Past Colorado Math Olympiad winners to help celebrate 30th anniversary

Alexander Soifer
Alexander Soifer will celebrate his 30th year of the leading the Colorado Math Olympiad April 26.

Matthew Kahle was a poor-performing middle and high school student who earned C’s, even in his favorite subject, math.

But a chance opportunity to participate in a Russian-style math competition at UCCS helped change the now 40-year-old’s perspective.

“As an eighth grader, I received a first honorable mention,” Kahle said of his first visit to the Colorado Math Olympiad at UCCS in 1987. That was followed by third prize in 1988, first honorable mention in 1989 and first prize in 1990 and 1991.”

Kahle, who later earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Washington, held postdoctoral fellowships at Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J. , and is now a tenure-track assistant professor of mathematics at Ohio State University, will return to Colorado Springs April 26 to help judge the 30th Colorado Math Olympiad at UCCS. On May 3, he will join with other past winners and both university and community leaders to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Colorado Math Olympiad, assisting in the awarding of medals and prizes to this year’s middle and high school competitors.

“I participated in several statewide and national math competitions,” Kahle said recently. “But the Colorado Math Olympiad at UCCS was special. The problems are much harder, and you are given hours to work on them, not minutes or seconds like many other math contests. This is closer to what we really do in research in theoretical mathematics. I feel like the CMO gave me a glimpse of what hard problems look like.”

An estimated 400 middle and high school students will compete on April 26 in Berger Hall and the Gallogly Events Center. The event begins at 9 a.m. For four hours, students will work to complete five essay-style problems.

A week later, on May 3, Alex Soifer, CMO chair and professor, Interdepartmental Studies, will review solutions to the problems, give a lecture on legendary mathematician Paul Erdos (1913-1996) and deliver “Charge to the Winners: Ten Professional Principles.” Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak will lead a roundtable discussion that features Kahle, 1984 CMO winner Russel Shaffer, a computer software analyst; three-time CMO winner David Hunter, a professor and department chair at Pennsylvania State University; three-time CMO winner Mark Heim, a senior math student at Colorado State University; Gary Miller, a retired Coronado High School math teacher; Robert Ewell, owner of a statistical consulting firm; Dennis Mithaug, a professor at Columbia University; and Greg Hoffman, director of human resources, Intermap Technologies.

UCCS leaders and representatives of Colorado Springs School Districts 11 and 20 will award medals, college scholarships, and prizes including software packages and calculators donated by global manufacturers.

Shockley-Zalabak will offer gold, silver and bronze medalists a scholarship to UCCS. Other prizes include Casio calculators, math software provided by Wolfram Research, and a book by Soifer.

Student participation is free and open to all students grade 6-12. There is no limit on the number of schools or students who may participate. For more information, students individually or school district representatives should contact Margie Oldham, (719) 255-4552,

The Colorado Math Olympiad is supported by Casio Inc., Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort Hotel, the Office of Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Ewell, Wolfram Research, the UCCS Office of the Chancellor, UCCS College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Colorado Springs School District 20 and Colorado Springs School District 11.

For more information about the Math Olympiad, and to view problems from previous years, visit

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