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Speech by CS at 2014 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards Announcement and Awards Presentation ceremony (English only) (with photos/video)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the 2014 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards Announcement and Awards Presentation ceremony this afternoon (December 11):

Professor C N Yang, Professor Shing-Tung Yau, Professor Sir James Mirrlees, Ronnie (Mr Ronnie Chan), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It is indeed my great pleasure to be here with you this afternoon to take part in this very prestigious occasion - the sixth Hang Lung Mathematics Awards presentation ceremony and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Awards since its establishment in 2004, and also to celebrate Ronnie's birthday.

     However, for someone like myself whose mathematics education is only up to the Certificate of Education level, speaking to an audience of mathematicians is a daunting experience. Having sought assistance from my mathematician husband and consulted my two sons - a recent mathematics graduate from Cambridge and a Year 3 student studying mathematics in Cambridge as well, I was advised to do something light by talking about movies.

     My more recent encounter with mathematics comes from two movies. One is "A Beautiful Mind", which is about John Nash and was released in 2001. The recent one is "The Imitation Game", which is about Alan Turing and is expected to be on Hong Kong's big screen next spring.

     Amongst the various research interests of Nash and Turing, there is a common interest: coding or encryption. The applications of their works were in defence. It is believed that Turing's works had shortened World War II by two to four years. Turing is a cryptographer who is considered to be one of the fathers of modern computer science while Nash won a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994 at the age of 66.

     Coding theory, so I was told, is a very important subject. Governments need it in defence; ordinary citizens need it when they do online banking and online purchases because they need to have their personal details protected. To protect the personal details transmitted via the Internet, we are relying on secure encryption. That it is secure relies on the complexity of factoring a large composite number into a product of prime numbers. Many more applications are founded recently. For example, the application of topology in analysing large data.

     This brings me to the point that the use of mathematics is ubiquitous, a point which Professor Yau has also touched upon. Its application is permeating all aspects of our life and society. Many amazing advances in science and technology have their roots in mathematics. Mathematics is indeed the most prominent tool in bridging theories and applications in science and technology. As Plato said, "the highest form of pure thought is in mathematics".

     The world is getting increasingly technologically complex and competitive. Our youths need to be well equipped with tools, which include those derived from mathematics, science and technology, to meet the needs of the developing economies and this rapidly changing world.

     Hong Kong students are always on the top in international educational studies, and performed well in various international competitions. For example, in the International Mathematical Olympiad 2014, our students won four silver and two bronze medals. We are justly proud of their achievement.

     In TIMSS, that is Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, it is pleasing to note that over one-third of our students reach the Advanced International Benchmark. These students demonstrate their strengths to reason, draw conclusions, make generalisations and solve problems.

     Thanks must go to our teachers, educators and academics. They have contributed significantly to sustain our students' good performance and further excel them.

     However, PISA, that is the Programme for International Student Assessment, has also revealed that our students show a relatively lower performance in "interpreting" among the three process sub-scales of mathematical literacy: formulating, employing and interpreting.

     To minimise such gaps, engaging students in actively applying mathematics in expertly designed activities or competitions will work wonders. The Hang Lung Mathematics Awards emphasises mathematical insight, creativity and originality. The entries cover not only the theoretical areas, but also a very broad range of areas, such as applications in science, engineering, medical research, finance, logistics, transport, etc. Besides, the Awards also honour teachers and schools of the winning teams.

     I would like to take this opportunity to thank Hang Lung Properties Limited and members of the Hang Lung Mathematics Awards for their dedication in promoting excellence in this discipline over the past decade. I would also like to thank all participating teachers and school heads for their encouraging support to students in mathematical education.

     I am happy to report that in December last year, our Legislative Council passed a motion to boost and revive the academic standard and atmosphere of Hong Kong's mathematics and the sciences, and to fully support the hosting of the 57th International Mathematical Olympiad in Hong Kong in 2016. I am sure the hosting of this prestigious international competition of the highest standard in Hong Kong will further stimulate our students' innovative ideas and desire for knowledge in this very important academic discipline.

     Last but not least, I would like to congratulate all winners of the Hang Lung Mathematics Awards for their outstanding achievements and wish them every success in the future. Young mathematicians, keep on your life-long journey in exploring the mathematics world. Thank you very much.

Ends/Thursday, December 11, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:33


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