14-year-old Desi Girl Wins Spelling Bee

Congrats, Anamika Veeramani!

The fourteen-year-old eighth grader from North Royalton, Ohio became the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion last night. Anamika won the trophy and $40,000 in cash and prizes after correctly spelling “stromuhr.” (If, like me, you weren’t familiar with that word, it’s “an instrument for measuring the velocity of the blood flow.”)

Anamika is the third consecutive Indian-American spelling bee champion (following Kavya Shivashankar last year and Sameer Mishra in 2008.) An astonishing 8 out of the last 12 spelling bee champions have been Indian-American. Slate’s Explainer column thinks the phenomenon can be attributed to the community’s “minor-league spelling bee circuit”:

The [North South Foundation] circuit consists of 75 chapters run by close to 1,000 volunteers. The competitions, which began in 1993, function as a nerd Olympiad for Indian-Americans–there are separate divisions for math, science, vocab, geography, essay writing, and even public speaking–and a way to raise money for college scholarships for underprivileged students in India. There is little financial reward for winners (just a few thousand dollars in college scholarships) compared with the $40,000 winning purse handed out each year by Scripps. Still, more than 3,000 kids participated in NSF’s spelling events this year due in part to what NSF founder Ratnam Chitturi calls a sort of Kavya Effect. “Most American kids look up to sports figures,” he says. “Indian kids are more interested in education, and they finally have a role model.”

For their part, Anamika’s family told the AP that they don’t know why Indian-Americans thrive at the bee:

[Anamika's father Alagaiya Veeramani] guessed it has something to do with a hard-work ethic.

“This has been her dream for a very, very long time. It’s been a family dream, too,” said Veeramani, explaining that his daughter studied as many as 16 hours on some days. “I think it has to do with an emphasis on education.”

16 hours a day! Here’s hoping you have a relaxing summer, Anamika. You earned it.

104 thoughts on “14-year-old Desi Girl Wins Spelling Bee

  1. “I think that it would be a bit unfair to characterise those of us who look at such contests with a skeptical eye as people who don’t know work ethic, or who are not clever.”

    I agree. I just think one shouldn’t stereotype either way.

    “When I was Anamika’s age and much younger even I’d roam around with my friends, not coming back until dinnertime. People didn’t own cellphones yet in those days.”

    That was like my childhood. I studied before anything else, because that was emphasized. But roaming around for hours, exploring, playing in trees, building structures (treehouses etc.), hiking, playing sports, music were also encouraged. I also watched too much TV and played too many video games. Childhood definitely has changed these days, especially in more urban settings. It’s not easy or safe to allow your children to just roam around unsupervised, especially younger ones. However, there are still many children who are not necessarily just housebound swots, but who have so many interests the mind spins :)

    “BTW what 14-year-old plays golf? Her parents must be f’ing loaded.”

    Not necessarily. Although Anamika’s family probably has the means to indulge what is an expensive sport. But there are public courses and the PGA has programs to encourage golf amongst disadvantaged youth.

  2. Yoga Fire, I have not ‘seen the US public school system’, since I do not live, and never have lived in the USA. ;) In my country, it is ‘common knowledge’ (take that as you will) that US schools cater to the lowest common denominator, and are only suitable preperation for vocational schooling. Again, that is what passes for ‘common knowledge’ around these parts, what the real situation is I don’t know so I guess I make the mistake of assuming the level of high school is the same as here.

    Also, I find it amusing that you characterize my skepticism as an obsession with skin colour. Amusing, since it is completely ridiculous.

    And as for mature, how much did you know about girls at age 14, Yoga?

    Golf is a rich man’s hobby in my country, so no, I don’t think that it is only marginally more expensive than paintball (you don’t go paintballing every week, I hope?).

  3. delurker – again, it must be a difference between our countries – there are no ‘golf programs for disadvantanged children’ – I can’t even imagine such a thing existing! LOL. It similar to horse riding, which I heard from USians is quite a common skill outside of big cities in the USA, but over here again it is a rich man’s hobby. One of the reasons why I never took up riding as a child, we simply couldn’t afford to, and we were decidedly upper middle-class!

  4. Golf is still considered an elite sport in the U.S., although that is changing via these programs, which are similar to the England and Wales Cricket Board’s Chance to Shine program, which raises funds to bring cricket back to UK state schools.

  5. Also, I find it amusing that you characterize my skepticism as an obsession with skin colour. Amusing, since it is completely ridiculous.

