|Math whiz: Nguyễn Thế Hoàng|
Nineteen-year-old student Nguyễn Thế Hoàn was one of two gold medallists at the 56th International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO) recently held in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He was a member of Việt Nam’s six-member team that helped the country rank fifth among 104 countries and territories. This is the best outcome ever for the Vietnamese team during the past nine years at IMO. This is also the second gold from the contest in two years for Hoàn. Bùi Quỳnh Hoa reports.
Inner Sanctum: Could you tell us something about yourself and your passion for mathematics?
I am Nguyễn Thế Hoàn, a student from the Hà Nội National University’s Gifted School for Natural Science. I chose the school because this is where my idol, Professor Ngô Bảo Châu, a Fields medal winner, once studied.
About my achievements so far in maths, I have won several awards at district and provincial levels during my school years. But the most significant ones for me were the second prize at the national maths competition when I was in 11th grade, and the two gold medals at IMO in 2014 and 2015.
I was in love with maths since I was little. I love the magic of numbers. It is said that mathematics is my passion, the only thing that I could spend my whole time on without being bored. Maths is also the cradle of every science, I think. Mathematical thought has also been applied in many fields of life.
Inner Sanctum: Do you think your family’s difficult circumstances actually created a strong will for you to achieve such successes in maths?
I was born into a poor family in Thái Bình Province, so we faced many difficulties with regard to our finances. Along with working in the fields, my parents had to work very hard from dawn to dusk at construction sites in order to pay for our living expenses and tuition for my brother and me.
They did everything for us. I remember how my dad used to give me a piece of bread as a gift when he came home from work. He would tell me he was doing that to energise me when I sat down to study. I trusted him and ate it happily and naively. Many years later I found out that those small pieces of bread were my dad’s lunch. He ate half and saved half for me. I felt so sorry about my naivety that I decided to devote all my time to studying. I did not want to disappoint him, and I wanted him and my family to be proud of me some day.
Inner Sanctum: What according to you defines success?
In my opinion, success simply means being able to do what you want. To a mathematician, success is when he or she can solve a small problem in maths. To a businessman, success is when he can sell all of his products and make a profit from them.
My idea of success is having the chance to study maths. I will pursue it and I want to save it for bigger success in the future.
Inner Sanctum: How did you feel when you received two gold medals at IMO for two years in 2014 and 2015?
It was a big surprise for me to be chosen twice to take part in IMO, the annual mathematics competition for high school students in 2014 and 2015. And it was unbelievable when I won two golds at the competition. I felt so happy that I wanted to cry. I had done it finally. The sweet results came after my great efforts. I knew that my dad and my family would be proud of me. It had also brought glory to our country, my family and my teachers who had been with me, made me strong mentally to gain these achievements. It was also a valuable experience for me for the future when it came to my studies.
Inner Sanctum: Did you feel proud when you made a contribution to help Việt Nam rank fifth among 104 countries and territories at the 56th IMO held recently in Thailand, the highest rank ever of the Vietnamese maths team during the last nine years?
I think this record belongs to every one of our six-member team. All of us came home with medals, including two golds, three silvers and one bronze. This helped Việt Nam take the fifth rank, only after the United States (US), China, South Korea and North Korea. This was also the best outcome for the Vietnamese maths team in the past nine years. We were all so proud of what we had accomplished.
Inner Sanctum: Do you have any plans for yourself?
In the future, I wish I could win a scholarship to be able to study at a prestigious university in the US. I am now trying my best to study and get one next year.
Inner Sanctum: After your graduation, what will you choose – coming home or staying abroad to keep developing your passion for maths?
In my opinion, if I could achieve success in the future, I could contribute to the country in both those ways, no matter where I am. Location does not affect my desire and ability to contribute to my country. Further, scientific achievements will then belong to the entire human race, not a specific person or a nation.
As for me, I will surely return to my country, because my parents, family and those who I love the most, are here. VNS