A major achievement of Soviet mathematics education is the extensive program of extracurricular activities designed to discover and train future mathematicians and scientists at an early age. In recent years this program has taken on new dimensions. In 1964, the world renowned mathematician, I. M. Gelfand, organized the Mathematics Correspondence School at Moscow University. Admission is based on highly competitive examinations. By 1968 more than 8,000 gifted secondary school students were enrolled in the MCS and its 29 affiliates located in various parts of the Soviet Union. This number also included students in a special program in which 270 mathematics clubs participate as “collective students.” In 1967, 700 youngsters successfully completed the MCS two-year program, and 690 students graduated in 1968.
As a result of the activities of the MCS, a series of books in mathematics is currently appearing under the title Library of the Physics-Mathematics School, with Professor Gelfand as the editor. The booklets are designed to give the reader a deeper understanding of mathematics, to acquaint him with new ideas and methods, and to develop in him habits of independent work. These publications contain an abundance of ingenious problems along with solutions, answers, and hints. Solving these imaginative problems often requires thorough analysis and concentrated effort conductive to mathematical creativity.
These American editions have been prepared by the Survey of Recent East European Mathematical Literature at the University of Chicago under a grant from the National Science Foundation. They should prove to be of great value to mathematics teachers, to college students, and to high school students interested in independent study or mathematics group activities.