Tuition is something that most students drag their feet to but for Tan Hong Sheng, it sparked his interest in mathematics.
“The Maths class I attended (eight years ago) emphasised brain development, and the teacher often asked me many interesting questions. It gave me great joy and fulfilment whenever I managed to solve something I couldn’t do before,” shares Tan, 18.
His love for the subject has since seen him participate in a string of Mathematical Olympiad competitions locally and regionally.
His first competition was the Asia Pacific Mathematical Olympiad for Primary Schools in 2013 held in Johor Baru. Tan was 12 then and represented his school. He came out second runner-up in the competition.
“Winning that award made my secondary school Maths teacher realise my potential and start to give me professional training,” adds the Pei Chun High School student from Pontian, Johor.
Since then, Tan has joined over 50 competitions. The most recent was the Thailand International Mathematical Olympiad (TIMO) 2019 held in Phuket where Tan won the Overall Champion award in the senior secondary category. Over 900 students from 16 countries participated in the international competition.
“I really appreciate my school and also my parents who have given me so many chances and so much support,” says Tan.
Last year, he was also the champion in the Asia International Mathematical Olympiad Open Contest 2018 (AIMO) for the senior secondary category.
Winning the TIMO award has made him more confident and reinforced his belief that hard work and practice pays off.
“Self-discipline is an important quality for everybody. To obtain any achievement, hard work and practice are essential.
“My participation in mathematics competitions is not only to obtain medals but, more importantly, to exercise my willpower, establish a correct attitude towards life, and pursue my dream with more confidence,” shares the young lad.
Tan also believes that solving mathematical equations is key to solving life problems in the future.
“When I am solving problems, I can concentrate and forget all the hardships in my life. Mathematical problems can be solved through mathematical logic. Life problems can also be solved by applying logic. The use of this ability will determine whether I will succeed in the future.”
He has this to say to younger students: “I would advise them to try and find their interest in life so that they will be willing to put in continuous effort. This will help them find their aim in life and enjoy a sense of accomplishment.
“I also strongly encourage them to go out of the school to participate in various activities and competitions so as not to be ‘frogs at the bottom of the well’, as the Chinese saying goes.
“They should communicate with the outside world and get in contact with more people so that they can expand their horizon,” he adds.
Naturally, Tan hopes to pursue mathematics in university.
“I believe my passion in Maths is the driving force of learning. Because of it, I can find the fun of learning, and I will have the motivation to persevere and develop my potential through active research, to be successful,” he says.
It is not all Maths and no play for Tan, who also jogs or plays badminton in his free time.
“Exercise improves my health. It also allows my body to get rest and makes me more energetic in my studies. In addition, I often relieve the pressure of learning by listening to music,” he says in conclusion.