    For someone who was so worldly-wise at 14, you didn’t learn how to pick up sarcasm did you? :-p

    I make the mistake of assuming the level of high school is the same as here.

    If you take honors/Advanced Placement/Intl. Baccalaureate classes you’ll do fine. Anything less and you can expect functional literacy and not much else. Lord knows they don’t learn civics. . .How else do we explain the Tea Party?

    And as for mature, how much did you know about girls at age 14, Yoga?

    Somewhere between the kid in “Kindergarten Cop” and Katy Perry. What’s your point?

    Golf is a rich man’s hobby in my country, so no, I don’t think that it is only marginally more expensive than paintball (you don’t go paintballing every week, I hope?).

    I don’t go paintballing at all. But it’s a typically working class hobby along with hunting and riding ATVs and such. And I know it gets expensive and most of the guys who are really into it do it about once a week. The guns cost like, $300-$500 by themselves. Not less than golf-clubs that’s for sure. Objectively speaking, golf is a rich man’s hobby. But. . .America’s a rich country. Even our poor are pretty rich all things considered.

  6. Of course poor is relative. But I was speaking in the context of W-E. Cricket and golf and horseback riding are sports which require a sizeable amount of disposable income, where I live.

    And the paintballing thing – not a ‘working class hobby’ where I live – more something teenagers and students do once in a while. But if you’re above a certain age, you don’t go paintballing, that’s for certain. As for firearms, well, there is a very strict gun control in my country. Of course paintball guns are different but I’m not sure even how easy it is to acquire those.

  7. Well, Yoga, the skin tan comment didn’t come across very sarcastic, more like that was your characterisation of my position. After all there still appear to be many people who feel that way. Then again I have problems picking up sarcasm from texts, and there are linguistic differences as well. I think sarcasm is a tool best employed when there is a tone of voice to add to the words! :)

  8. Metal Mickey,

    You are mistaken, X-Bee champs in the US have gone on to v. successful careers. As I have said earlier, the North-South Foundation is broadening its programmes to cover all academic and scholastic pursuits, complementing school-goers’ school experience, be they from public or private schools. Only the ignorant would attribute bee success to rote memorization. While the Spelling Bee involves memorizing a tonne of words, the advanced bee champs rely upon clues on context, etymology to solve the spelling. It is not for everyone and some of the kids in my school district who have made it to Harvard/Yale aren’t bee champs. But one kid who made it to Stanford, (although dissed by Harvard/Yale/Princeton) is a math champ and narrowly missed making it to the US Math Olympiad team. At the NSF we are clear that we aren’t running a college-prep program and aren’t in the business of producing manufactured college admits like Kavya Vishwanathan (we are modest folk who can’t dream of hiring college app coaches at the cost of 10s of 1000s of $). We just see that there is a great upside potential in investing weekend time every now and then in disciplined scholastic/academic pursuits. In fact even the kids who don’t make it beyond the prelim stages gain oodles of confidence and have become v. successful. At NSF we have trained the atypical IAs who aren’t from an highly educated family in desh. Tradespeople, taxi drivers, inn keepers, restaurateurs, India store owners’ children etc.

    Malathi,

    Why do we learn to think like that? Why don’t we think like this: Each and every one of us peak and realize our full potential at different ages; we mature at different points in time; we accomplish at our own pace, in our own ways, when we feel inspired. Maybe our lives aren’t supposed to be any different than the ones that have brought us up to this point. Maybe humanity collectively benefits from all kinds of people. Why doesn’t the idea of fate bail us here?

    I used to think like that until I realised I was conning myself. I feel better accepting what I have done with myself. Success isn’t easy, and failure is not an option. And success is achieved by working hard and doing very well. If that happens in your chosen field, so much the better for it.

  9. Just for some perspective:

    1. 612 Indians attended the TopCoder programming contest and not a single one made it to the finals. China had the most finalists.
    2. Vietnam has had more International Math Olympiad finalists than India. China has one almost every year since 1995.
    3. Indians has poor representation amongst the finalists of the Physics Olympiad as well.

    Spelling obscure words though a great achievement under intense competition, doesn’t automatically make us the smartest breed. Programming, maths and physics accolades are more tangible achievements.

  10. And the teams from the US that have won in Topcoder and the Olympiads rarely had an indian representation that stood out. Lot of Jewish and Chinese Americans though.

  11. Yep, how many Indians go on to study languages or linguistics? Very few. I’m not saying this contest has zero value but it’s not representative of the career ambitions of most desis.

