Maths is very important to Google. It’s the basis of everything we do: from the algorithms that deliver answers to your search queries, to the way in which your Gmails are grouped in conversations, to the technology advances which are enabling us to develop driverless cars. It’s so important to us, that our founders named the company after a very large number - a Googol.

Maths is given a lot of importance by policy makers too - its contribution to creativity and innovation was celebrated in some of the events organised by the European Union back in 2009. And in December last year, the latest OECD PISA report and league tables highlighted how well (or not) Europe’s various national education systems are performing in the core educational fields of reading, mathematics and science.

Over the last few months, our attention’s been drawn to another mathematical league table - the one that tracks the winners of the International Mathematical Olympiad, first held in Romania in 1959. The IMO is the world championship of secondary school mathematics, designed to test ingenuity and insight and tax the sharpest minds in the world.

Google has always encouraged and supported excellence in the sciences, whether in its own staff, or in its work with academics around the world. And so yesterday, together with the Advisory Board of the International Mathematical Olympiad, we were proud to announce that we are making a gift of one million euros to the organisation to help cover the costs of the next five global events (2011-15).

From left to right: Peter Barron (Google), Robbert Dijkgraaf (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Chair of the IMO 2011 Foundation) and Geoff Smith (University of Bath, UK and member of the IMO Advisory Board)

We’re delighted that we can help the IMO bring young mathematicians from around the world together to celebrate a shared passion, to push themselves and to compete to be the best in the world. This year’s event takes place in Amsterdam in July and we’ll be watching out for the results with particular interest.

And I don’t doubt that quite a few Googlers will also spend some time in coming months trying solve the sort of mathematical challenges that will be put to the world’s young Maths Olympians.