British mathematician Peter J. Hilton once said that mathematics should be fun, and this sentiment was certainly shared by the 260 students who participated in the 2018 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards (HLMA). Now in its eighth edition, this biennial competition received a record high of 27 individual entries, illustrating Hong Kong Millennials’ keen interest in tackling mathematical problems.
Eight awards were announced and presented at the HLMA awards presentation ceremony on December 20, 2018 at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center. The Gold Award went to Zhiyuan Bai of La Salle College, whose research paper “On the Trapezoidal Peg Problem among Convex Curves” investigates a possible approach to the famous unsolved problem.
Bai, a Form Six student who aspires to further his mathematics studies at Cambridge University, said that winning the top prize was a pleasant surprise. “It never occurred to me that I would win. I didn’t think I’d even win the Bronze Award,” Bai said. “Frankly, I’m still feeling a little nervous at the moment, but I’m also overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. Being part of this competition has truly been an extraordinary experience.”
“I’m an avid reader of books by great mathematicians,” Bai added. “Many of my ideas have been inspired by their sterling work. I used to imagine how my ideas would be viewed by the public if they were put on paper, and this award offered me with an opportunity to do that.”
As the winner of the Gold Award, Bai will receive HK$250,000 out of the HK$1 million set aside by Hang Lung Properties as prize money. “The prize will most probably go towards future tuition fees,” Bai smiled.
Professor Zhouping Xin, chairman of the 2018 HLMA Scientific Committee, said he was thrilled by the remarkable level of achievement demonstrated by the students’ research works.
“The breadth and depth of mathematical understanding shown by the participants is truly impressive, while the work of the Gold Award winner is a manifestation of creativity, originality and elegance,” he said. “The simplicity of his paper makes it an enjoyable read, and his masterful in-depth knowledge shines through his approach to such a difficult problem.”
Mr. Weber Lo, CEO of Hang Lung Properties, remarked that the awards make a significant contribution to the city. “HLMA is our most long-standing community La Salle College student wins prestigious Hang Lung Mathematics Award investment initiative for local youth,” Lo said. “It also aligns with the government policy in promoting STEM education. The awards aim to cultivate our young people’s interest in mathematics, and nurture a talent pool which will serve to enhance the competitiveness of Hong Kong.”
The Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Mrs. Carrie Lam, was the guest of honour at the ceremony, and quipped that she has every respect for mathematicians as she’s married to one. “I daren’t say too much [about maths] in front of him, as he’s in the audience,” said Lam. “I’m naturally delighted to be here today to congratulate the winning teams and the finalists of this year’s competition. I applaud the excellent work of Hang Lung Properties, the Institute of Mathematical Science and the Department of Mathematics at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and all whose dedication helps nurture so many brilliant students for Hong Kong.”
HLMA was launched in 2004 by Hang Lung Properties in conjunction with the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and the Department of Mathematics at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. It strives to stimulate secondary school students’ enthusiasm for mathematics and sciences, and aims to help them realise their creative potential through intellectual discoveries.
This year, over 90 teams made up of 260 students from more than 60 schools took part in the competition. Their research reports were reviewed by the HLMA Scientific Committee, which comprised 15 prominent mathematicians from around the world. A shortlist of finalists was drawn up and students were invited to give an oral defence of their research, after which the committee decided the winners of the competition.