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As many of you may recall, last year there was a problem with someone cheating here on the entrance problem set for the PRIMES high school research program at MIT. Selection for PRIMES for this year has begun, and they're taking more precautions this year to avoid this happening again. There's some things they're doing on their end, but the way these incidents are usually caught is when a m.SE user happens to recognize the problems.

So the directors of PRIMES asked me to post a link to the problem set here, and ask that if anyone sees any of their problems posted here that they be closed and that the moderators contact Pavel Etingof.

Obviously no one expects that all m.SE users will be aware of the PRIMES problems, but if an extra hundred m.SE users know them it could make a big difference in how quickly the questions get closed. Also obviously, entrance problem sets like this are a very different issue from homework, so hopefully we can stay on topic on this thread and not veer into more controversial topics.

Thanks, both from me and from the PRIMES directors for your help!

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    $\begingroup$ While I don't mind keeping an eye on something like this, I feel that the problem set is unusually unoriginal for something like this. Several of the problems are completely standard (not easy, but standard) problems in various fields, and will undoubtedly have been asked here before or be discussed as an example in some textbook (such as the one about arranging people around a table, or the one about the $\mathbb{Q}$-vectorspace spanned by certain logarithms). $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kildetoft Sep 23 '13 at 7:40
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    $\begingroup$ Closing date is December 1, 2014. Have I missed a year? Man, writing up really does mess with time... $\endgroup$ – user1729 Sep 23 '13 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ @user1729: that's a typo. The year is right on their main page. I'll let them know so they can fix it. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Sep 23 '13 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Noah: I did a few minutes ago, and it's already fixed. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Sep 23 '13 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ These are questions for high school students?! I don't think I'd even heard of $F_2$ or conjugate matrices in high school... $\endgroup$ – user7530 Sep 23 '13 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ Is it only my impression or maybe it really does seem that MIT (or at least the organizers of PRIMES) wishes not for bright kids, but for those who are advanced in the university curriculum? Surely there is some logic to it (perhaps such kids are more hardworking, or something, I have no idea), but it's not very appealing, i.e. after seeing the problems, MIT or not, I would think twice before sending my kid there $\ddot\frown$ (Or they heavily lacked both time and motivation, which would be, euphemistically speaking, very sad too–even more reason to avoid the program all together...) $\endgroup$ – dtldarek Sep 23 '13 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ What, concretely, are some of the precautions and the doing on their end? (What Have They Tried, if you prefer.) The program is asking to offload some of their security costs onto MSE users. Given that they have considerable choice of measures to take on their side and apparently a fair amount of funding and institutional support, it is not unreasonable to wonder what they have done that does not require mobilization of others nor promoting an enforcement atmosphere on the site. $\endgroup$ – zyx Sep 23 '13 at 21:52
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    $\begingroup$ I'd prefer not to say in public exactly what's being done as it makes it easy to avoid. If you email me I'd be happy to let you know. Similarly if you have good suggestions feel free to contact me. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Sep 23 '13 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ @dtldarek: you should be aware that the PRIMES program is an extracurricular program for high school students to conduct actual mathematical research. I think it quite fair to set a high bar on exposure and knowledge instead of ingenuity in this case: it pretty much reflects what happens in the profession. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Sep 25 '13 at 7:48
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    $\begingroup$ @WillieWong Naturally, however, while high bar on exposure is fine with me, promoting high exposure is not. There is a difference between $\mathrm{argmax}_{x\ :\ \mathrm{exposure}(x) \geq 1}\big(\mathrm{ingenuity(x)}\big)$ and $\mathrm{argmax}_{x}\big(\mathrm{exposure}(x)\big)$. $\endgroup$ – dtldarek Sep 26 '13 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ While I sympathize with the organizers wanting to do everything they can to have a fair competing field, it sets a worrying precedent to guard-dog every institution's test materials. Where does it end? $\endgroup$ – Travis Bemrose Sep 28 '13 at 7:49
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This should not be too difficult to handle.

I expect users to flag questions containing this problems for moderator attention, and with luck (depending on timezones and what not...) they can be handled quickly.

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    $\begingroup$ With luck it won't come up at all! $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Sep 22 '13 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ Can't this be automated, instead of relying entirely on human vigilance? Couldn't a program search the site for the text of the problems once every few hours? $\endgroup$ – bubba Sep 23 '13 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ @bubba: Automation works for direct copying (and direct copying is typically caught quickly by programs that are vigilant). But automation doesn't work if people disguise the questions. It's hard to catch that without human intervention. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Sep 23 '13 at 2:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Bubba: Perhaps that is what the organisers are doing "on their end". $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Sep 23 '13 at 9:21
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There's a new set of problems for the year again if anyone who would like to could keep an eye out that'd be great: http://math.mit.edu/research/highschool/primes/materials/2019/entpro19.pdf

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  • $\begingroup$ The deadline for those new problems was Dec. 1, 2018, so monitoring for them is moot now. Of course it would be desirable for anyone posting one of the problems acknowledges the source. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Jan 15 at 15:19

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