  12. Yep, how many Indians go on to study languages or linguistics?

    How many anyones study languages and linguistics? Who the hell studies linguistics?

    If there is a valid criticism about Indian parenting it’s not that they make their kids work too hard or study too much. It’s that they anoit banking, medicine, and law as the only worthy endeavors for any bright young mind to pursue. If you want to grouse about something grouse about that.

  13. LMAO, you think I don’t grouse about that? That standard (expanded to include hard sciences) is the whole reason why I’m changing my field of study.

  14. The last thing India needs is for the locals to take up golf in increasing numbers. It consumes a lot of land and water. Plus India doesn’t need a more sedate game. Though it is a game that may suit the local skill.

  15. a nephew of mine who has been tooling around for 15 years in the alternative music scene in Boston

    i h8 u jyotsana uncle!! u never understood me and u just never will. where would u2 be if bono gave up the guitar for a spelling bee? that’s right, he’d be at the ivy leagues and no one at harvard can play (vampire weekend does not count) (they’re columbia anyay) (oh fuck em) DONT JUDGE MY LIFE JYOSTA UNCLE I DONT JUDGE YOU

    Anyway, Malathi said it better like four days ago. (I love the story about the doctor and the writer. Anyone who’s successful at art grinds just as hard as the engineer, and let no one tell you otherwise.)

  16. it is imperative that we immediately protest the traitorous indian children who relentlessly win these spelling bees. by promoting negative stereotypes of indian americans, these children are directly responsibility for the model minority myth. i’m having a sign-making party at my house this friday so we can go handle this like true revolutionaries.

  17. Re Olympiads Indian kids are very clear about the payoff. Unlike in other parts of the world a placing at the Olympiad doesn’t get you into the IITs, AIIMS, Stephens, Loyola, Shri Rams or the Indian Statistical Institute (which runs the toughest undergrad math/stats program anywhere – bar none). In China, Iran and Vietnam, kids taking the Olympiads do nothing else for 3-5 years. Besides the Olympiad level exams are well within reach of the top 10,000 IIT JEE rankers, they aren’t really that tough, believe me. I know kids who worked on the Putnams in high school to prep for JEE and ISI math qualifiers.

    At NSF we are working on some stretch goals to produce more winners in other areas. We are an entirely volunteer run organization (my kids have pitched in as coaches and seconds in the past, my wife and I have done judging and ferrying kids around, arranging for their lunch). We use the mandir space to the minimum, just for the meets, because we don’t want to run a coaching center or convert hte mandir into one. Producing an Intel winner is a lot more difficult than an X-bee winner. But believe me it can be done. And more importantly we are not so much interested in producing winners (who as a rule break out of the pack pretty early on) but raising minimum standards within the community. We believe that our methods are fairly good and can be adopted by anyone.

    I hate to do this, but I must tell you that Indian Math Olympiad medalists have been the most successful of all medalists. Besides you should take a look at the list of ACM doctoral dissertation award winners here.

    Discipline and hard work is what we seek to inculcate, and they are minimum requirements in anything we do, especially for those of us who are not geniuses. Besides genius is overrated. Even prodigies at best rediscover certain results.

  18. Anyone who’s successful at art grinds just as hard as the engineer, and let no one tell you otherwise.)

    Well. . . maybe not anyone.

  19. I hate to do this, but I must tell you that Indian Math Olympiad medalists have been the most successful of all medalists.

    Am glad you added this. KolaNutTechie, don’t know why you made the comments you made. There isn’t any argument going on about which nationality has the smartest kids, or whatever else. Yet you come in chiming about Indians really doing poorly in this or that…etc. why is that? why is that there is always a desi to chime in to supposedly “humble” folks, even though there wasn’t that argument to begin with, and often the “humbling” isn’t even accurate. It just wasn’t relevant to what was being talked about here, but somehow you had to jump in and try and make sure that desis or Indians specifically can’t compete with the Chinese. Weird.

  20. I still remember Spellbound or whatever the doc was called. There was a moment where one of the Indian kids had no clue what Darjeeling was(EVEN WES ANDERSON KNOWS IT). But he obviously used his problem solving skills to figure it out. But the look on his dad’s face was priceless when he wasn’t sure if his son was going to answer it. So I do like how the advance spelling bee people problem solve to figure out spellings(there is no way most people can memorize that stuff). But you wonder if they get a well rounded education about the bigger point of history. Are these spelling bee parents who employ tutors any better than tennis parents?

