Founded in 1981, the Pan African Math Olympiad (PAMO) is the flagship pre-college event of the African Mathematics Union (AMU). PAMO is an annual, continent wide, invitational, mathematics competition for high school aged students who are less than 20 years old. The primary objective of PAMO is to identify, cultivate, and promote elite mathematical talent on the continent of Africa.
In 2012, Mark Saul and Florence Fasanelli, supported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), led a project to identify high achieving African-American students with unique mathematical talent, train them for competition, and send a team to compete at the PAMO. The training program was paid for with a $125,000 grant from theAlfred P. Sloan Foundation. The University of the District of Columbia provided free classrooms and housing to 20 students during the training, and AAAS offered in-kind staff support.
Approximately 70 students applied for the opportunity to be a part of the pilot program. Of those 70 applicants, 20 were selected. The group of 20 “mathletes” were then brought to Washington, DC for an intensive 10-day training program to prepare them for the mathematical competitions. Ultimately, four students (George Friedlander, Joseph Feffer, Gabriel Grell, and Rachit Singh) were selected to travel to Tunis, Tunisia and compete in the Pan-African Math Olympiad.
Although the American team was classified as an unofficial participant, they earned the third highest score among the teams competing. One of the team members achieved a score at the gold medal level, one at the silver level, and one bronze. The success of the project attracted media attention on a national level.
√MathROOTS is based on the success of the 2012 PAMO pilot project.