KöMaL - Mathematical and Physical Journal for Secondary Schools
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Detailed Information on the KöMaL Archives

You can find the KöMaL Archives at http://www.sulinet.hu/komal/aindex.html (the Archives are currently not available).

The archives of the High School Mathematics and Physics Journal (also known as KöMaL, a popular abbreviation of the Hungarian name Középiskolai Matematikai és Fizikai Lapok) are an extraordinary collection of problems and articles, spanning more than a century and representing a significant factor in the history of Hungarian mathematics and physics. Mathematics at the start and later extended to physics, this highly professional monthly journal has survived two world wars and several political changes, and it established a worldwide reputation for Hungarian mathematics and sciences.

The High School Mathematics Journal was founded in 1894 by Dániel Arany, a teacher of the science high school in the city of Győr. He edited the journal until 1896 when László Rátz, a prominent teacher of the Fasori Lutheran High School took it over from him and continued till 1914. In addition to the articles aiming at students who were seriously interested in mathematics, each issue contained problems for the reader to solve and submit the following month. Initially, the numbered “problems” (“Feladat” in Hungarian) were adressed to 11th and 12th-grade students, i. e. 17 to 18-year-olds. There were 2415 “problems” during the period of December 1893 to April 1914. The “excercises” (“Gyakorlat” in Hungarian) for 15 to 16-year-olds appeared in January 1900, numbered 1 to 1390. The “descriptive geometry problems” were numbered separately, with Roman numerals.

The sample solutions printed in the journal were based on students’ papers. The names of the best problem solvers were published, the results were totalled up at the end of the scool year and prizes were given to the winners. With the assistance of teachers the competition of the Journal went nationwide. During the first world war and for several years after the war the publication of the journal was interrupted, as people had other things to worry about. In 1925 at last, another teacher, Andor Faragó decided that the mathematics journal was worth starting again. Physics was given a greater emphasis than before, and the name was changed to High School Mathematics and Physics Journal. The numbering of problems, excercises and descriptive geometry problems started all over. This second series of the journal lasted till 1938 when the second world war began, and, unfortunately, Andor Faragó was among the victims. The war ended in 1945, and in 1946 a mathematics teacher in the city of Szeged, dr. Paula Soós launched the mimeographed Szeged Pages that she distributed herself with the help of a young colleague.The young teacher, János Surányi had been a regular solver of KöMaL problems in his high school years. The High School Mathematics Journal was revived again from the Szeged Pages and János Surányi became the first editor of the new series. The journal was published by the János Bolyai Mathematical Society and the publication was financed by the Ministry of Education. The numbering of the “problems” started over again in 1946 and the “excercises” for 15 to 16-years-olds were also restarted in 1952. In 1959, a physics column was added, edited by the Roland Eötvös Physical Society. The traditional points competition continued. A new competition was called every school year, the best solutions submitted by students were published, as well as the results of the competition and the photos of the best solvers.

The short name KöMaL first became popular in the 1980s and this abbreviation renained in use even when the name was changed again to High Sccool Mathematics and Physics Journal (Középiskolai Matematikai és Fizikai Lapok) in 1992. The joint publication by the János Bolyai Mathematical Socety and the Roland Eötvös Physical Society is provided financial support by the Ministry and various foundations and companies.

As the journal was started three times, its history consists of three series referred to the Rátz (-Arany) series, the Faragó series and the New series. In each series the numbering of the volumes and of the problems was started over. Before the New series a new volume always began with the school year in September and in most cases ended in June. The volumes were divided into two sections each but this division does not show up in the archives. The first complete volume of the New series is that of 1951. From that volume onwards the volumes have been organized by calendar years, from January to December. Between 1960 and 1983, volumes were divided again into two sections that is why pages were numbered 1 to 240 from January to May and 1 to 240 again from September to December. Since 1984 pages have been numbered continuosly from January to December. In 1995 the tradition of the double issue in November was discontinued. Now there are only 9 numbers a year, not 10, but the length of each issue has grown from 48 to 64 pages. The organization of the competition still follows the school year. For more than fifty years now there have been a new issue every month from September to May with problems set in different categories and one month provided for submitting the solutions.