    I do wonder whoever came up with spellings of Indian names. If you are going to start fresh with English in the 19th and 20th centuries, wouldn’t the Indians want to spell the names more phonetically? How did Pravin become an acceptable spelling for my name? My name is really easy for non-Indians to pronounce. But if they see the spelling first, they tend to mispronounce it. I really think Indians need to start inventing their own spelling and start using “aa” like in Haagen Dazs to make it clear to non Indians how to pronounce their names.

  21. My name is really easy for non-Indians to pronounce. But if they see the spelling first, they tend to mispronounce it.

    I actually think that’s just a factor of seeing brown and assuming it’s pronounced weird. There have been plenty of times where I’ve given my initials to book reservations and then been asked how to spell it.

    I do kind of wish I could have a shorter version of my name printed on a credit card though. It would be nice if just once I could close my tab at a bar without having to spell my name out.

  22. http://nms.csail.mit.edu/~hari/

    This is Hari Balakrishnan ACM dissertation award winner 1998. Kendriya Vidyalaya/IIT-Madras –> IIT-Madras –> UC-Berkeley —> ACM dissertation award —> MIT professor. Hari’s parents are theoretical physicists in India, his sister Hamsa too is an MIT prof, only she went to Stanford. I am sure she gets ribbed a lot at home for going to a junior university. Abhishek Bhartiya with his 154th rank in JEE today has the same opportunities to reach for the sky, as Hari and Hamsa have enjoyed. I know KV-IITM (those guys and gals used to blow me out of the water in quizzes, the only guys who ever got the better of me, excepting twice when I scraped thru in a tiebreaker). Pleeeeze don’t tell Abhishek Bhartiya that he is better off painting or some such thing. This man’s father is so poor he can’t afford even electricty, damn it. Could the Balakrishnans trained their children in something else? We don’t know. Should Abhishek learn something else? Ustad Allauddin Khansaheb – India’s greatest musician of the last 200 years came up from nothing and no musical heritage whatsoever to learn a 100 different instruments and create musical dynasty. Maybe Abhishek could, but he may think the odds may be too long. So why not toil 16 hours on the JEE instead? As I have said earlier at the NSF (at least some of us) believe that no one has a unique lock on intelligence or X-bees. And we who have studied in very modest schools in India (my classroom had a thatched roof and no fans) know how much can be made of the great facilities we have in this great land.

    Here’s the website of Super30 the super-duper school in Patna, Bihar that produces IIT-JEE toppers. Read the stories of the children and their tough lives. Elite education is their way out of obscurity. And in India where the current PM walked a few miles to school and read by the light of a kerosene lamp, or the past President – a boatman’s son, will always be exemplars. One more thing. The Indian Math Olympiad team has sent more female coaches than any other team IINM.

  23. 2 comments on pronunciation: a) I have always pronounced Anamika with a long ‘a’ in the middle followed by a short ‘i’ sound, so something like Anaamika. I confirmed this with a native Hindi speaker as well. Neither Dr Bailey, nor the champion herself pronounced it this way. And her last name, which is a good old Tamil name, The first ‘a’ is a short sound and the ‘mani’ is pronounced pretty much like “money” by a Tamil speaker. I found it strange that she should pronounce it in some kind of anglicized fashion.

    Much like these 2 Rohans I know who pronounce their name like the kingdom in the Lord of the Rings, with an emphasis and elongation of the ‘a’, all of us DBD’s call them with a long ‘o’ and a short ‘a’ sound!

    b) When Dr Bailey said “lassi” I had no idea what he was talking about till he gave the meaning. The way he said it sounded like the famous dog. At least this didn’t have the issue with a possible variation in spelling unlike last year. Then one of the words was ‘raita’ which someone from Kerala or TN would have spelt with an ‘h’. Who standardizes the English spelling of Indian words? At this rate we might have ‘dosa’ one of these days and where I come from it is really ‘dosai’

  24. “I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.” – John Adams

    I feel the above is relevant, even as it doesn’t particularly disprove anyone’s point here. While looking for this quote, I realized that one could really read this any number of ways. Maybe he looks wistfully towards future dedicated to the arts, or maybe he looks on with mild regret at they will inevitably choose their own boho/bourgeois path. (Or maybe he merely looks forward to a generation being able to choose what they please, and not being constrained by the needs of the time.)

