Fields Medal: Inspiring Mathematicians around the World

Fields Medal

Fields Medal

When a student does great on a math test, she gets a gold star from her teacher. When a math student discovers an outstanding mathematical achievement that changes the way we solve problems, she receives the Fields Medal from the International Mathematics Union.

On August 19, 2010, the IMU awarded the ultimate gold star in math to four up-and-coming mathematicians:

  • Elon Lindenstrauss, Israel
  • Ngô Bảo Châu, Vietnam-France
  • Stanislav Smirnov, Russia
  • Cédric Villani, France

What about the Nobel Prize in Math?

Since 1901, the Alfred Nobel Foundation annually awards its prestigious prize to celebrate achievements in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, economic sciences and peace. For some reason, mathematicians weren’t invited to the party, so they decided to start their own.

In 1924, during the International Congress of Mathematicians in Toronto, math leaders across the globe proposed a resolution to award a gold medal for outstanding achievement in mathematics. Dr. J.C. Fields, a Canadian professor and Secretary of the 1924 Congress donated funds to establish the award, which was later named in his honor. Currently, the international math community describes the Fields Medal as the equivalent to the “Nobel Prize in Mathematics” and awards the roughly $15,000 and the Fields Medal to four individual mathematicians at each ICM, which occur every four years.

How do you win the Fields Medal?

The International Mathematics Union selects individuals who contribute an outstanding mathematical achievement, or show promise in future achievement before the mathematicians’ 40th birthday. The main reasoning behind the Fields Medal age limit is to recognize the work already achieved and to encourage the work of future achievement. In other words, the Fields Medal is a symbol of a future mathematics potential compared to one’s body of work.

Due to this age restriction, many of the great mathematicians over the last century missed his or her opportunity to earn the Fields Medal because the mathematician’s best work may have occurred, or gain recognition too late in life. As a consolation, other major awards in mathematics like the Able Prize and the Wolf Prize in Mathematics recognize lifetime achievement in the field, and include a monetary award comparable to the $1.5 million given with each Nobel Prize.

How do you Recognize Greatness in Math?

Do you create the math Olympiads? Build team problem-solving conundrums? Use classroom online math games? We at DreamBox Learning want to know how you inspire your students to take their math potential to the next level. Share your ideas below so we can all get a gold star in math. Who knows, you might have the next Fields Medal winner in your classroom this year!