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SED's speech at 2012 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards presentation ceremony (English only)
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     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, at the 2012 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards presentation ceremony today (December 18):

Mr Chan (Ronnie Chan), Professor Yau (Yau Shing-tung), Mr Chan, distinguished guests, teachers, students, ladies and gentlemen,

     It is a great honour and my utmost pleasure to be invited to the 2012 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards (HLMA) Ceremony today and to address such a distinguished group of eminent experts and scholars, outstanding teachers and students, and devoted educators in the field of mathematics education.

     Mathematics is a necessity for everyone living in the modern world. Many of our major decisions in life are connected, one way or the other, with mathematics. How much, how many, how long, how far, how wide ... and all these require some kind of mathematical investigation and calculation. Even when it comes to love, we have this famous line in a sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era, "How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways." On a more serious note, in industry and commerce, in social and community services as well as government policies and planning, mathematics always plays a vital role in providing insight and indicators for future development.

     Mathematics is also an intellectual endeavour through which students can develop their imagination, initiative, creativity and flexibility of mind, as well as their ability to appreciate the beauty of nature.

     As one of the key learning areas, mathematics education aims not only to provide students with mathematical knowledge, but also to foster positive attitudes so that students can develop capabilities to learn how to learn, and the confidence to face the knowledge-based society. In our New Senior Secondary curriculum, all students have to study mathematics up to Secondary Six. In other words, we will have a larger population of students than before who are equipped with a strong foundation in mathematics for lifelong learning to cope with the demand of the rapidly changing world.

     It is encouraging to see the good performance achieved recently by Hong Kong students in some important international events in mathematics. A team of six Hong Kong secondary students at the 53rd International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in Argentina finished the contest with a flourish, winning three silver medals, one bronze medal and two honourable mentions. A team of eight Hong Kong female secondary students won one gold, one silver and six bronze medals at the 11th China Girls' Mathematical Olympiad. The gold medalist, Wong Sze-nga, obtained full scores, making her one of the top winners in the competition.

     Apart from these Olympiads, there are mathematics-related competitions organised by the Education Bureau that provide opportunities to nurture the mathematical thinking of our students. The Creative Problem Solving Competition in mathematics held annually for primary and secondary students cultivates and nurtures creative problem-solving skills in a mathematical context. Students have to make good use of their basic knowledge in mathematics to solve daily life problems in a creative way, such as "how to make the best use of a piece of carton paper to design a milk container" and "how to cut down the operation cost of a logistics company by designing the shortest route for transportation". The performance of our students in working out creative solutions to problems like these has been impressive.

     In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2011, Hong Kong continues to be one of the top-performing regions. In mathematics, Primary 4 students ranked third and Secondary Two students ranked fourth. The continuous remarkable performance of Hong Kong students in mathematics should be attributed to the continuous efforts made by schools and teachers.

     The slogan of the HLMA "Persistence Research Originality Success (ڱ@зNv)" is in line with the curriculum aims of mathematics education in Hong Kong. The learning and teaching of mathematics involves "doing", that is, inquiring, experimenting, abstracting, generalising or conjecturing, not just the transmission and memorisation of well constructed knowledge. The HLMA provides an excellent platform for students to experience all these important mathematical procedures by allowing students to select a topic on their own, to conduct a study and to compile a research report. In conducting the research and writing the report, students have to demonstrate a range of generic skills, namely collaboration skills, information technology skills, numeracy skills, problem-solving skills, self-management skills, study skills and creativity. The oral defence for their findings is an exciting moment for students to develop their communication and critical thinking skills. These kinds of experiences are very important for students to become self-directed and self-motivated learners.

     I would like to acknowledge gratefully all members of the Scientific Committee, Steering Committee, Executive Committee and the Screening Panel, and all those involved in the organisation of the HLMA. I would also like to show my appreciation for the unfailing support and generous donation by Mr Ronnie Chan, to make the Awards a biennial big event in mathematics education. My special gratitude also goes to Professor Yau Shing-tung for his efforts in stimulating creativity and encouraging intellectual discovery in mathematics and science among secondary students and teachers in Hong Kong.

     Finally, I would like to congratulate all winners of the HLMA. May I also thank all teacher supervisors for the guidance and advice given to their students. Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:36

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