  25. That quote was in reference to Adams’ being President not permitting him to engage in anything else. He was building a country after all. He did so with the knowledge that he was making a better world for those who would follow.

  26. At this rate we might have ‘dosa’ one of these days and where I come from it is really ‘dosai’

    It is pronounced dosa in my family. Not dosai. I come from a Telugu family.

    Would Sanjay Patel be the most recognizable Indian name to a non Indian? Sanjay seems to be the most common Indian name here and Patel the last name.

  27. @YogaFire – the ICP lyric was a nice touch :)

    My high school experience was similar – the most I ever studied for an exam was a couple of hours, and I wrote a 26-page history paper the night before it was due and still got an A. Then I went to college and got the smackdown – it took me until my junior year to properly learn how to study.

    @jyotsana – there’s something that rubs me the wrong way about having these Indian “coaching groups” for competitions. It just seems very exclusionary and reinforcing the “Indians are the best” propaganda I always seem to hear from relatives here. It frustrates me because clearly people have emigrated to the US for better opportunities, yet apparently “the Americans” are not as smart, etc. It offends me when I hear these comments because I think of myself as an American first, having never actually lived in India.

    Also, you don’t need to be a ‘prodigy’ to get into Caltech. I’m proof of that (though it’s been 15 years) – they mostly look for a passion for science which isn’t demonstrated by just good grades and winning competitions.

    And what if your indie-music nephew is happy with his life? Seems like that should count – many people on the “success treadmill” are just doing it because they’re expected to, and don’t have passion for it.

    @Nikhil – I hear you, dude. I had lots of friends with the same experiences as yours.

    I definitely think there’s subtle (or not so subtle) pressure from the parents of these kids to study hard! and win! and that they’d be a disappointment if they didn’t do well. It starts very early, so by the time you’re 14, you’ve totally absorbed that message. Just like you absorb the message about there being “acceptable” colleges and majors and professions. It takes a strong-willed and very self-assured teenager to get out of that mindset (aka brainwashing).

    It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I started working hard for myself, rather than to please my parents. I think that’s a shame. There are people I work with who are only there because it was the path chosen for them by their parents, and it was just easier to follow along.

    Short summary – I don’t think many parents of IAs do a good job encouraging their kids to find their own passions – they tend to heavily bias them to choose the “right” ones…

  28. jyotsana on June 6, 2010 11:26 AM wrote: “…. I have been a North-South Foundation volunteer for several years, and we spend a lot of time with the children prepping. We have produced spelling bee champs, and our first geography bee champ, last month, in Aditya Moorthy (Florida). …. ” A couple of corrections: The champ is my son and his name is Aadith Moorthy not Aditya Moorthy, and he is NOT PART OF THE North South Foundation! Though I am sure, NSF does an excellent job in training and mentoring kids, Aadith was NEVER involved in it till date. Please correct your post.

    Thanks.

  29. There is nothing unique about I-A kids, only the methods we use are sort of unique. And they are easily transferrable to any community. Although the North-South Foundation chapters meet at Mandirs, we count several non-Hindu families among our participants……..At the NSF we are clear that we aren’t running a college-prep program and aren’t in the business of producing manufactured college admits like Kavya Vishwanathan (we are modest folk who can’t dream of hiring college app coaches at the cost of 10s of 1000s of $). We just see that there is a great upside potential in investing weekend time every now and then in disciplined scholastic/academic pursuits. In fact even the kids who don’t make it beyond the prelim stages gain oodles of confidence and have become v. successful. At NSF we have trained the atypical IAs who aren’t from an highly educated family in desh. Tradespeople, taxi drivers, inn keepers, restaurateurs, India store owners’ children etc……And more importantly we are not so much interested in producing winners (who as a rule break out of the pack pretty early on) but raising minimum standards within the community. We believe that our methods are fairly good and can be adopted by anyone.

    ARC Excerpts from my many posts, so that you will reconsider what you have posted here,

    @jyotsana – there’s something that rubs me the wrong way about having these Indian “coaching groups” for competitions. It just seems very exclusionary and reinforcing the “Indians are the best” propaganda I always seem to hear from relatives here. It frustrates me because clearly people have emigrated to the US for better opportunities, yet apparently “the Americans” are not as smart, etc. It offends me when I hear these comments because I think of myself as an American first, having never actually lived in India.

    I suggest you read my posts on this thread before you get offended.

  30. there’s something that rubs me the wrong way about having these Indian “coaching groups” for competitions. It just seems very exclusionary and reinforcing the “Indians are the best” propaganda I always seem to hear from relatives here.

