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Math prodigy doubles as prizewinning pianist

Update: November, 17/2014 - 11:55

Recognition: Pham Tuan Huy (centre) was honoured by HCM City last year for his achievements in national and international contests. — VNS Photo

by Thu Trang

Teachers and students of Viet Nam National University's HCM City School for Gifted Students have anointed student Pham Tuan Huy as "the golden boy of mathematics".

The 18-year-old earned the title because of his remarkable record of awards in national mathematics contests as well as the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO).

Huy's teacher discovered that the boy had a passion for mathematics when he was only 12 years old.

"For me, math is always fun and serves as a great place for me to create and set up my own features," the boy revealed.

"The opportunity to work the way you want and do what you like develops your passion for the work. Math gives me such feelings and allows me to be myself."

Huy expressed the belief that what the teachers teach in the classroom is the most important knowledge. After finishing his homework, Huy often thinks carefully about the sources of the problem to remember it more and longer.

The student said that it was not necessary to do more homework but rather, to develop a deeper understanding of the exercises.

"Some problems are a combination of many different problems. The most important thing is finding the key to solve it," Huy said.

During his spare time, Huy often searches for reference books or surfs the Internet for materials to supplement his knowledge. Teachers and friends also serve as great references and sources from whom Huy learns.

Numerous exercises have given Huy headaches and have taken much of his time to solve, but he has refused to give up. With Huy, encountering such problems was necessary to explore and discover his capabilities.

In previous years, the results which Huy achieved in national and international examinations surprised him and made him quite happy.

Huy placed first in the entrance examination for the Mathematics Class of the HCM City School for Gifted Students.

He later won first prize in the City Contest for Mathematics in 2011 and the National Contest for Mathematics in 2012, as well as the gold medal in both the IMO in Columbia in 2013 and the IMO in South Africa this year.

Huy also received a certificate of merit from Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and was recognised as a model young citizen of HCM City last year.

After participating in international contests, Huy found out that although Viet Nam had fewer contestants than China or the United States, Vietnamese students' exertion, creation and national pride helped to motivate them to try harder and achieve more.

"I often tell myself and my friends that the contest is a small step in our lives. So whether we win high results or not, we should not give up. The important thing is that you learn and have more experiences. Do not put any pressure on achievement, and just try your best in the contest. Besides, you should always believe in yourself," remarked Huy.

Nguyen Trong Tuan, a math teacher of the HCM City School for Gifted Students who has taught Huy for three years, admitted that he was not surprised over Huy's success because so far, he has always proven to be an outstanding student.

"He's always eager to find something new while solving math exercises. Studying math is his happiness," Tuan observed.

Huy's father, Pham Chau Tuan, agreed, saying that doing math exercises had always been his son's biggest passion.

As Chau Tuan is busy all day, he does not have much time to coach his son. So the father buys books for his son to read at home.

"He sits all day upstairs solving math problems," Chau Tuan said. "My son goes downstairs only when he feels hungry and wants some food."

Huy only wanted to receive books as rewards for his work.

"He reads books everywhere he can. He brings a lot of math books with him when travelling as well," his father added.

Many talents

Besides his passion for math, Huy also loves social subjects, especially literature.

"Many people think studying math is usually dry, but for me, studying math requires a certain kind of imagination and romanticism to feel the attraction and beauty of the subject. High-falutin thinking sometimes helps me find surprise solutions to math problems," said Huy.

Friends also admire Huy for his ability to play the piano. He began studying how to play the piano when he was still in kindergarten and passed the entrance exam for the HCM City Conservatory of Music when he was only 10 years old. This passion was apparently passed down from his mother.

Huy won first prize at a Casio Festival in HCM City when he was only 11 years old.

He recalled feeling "very happy and surprised. My reward showed that a lot of people are expecting much of me. That urges me to try harder in school and in life in order to live up to people's expectations".

In September next year, Huy will go to the US to study at Stanford University. "Wherever I go, it is for sure that I will come back to Viet Nam to devote my time and talents to the service of my country," he said. — VNS

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