While attending Tamalpais High School, in Mill Valley, California, he placed third in the 1977 United States of America Mathematical Olympiad. After graduating that year, he won a silver medal at the International Mathematics Olympiad in Yugoslavia (the United States team achieved the most points per country that year). He received his Bachelor of Surgery in Mathematics in 1981 for undergraduate work at Caltech, and was a Putnam Fellow in 1978.
He earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Mathematics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1985.
His doctoral advisor was F. Thomson Leighton, and his thesis was on probabilistic analysis of bin-packing algorithms.