    Somewhat on a tangential note, this is why coaching groups and competitions bother me: Because they are really strategies, at community as well as at personal levels, but they are often mistakenly thought of as organized work ethic. Everybody who earns an honest living and who shows up to work on time exhibits a work ethic, be they a janitor, a self-taught stand-up comic, or a scientist, but each individual’s strategy for a life that makes sense to them may differ from the individual next in line. A person is screwed, as an individual, if her interests differ from that of her family or the community, because she is unable to benefit from the systematic planning and community-level organization that is already in place. And in addition to finding her own path and unique strategy for making a happy living (difficult enough to blaze one’s own trail), she also has to defend her lack of interests in what the community thinks is a worthwhile endeavour and has already invested in heavily. In some very critical families I know, if you don’t make something of yourself using the existing strategies, you are assumed to be incapable of doing anything meaningful with your life. Unfortunately, sometimes it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the power of words, complexities of the human mind, and potential destructive nature of human relationships.

  31. A couple of corrections: The champ is my son and his name is Aadith Moorthy not Aditya Moorthy, and he is NOT PART OF THE North South Foundation! Though I am sure, NSF does an excellent job in training and mentoring kids, Aadith was NEVER involved in it till date. Please correct your post.

    Dear Satyamoorthy,

    I stand corrected.

  32. Because they are really strahttp://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/006203.html#tegies, at community as well as at personal levels, but they are often mistakenly thought of as organized work ethic.

    This is idle quibbling over meaning. Considering everything from Mimasa and Sankhya to the Selfish Gene we are automatons simply making tradeoffs all the time between pain and pleasure. Ethic is, so, meaningless. Strategy is what everyone pursues.

  33. Success isn’t easy, and failure is not an option. And success is achieved by working hard and doing very well.

    Jyotsana, We fundamentally differ in our definition of success, I think. I know a lot of people who work hard, are happy, but whose lives will not be described as successes by several desis I know because they will not be thought of as “doing very well”. (And this whole “doing well” business is all relative anyway.) I have lost people in my life (or rather people have lost me), and what I have learnt from all those trials is that the most I want for my children is for them to live an honest life, have a good work ethic, support themselves financially (i.e., not be bums) and have the ability to know contentment and peace. I want them to fail as many times as they need to fail in order to understand that life is always about survival, at one level or another.

  34. “Besides the Olympiad level exams are well within reach of the top 10,000 IIT JEE rankers, they aren’t really that tough, believe me. I know kids who worked on the Putnams in high school to prep for JEE and ISI math qualifiers.”

    ROTFL! Top 10,000 rankers? Dude, you seriously need to stop spewing BS.

    Anecdotally, I know a JEE AIR 1 who was a gold medalist in the international physics olympiad, and is now a grad student in Berkeley. He had to choose between representing India in the IMO and IPhO and chose the latter as the former was a much harder nut to crack.

    Doesn’t sound like something 10,000 desi students could crack, when students preparing for a few years (yeah, they do! Pune has a pretty famous center: http://www.bprim.org/) with single digit JEE ranks couldn’t.

    The evidence you adduce about Desi IMO medalists doing exceptionally well in academia detracts from your claim about the IMO not being difficult. If the Subhash Khots of India can’t get a gold in multiple attempts, what chance does AIR 5000 stand?

    The IMO is probably the single best predictor for a Fields that you have at the high school level with some exceptional Mathematicians being IMO gold medalists – Terence Tao and Grigori Perelman. The best Mathematicians of Desi extraction currently are also IMO medalists – Kiran Kedlaya, Kannan Soundararajan, and Akshay Venkatesh.

    It’s far from some mechanical JEE style exam where an above average student with consistent effort can see himself/herself through. Stop belittling the exam without knowing how hard it is – talking to a few Mathematicians at a university would probably help remedy your ignorance in this matter, too.

    About the Chinese – they get golds with a frequency that’s roughly 10 x that of Indians. The US IMO team, the Mathcounts winners, the Aussie IMO team (http://www.amt.canberra.edu.au/olympian.html) look pretty East Asian to me. Facts are facts!

    I get amused when desis who crap on other minorities (Blacks, Hispanics) get all defensive when someone points out that desis are not all that they’re made out to be.

  35. jyotsana , are you for real? first of all you’re a male in a female name. you did not know the spelling of Aadith. you wrote it as Aditya. you could not even count it as a spelling mistake. 2 different names. is that how you give out infos on a public discussion forum that is read by people all over the world?

