Speech by CS at 2016 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards Presentation Ceremony (English only) (with photos/video)
Professor Shing-tung Yau (Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the 2016 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards), Professor Sir James Mirrlees (Chairman of the Steering Committee of the 2016 Hang Lung Mathematics Awards), Ronnie (Chairman of Hang Lung Properties, Mr Ronnie Chan), distinguished guests, students, parents, teachers, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to attend the 2016 Hang Lung Mathematics Award Presentation Ceremony consecutively for a second time. Since this is a biennial event, two years have passed since my last attendance.
The year 2016 is a special and a memorable year for celebrating the discipline of mathematics in Hong Kong as we hosted the 57th International Mathematical Olympiad, IMO, this year, after playing host to this distinguished event for the first time in 1994. Each year, IMO brings together some of the world's brightest high school students to compete in solving mathematical problems which are designed to test the brainiest. This year, Hong Kong welcomed over 600 bright young minds from around the world. They had put on their best performance and we are proud of the Hong Kong team's success, winning a record-breaking three gold, two silver and one bronze. I joined these talented young mathematicians at the IMO's closing dinner to celebrate the success. Indeed, as the mother of a son, the younger one, who had taken part in two IMO contests - IMO 2011 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and IMO 2012 in Mar del Plata, Argentina - I have first-hand experience of that joy of celebrating my son's success, and through this personal connection I understand how this prestigious competition can impact and shape young students in mathematics.
My personal connection with mathematics actually goes deeper as my husband is a mathematician and my other son, the elder one, also graduated with a first degree in maths. With three maths enthusiasts in the family, mathematics often finds its place on our dinner table at home though, for most of the time, that conversation is totally alien to me.
But what is clear to me through prolonged observations at close quarters of that drive, interest and perseverance displayed by my husband and sons is that mathematics is much more than an academic subject to tackle at school or in contests. Let us recall the moment we faced an obstacle, and the moment we overcame it. Let us recall how our ideas, knowledge and endeavours guided us through problems after problems. We might then realise that mathematics actually has a key role to play. Indeed, mathematics is pivotal to the development and advancement of civilisations. Geometry provides us with the path to construct an ideal world. Number theory crystalises the human instinct to seek orders and natural laws. Algebra symbolises the structures of a vague world, making unknowns known. Combinatorics shows us the way to count and to count for favourable outcomes. These are all mathematics, and these are ideas which essentially guide our minds and thoughts to know ourselves, our society and our world.
Mathematics training can teach rationality, creativity and determination, which are virtues all dearly cherished by the people of Hong Kong. Rationality is the foundation of every respectful society. Here in Hong Kong, an international metropolis with over 7 million people of diverse cultural, ethnical and educational backgrounds, you are bound to hear different voices representing different interests if you ask about views on any given issue. It is rationality that has enabled us to respect and resolve such differences, and find a consensus in the best interests of all.
While rationality underpins mutual respect and social harmony, creativity is the driving force behind progress. Hong Kong highly values original ideas, especially those from our younger generation. The people of this city have long been famous for their ingenious flexibility. We want the next generation to build on it further and let their creativity boom. This is why we are actively promoting STEM education in schools.
Determination keeps us going in times of difficulties. The process of solving a mathematical problem, or any problem in life for that matter, can be rough and tough. Success only comes to those who persevere and stay in the game till the end. I would say Hong Kong people have been well trained in this regard. For a small place with so many geographical limitations to develop into a world city, people's determination to find solutions and succeed definitely has a key role to play.
Engaging students in actively applying mathematics in expertly designed activities or competitions helps nurture their mind. The Hang Lung Mathematics Awards emphasises mathematical insight, creativity and originality. The research projects of the participating teams, I understand, cover a broad range of areas. 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 years. I would also like to thank all participating schools and teachers for their commitment and support to students learning mathematics.
Two years ago on this occasion, I talked about movies featuring mathematicians - John Nash in "A Beautiful Mind" and Alan Turing in "The Imitation Game". Since then, a new movie has come out - "The Man Who Knew Infinity" featuring Professor Hardy and Professor Ramanujan from Trinity College, Cambridge. It is interesting to note that two distinguished mathematicians, Manjul Bhargava and Ken Ono, are associate producers of this movie. Bhargava, like Professor Shing-tung Yau, is of course a winner of the Fields Medal. This brings me to the point that apart from pursuing mathematical excellence and nurturing young talents, renowned mathematicians may also consider using various forms of creative industries, including movies, to promote the understanding of mathematics, to stimulate interest and to bring this highest form of pure thought into our ordinary lives.
Finally, I would like to congratulate all winners of this year's Hang Lung Mathematical Awards for their outstanding achievements and wish them every success in the future. As Christmas is approaching, may I wish you all merry Christmas and a very happy new year.
Thank you very much.
Ends/Thursday, December 15, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:50
Issued at HKT 15:50