It is possible to search the archives by the number of the problem, but the same number, for the above reasons may belong to as many as three problems in three diferent series. It is also hapeened a couple of times, that the editors gave the same number to two different problems or skipped a few numbers by accident.

Starting with 1968, a letter code was added to the numbers of the problems of various categories: Mathematics “excercises” were marked by Gy (short for “gyakorlat”) in front of the number, and “problems” were marked by F (for “feladat”). Gy.1210 and F.1617 were the first to carry a letter code. Between 1973 and 1984 the journal also published problems marked with P. These were more involved problems and their solutions did not count in the points competition. as there were very few students who sent in solutions to these problems, the publication of the problems P stopped in 1984. They were replaced by the excercises marked with C, initially addressed to students of secondary technical schools. However, it turned out that these easier excercises C were also popular with some high school students, as their solution did not require more knowledge than that of the standard high school material. Between 1981 and 1987 the KöMaL also contained computer problems marked with Sz and easier excercises Szk. This column was very popular at the beginning but as the extremely rapid development of technology became harder and harder to follow in teaching, the editors decided to discontinue the computer column. In 1992 the physics problems were also given a letter code. The numbering went on continously, but problems for 17 to 18-year-olds were marked with FF and those for 15 to 16-year-olds were marked with FGy. In 1993 the editors ventured again to a series of harder problems but this time a separate points competition was called. The hard problems were marked with N (for “nehéz”, the Hungarian for hard). They became more and morepopular and by the end of the 1990s both the easy excercises C and the hard problems N had an established circle of solvers.

As next to the traditional four-year high school curriculum, there appeared six and eight-year curricula, and the syllabi of secondary technical schools kept changing, too, the traditional division of students into age groups seemed more and more impractical. Some students were taught a particular chapter of the syllabus at the age of 15 while others learnt the same material at the age of 17. It made no sense any more to address a problem to those over 16 or under 16 only. The rules of submitting problems were changed, first in physics then in mathematics. Any student may solve any problem now, but one does not need to solve all problems to be successful in the competition. In physics only the best 5 of the submitted solutions while in mathematics the best 6 solutions (i.e. the 6 with the highest scores) count in the competition. The letter codes were also changed at the millenium: in mathematics N became A, Gy and F together became B. The notation C survived. In physics the measurement task of the month is now marked with M and all theoretical problems are marked with P.

To celebrate the centenary of the founding of the journal the December issue of 1993 contains articles commemorating the events of the hundred years, as well as articles about various interesting chapters of the history of mathematics and physics in Hungary. Page 496 of that issue features a table of the most important dates in the history of the High School Mathematics and Physics Journal. A few more articles, left out of the December issue for lack of space appeared in April 1994. Those interested in the past of the journal look up the April issue., too.

In July 1994 the centennial issue was also published in English for interested forigners. In August 1996 another special issue came out in English, in honour of the International Youth Conference of Mathematics organized in Miskoc, Hungary. The third English publication associated with the journal is the book called C2K (Century 2 of KöMaL), a selection of problems and articles of KöMaL, dating from the period 1994 to 1997. The mathematics and physics problems of the (Hungarian) KöMaL have been regularly translated into other languages for several decades. These translations always appear on the pages following the new problems (mathematics and physics separately). Different times and different editors over decades brought various languages: French at the beginning, then English, Russian, Esperanto and German versions followed. English translations number the highest, these can also be found in the electronic archives. A part of the problems and the titles of a part of the articles can be searched fully in Hungarian or in English, whereas the rest of the more than thirty-five thosand pages of the archives can be searched by date, by topic and by names of authors and problem solvers. In the future the database will gradually expand to include , in Hungarian and in English , all the problems ever published in the KöMaL. Full search will be available in the entire text of the journal, from the 1990s onwards.

In addition to problems and articles the KöMaL also provides a regular account of all the national and international competitions that play an important role in Hungarian mathematics and physics teaching. Some of these competition problems also featured in KöMaL’s points competition, but in most cases the places, times, results as wellas the problems themselves are found in the reports written on the mathematics, physics and (in recent years) computer science competitions and on complex competitions involving more than one subject.