  36. Pravin (Comment No. 34) hit the nail on the head. People who are comfortable with polysyllabic names (whether of people or of places) have a natural advantage when it comes to spelling. I mean, if you’re living with names like Irinjalakuda and Thiruvananthapuram (to say nothing of living in them), you’re less likely to be intimidated by long words. It’s an evolutionary advantage that has been hard-wired into our genome over the centuries.:-)

  37. jyotsana wrote:

    “Dear Satyamoorthy,

    I stand corrected.”

    When you lie as shamelessly as you did and are exposed as clearly as you were, you do not “stand corrected” as if you had made an honest error. You sit humiliated. Capische?

  38. Congrats, Anamika Veeramani!

    Congratulations indeed! Great job Anamika. Wish you all the success in future.

  39. Besides the Olympiad level exams are well within reach of the top 10,000 IIT JEE rankers, they aren’t really that tough, believe me. I know kids who worked on the Putnams in high school to prep for JEE and ISI math qualifiers

    what utter nonsense! i know whereof i speak as somebody who both qualified for imo and got a top-10 jee rank. and the putnams are hardly a walk in the park, i know very skilled students from top schools who have made the putnam and they are off the charts in intelligence and skill level. in fact, i’d go so far as to say that kids who prepare for the jee by working on the putnam are wasting precious time and effort as the putnams are pitched at a very different level compared to the jee. it is like preparing for the board exams by solving jee problems – might be good enough to impress people when you brag about it on a blog, but completely useless and counterproductive in real life.

    jyotsana’s statement reflects not only a lack of knowledge, but also massive shilling for whatever organization jyotsana is pushing, and delusion about what these different tests entail.

  40. btw, congrats to anamika.

    however, i do believe louiecypher’s hypothesis of many non asian americans virtually ceding the spelling bee to desis – it would be amazing, although, imo, unrealistic, if IAs could dominate the westinghouse in a similar, or even comparable manner,

  41. This is Hari Balakrishnan ACM dissertation award winner 1998. Kendriya Vidyalaya/IIT-Madras –> IIT-Madras –> UC-Berkeley —> ACM dissertation award —> MIT professor. Hari’s parents are theoretical physicists in India, his sister Hamsa too is an MIT prof, only she went to Stanford.

    Yes Jyotsana. Slightly off-topic but many people who succeed get all sorts of help. There are many ways to define affirmative action. I have known of Mr Hari and others like him and frankly am not impressed.

  42. I have lost people in my life (or rather people have lost me), and what I have learnt from all those trials is that the most I want for my children is for them to live an honest life, have a good work ethic, support themselves financially (i.e., not be bums) and have the ability to know contentment and peace. I want them to fail as many times as they need to fail in order to understand that life is always about survival, at one level or another

    Interestingly that is what I define as success. But then I want my children to reach further and try to become standouts, be it whatever they do. There must be at least one thing, however obscure that endeavor may be, where they are better than anyone else. It may never happen, but it is worth trying. Our experiences are very different, naturally, so while it is good to fail as many times as possible, the earlier it happens the better, and in the later years, it is worth working towards a position where people actually pay you to fail and are willing to provide you that safety net.

    respect, what utter nonsense! i know whereof i speak as somebody who both qualified for imo and got a top-10 jee rank. and the putnams are hardly a walk in the park, i know very skilled students from top schools who have made the putnam and they are off the charts in intelligence and skill level. in fact, i’d go so far as to say that kids who prepare for the jee by working on the putnam are wasting precious time and effort as the putnams are pitched at a very different level compared to the jee. it is like preparing for the board exams by solving jee problems – might be good enough to impress people when you brag about it on a blog, but completely useless and counterproductive in real life.
    Kutra, It’s far from some mechanical JEE style exam where an above average student with consistent effort can see himself/herself through. Stop belittling the exam without knowing how hard it is – talking to a few Mathematicians at a university would probably help remedy your ignorance in this matter, too. About the Chinese – they get golds with a frequency that’s roughly 10 x that of Indians. The US IMO team, the Mathcounts winners, the Aussie IMO team (http://www.amt.canberra.edu.au/olympian.html) look pretty East Asian to me. Facts are facts! I get amused when desis who crap on other minorities (Blacks, Hispanics) get all defensive when someone points out that desis are not all that they’re made out to be.

