How it all adds up

Education | Cara Chen 2 Feb 2021

Mathematics is both a foundation and tool for all disciplines involving order and measurements, and helps develop analytical capabilities in our rapidly changing technological society.

The field is an essential part of the government's recent efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

However, the recently released International Mathematics and Science Study 2019 results may be somewhat underwhelming.

Held every four years, the study shows Hong Kong's primary four students came second and secondary two students ranked fifth in the world in math - both slightly lower than last time.

With 2,968 primary four students from 139 schools and 3,265 secondary two students from 136 schools taking part, the test showed a significant decline in science performance.

The primary students ranked 15th - down 10 places compared to the previous test - while the secondary students came in 17th - down 11 places to the lowest ranking since the first test in 1995.

The government's efforts are clearly going to be long term, so it's no wonder that the government and the business community are committed to cultivating the cream of the academic crop by challenging and enhancing the confidence, logical thinking, reasoning, analytical and problem-solving skills of students who love mathematics by way of competitions.

One of the biggest recent events with this aim was the opening of the biennial Hang Lung Mathematics Awards, an acclaimed research competition held in partnership with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and tailored to secondary school students in Hong Kong.

Founded in 2004,the award has attracted over 2,200 participants from approximately 200 secondary schools and received almost 400 research papers, many of which are university-standard.

A total of HK$8 million in prize money has been awarded to past winners with support from Hang Lung Properties.

The fact that award-winning scholars have agreed to be committee members is a sign that the competition is highly regarded.

Its scientific committee and steering committee comprises a panel of internationally renowned academic luminaries and educators, including Richard Schoen, the 2017 Wolf Prize laureate in mathematics and distinguished professor of mathematics at the University of California, Irvine and George Smoot, the 2006 Nobel laureate in physics and chair professor of physics at HKUST.

"Mathematics not only trains our logical thinking and problem-solving skills, it is also a solid foundation for science and engineering disciplines," said HKUST president Wei Shyy.

"HKUST has been promoting mathematics and science education to primary and secondary students through a range of activities, so we are delighted to coorganize such a meaningful competition, as it allows us to identify and groom students with potential in mathematics and contribute to the development of talent in Hong Kong."

Under the partnership, Hang Lung Properties will donate HK$2.5 million to each edition of the competition, of which HK$1 million will be set aside as prize money. The remainder will fund academic consultations, professional adjudication, educational resources, guidance and mentoring, as well as other efforts.

HKUST will also offer scholarships to teachers nominated by their schools to pursue a master's of science in mathematics for educators.

The 2021 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards are now open for registration and welcomes students to participate either individually or as part of teams of up to five on behalf of their schools.

Under a supervisor, each team will have to choose a suitable mathematics research topic, conduct independent research and submit a research report by the end of August.

All shortlisted teams will be invited to attend an oral defense held in December, after which the 2021 HLMA winners will be decided and a total of HK$1 million in prize money awarded.

An online briefing session will be held on February 19 to explain the registration details and other relevant information, along with a sharing session led by one previous HLMA winner.

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