One of the most important national competitions in Hungary is the national mathematics competition fonded by the Mathematical and Physical Society in 1894 (a lucky coincidence with the start of the Journal). The competition was organized every autumn for high school graduate of that year, with three problems to solve. Between 1894 and 1913 there were regular reports in the journal that introduced the winners; the problems and the solutions that were publshed after the problems in a later issue. One can also find regular reports on the competitions between 1824 and 1838. It is in 1925 that the competition of the Society is called “Loránd Eötvös Mathematics Competition”. In the meantime the physics counterpart of the mathematics competition was founded, too. Initially the physics competition also bore the name of Eötvös, then from 1926 to 1939 it was renamed after the priest teacher Iréneus Károly. After the World War II in 1947 the mathematics competition was restarted by the name of János Bolyai Competition. Finally in 1949 it was giveb the name of József Kürschák, the university professor who had previously been an enthusiastic organizer of the competition. Ever since, the High School Mathemarics Fournal published regular reports on the Kürschák competitions. In the autumn of 1956 the competition was cancelled because of the revolution but since the following year it has taken place every autumn. It is open to younger students, too, not only high-school graduates of the current year. Since 1952 the physics competition has borne the name of Baron Lorand Eötvös, and since its founding in 1959, the physics column of the journal features regular reports on the Loránd Eötvös physics competitions . In the archives the competition reports appear among the articles but the problems of the Kürschák competitions as well as their English translations can also be found among the mathematics problems.

It was in 1923 that the first National Competition for Secondary School Students was organized in mathematics for students in the final years of high school. The journal published reports on these competitions from 1924 to 1938. Starting with 1927, the problems of physiics competitions also appeared regularly. In 1947 the numbering of these spring competitions was started all over.In 1952 the high school competition was named after Mátyáa Rákosi, the famous-infamous political leader of those times. These competitions are now considered the precusors of the present National Competition for Secondary School Students, most often referred to by the abbreviation OKTV (Országos Középiskolai Tanulmányi Verseny).

In the archives the problems of the OKTV are found in the reports, among the articles:one needs to search for the topic of the OKTV. In some years, when solutions of the problems were also published in the jornal, the competition problems also appear in the problems section of the archives. Reports on the physics OKTV have been published in the journal since 1959.

In 1950 a new mathematics competition was launched for 15 to 16-year-olds as the competition of Középiskolai Matematikai Lapok. That is what we now consider the first Dániel Arany Competition. It has been organized annually ever since, and published in the journal. In the years when the solutions were also published, the Dániel Arany problems appear in the problems section of the archives, too.

The KöMaL has featured many other competitions over the years, including reports on the annual points competitions of KöMaL. The reports on the International Mathematical Olympiads published since 1959and on the Physics Olympiads since for a few years later are of exceptional importance as the reader is offered detailed and commented solutions to the problems of the most prominent competition of the world.. The problems of the mathematical olympiads appear in English, too.

During the next few years we are planning further development in the KöMaL archives, based on its current database, as well as continual maintenance of the existing structzre. Our goal is that the greatest possible part of the more than one hundred years of material should be available in English translation. we hope that having read the problem in English, the reader will be able to get an idea from the Hungarian solution. Translating the whole KöMaL into English would probably too big a task for us. The KöMaL archives would be impossible without the photos of the problem solvers. One of out short term goals is to make this gallery of faces as complete as possible, in the best possible quality.As further developement it would be a good idea to provide illustrated biographies of past students who started their careers as problem solvers of the KöMaL and became famous scholars or teachers. It would be also worth following particular area of mathematics or physics has developed since then. As an apect of the history of Hungarian mathematics it would be interesting to compile all problems of all competitions of the twentieth century that the journal has reported on.

If you find an error in the KöMaL archives or you have any further questions or suggestions please write to the editors of KöMaL at Pázmány Péter sétány 1/A, room 5/106. Budapest, Hungary, H-1117 or send an e-mail to szerk@komal.hu.

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