    Let’s just say I know heckuva lot of mathematicians, probably I can forget more than you know. The JEE is no mechanical style exam (first bad fail). And where have I ever I dissed any other ethnic group? As long as I have commented here, I have maintained that firstly all current measures of intelligence are useless and the term intelligence itself has no empirical use for me. Kutra you are trying to do is to crap on desis, good. I don’t put down any ethnic group. If you want to get into a flame war over which ethnic group is better, find someone else to argue with.

    Respect, you must be the bees knees if you got a top-10 rank and qualified for the IMO. You must be awesome. I didn’t know that. I am humbled.

    Da Vinci, When you lie as shamelessly as you did and are exposed as clearly as you were, you do not “stand corrected” as if you had made an honest error. You sit humiliated. Capische?

    It’s Capisce not Capicsche Humiliation is for the pretentious, and the indignant. And there seem to be quite a lot of self-righteously indignant folks here. Green, am I for real? Interesting that coming from you. I suppose you are some Mr./Ms.Green right?

  43. espect, you must be the bees knees if you got a top-10 rank and qualified for the IMO.

    your insults are not particularly relevant, although that and unsupported assertions seem to be your stock in trade. the fact of the matter is your claims about the jee, olympiad and the putnams are way off.

  44. have known of Mr Hari and others like him and frankly am not impressed.

    not sure what affirmative action you are speaking about in the case of mr. balakrishnan, whose family i know personally.

  45. not sure what affirmative action you are speaking about in the case of mr. balakrishnan, whose family i know personally.

    You may or may not know his family personally, it has no bearing on how I see these things. There are many ways to define affirmative action. Giving seats to under-represented minorities who would otherwise not make the cut is just one way. And no Mr. B would have made the cut. But let us do this thought experiment. What if he had been born an orphan, what if he had not got help (substantial help perhaps) from his IIT parents. What if he had not been raised in an environment where going to IIT and MIT is a badge of accomplishment. What if he had been a she etc… etc… I know from personal experience that all this makes a big difference. If Jyotsana had mentioned something else (other than the facts he did –IIT/MIT etc…) I might actually have been impressed.

  46. You may or may not know his family personally, it has no bearing on how I see these things. There are many ways to define affirmative action. Giving seats to under-represented minorities who would otherwise not make the cut is just one way. And no Mr. B would have made the cut. But let us do this thought experiment. What if he had been born an orphan, what if he had not got help (substantial help perhaps) from his IIT parents. What if he had not been raised in an environment where going to IIT and MIT is a badge of accomplishment. What if he had been a she etc… etc… I know from personal experience that all this makes a big difference. If Jyotsana had mentioned something else (other than the facts he did –IIT/MIT etc…) I might actually have been impressed.

    umm… facts matter, especially when you throw in claims of affirmative action. your opinions are unsupported by the actual fact that hundreds of thousands of people in india have similar goals (about 500000 wrote the jee in 2010) and comparable backgrounds, but do not have a similar level of achievement. creating strawmen of extreme deprivation or other such weird thought experiments does not detract from his credentials. nobody is comparing him with an orphan or saying that he is better than women. this is like denigrating achievements of americans (or indians) because there are people in africa who go without food.

  47. Congratulations, Anamika! and also congratulations to Aadith!

    I feel like everyone here has been spending a lot of time reading “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. It seems like it would be nice for people to have a debate around that book, instead of challenging or belittling these youngersters accomplishments. Moderators, do these kids really need this? It’s a tough world out there. They don’t need any sh* from us.

  48. “Let’s just say I know heckuva lot of mathematicians, probably I can forget more than you know. “

    That makes your ignorance all the more absurd. India’s produced eight IMO gold medalists in two and half decades and yet you think it’s some JEE style exam.

    Provide just one compelling reason why you think the Putnam and IMO are within the reach of the top 10,000 rankers at the JEE, and we’ll know you aren’t talking out of your a$$.

    It’s not my intention to put Desis down – I look at these as instances of individual achievement and see no reason to give credit to anyone other than the individual, and his/her immediate support system.

    my_dog_jagat: So by your definition it’s impossible for anyone to achieve anything unless they’re from an under-privileged background. Sweet!

  49. Lifelong: I think I should have made this clearer – more power to these kids! Their achievements are extremely commendable.

    My objection is to desis basking in reflected glory when it’s clearly an individual thing. If desis brag about such matters, it’s equally valid to point out their lack of success in other endeavors. I don’t in any way want to detract from individual accomplishment.