. Mrs. Sheehan was a tough principal and often set my mischievous brother straight. When I got into trouble, she was firm but gentle as I generally didn’t make trips to her office. Seeing her signature doesn’t tell you much about Mrs. Sheehan and how she interacted with my brother or myself. But, my memories do.  There is so much that can be found in documents like these, if we take the time to really capture our stories.

What the patch and certificate does not say, is what I actually did to participate. And, they don’t say how well I did or did not do. The question then becomes, does it matter? I’m not sure.

I did well enough in math during elementary and middle schools to be invited to participate in the program (back then it wasn’t open to everyone in my school). So, to have these items in my personal history stash tells you that I had an interest or talent in math at this time of life.

With my Photo Friday and Treasure Chest Thursday, I try to encourage people photograph the stuff in their attics, closets, under their beds, and around their house. Why? Because there are clues all around you about the individuals in your family, if you know where to look. These clues are not found in birth, marriage, and death record databases. But they do give you insight into the people on your tree. I also hope that by sharing my journey in photography, you can see that with a little practice, anyone can photograph the stuff that enriches their family history. So… if you want to do something truly awesome this Christmas Season… grab your camera, get into your family’s possessions and start photographing their things. Then talk about those things and record the memories. Have fun, and bring on the Holiday Season.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

7 thoughts on “Photo Friday: What can a Math Olympiad Tell You About Your Relative?

  1. I coached MathCounts for many years, but I also coached MathOlympiads for a year or two. I have a theory about the school difference… It could be that nationally, all 6th graders are tested against each other in the Elementary division, even if some 6th graders are enrolled in a Middle School.

    And today, I am photographing some clothes destined for Goodwill. They hold special memories for me, but I won't wear them again, so they might as well bless someone else and then I can reminisce with the photos instead. The bonus is that if I look for the item later and can't find it, I can look for the Goodwill photo tag and realize that it's already gone.

  2. Awesome Amanda! Thank you for this insight. I am basing my memory on that of a child, so it's entirely possible that Math Olympiad was open to everyone. I only remember taking the examinations with people from the gifted program. But that doesn't mean others were not involved.

  3. I competed in MathCounts in 9th grade. We had a class of over 300 and only could have 4 on our team! I loved the experience! I'll have to figure out if I have any papers or anything from that experience.

    Thanks for these reminders to share about our own lives! I've started a weekly post that will run on Wednesday's called "Our Stories." Last week, it was about names: how did you get yours? did you have a nickname? This week it'll be about our childhood homes.

    Thanks again for sharing as you do… I'm really learning from it!

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