The Bay Area Mathematical Olympiad (BAMO) is an annual competition for hundreds of Bay Area middle and high school students, consisting of 5 essay-proof math problems with a time limit of 4 hours. It is typically held on the last Tuesday or Wednesday of every February.
The first BAMO competition was on February 23, 1999, and was an outgrowth of the development of the Berkeley Math Circle and other math outreach initiatives led by Zvezdelina Stankova and Paul Zeitz with the support of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley. BAMO has occurred annually, with the exception of 2021 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
The exams are proctored at schools and at several open sites around the Bay Area. They are graded the following weekend by a group of Bay Area mathematicians, teachers, and Math Circle enthusiasts. The BAMO awards ceremony, hosted at MSRI on the weekend after the grading, has become an annual focal point for Bay Area middle and high school math activities; about 200 students, teachers and parents gather for an exciting afternoon of mathematics, including a talk by a distinguished mathematician.
The first 10 BAMOs consisted of a single 5-question exam, arranged roughly in order of difficulty. In 2008, we switched to 7 problems, with the first five (labeled A, B, C, D, E) comprising BAMO-8 (for students in grade 8 or younger) with the last five (labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; with 1 = C, 2 = D, 3 = E) comprising BAMO-12 (for students in grades 12 or younger). Both exams are quite challenging: generally, at least half of the contestants can make good progress on the first two problems and very few can solve the last two. We include these very hard problems because of the caliber of students in the Bay Area: generally several students qualify for the USAMO and other prestigious national invitational contests. On the other hand, most contestants are relatively new to this sort of exam, so we try very hard to include interesting problems that are accessible to beginners. Our goal is to produce a mathematically interesting exam that contestants will want to ponder long after the 4-hour time limit.
For more information about BAMO, visit our FAQ page.