Canadian math champ keeps his cool after huge win
The Canadian teen who came out on top at the International Mathematical Olympiad earlier this month isn't letting the win go to his head, noting that there's more to math than high-profile competitions.
Alex Song, 18, scored a rare perfect score at the Olympiad in mid-July, landing the Olympiad’s Hall of Fame top ranking. Song and the Canadian team placed ninth overall, but Song personally finished first.
The Olympiad, which took place in Thailand this year, saw about 600 high school students competing from 104 different countries.
During the event, teams were given just six questions to complete over the course of two days.
Song said that despite the high pressure heading into the competition, he and his teammates tried to keep things in perspective.
"Of course it's an international competition, so everyone's all hyped," he told CTV's Canada AM from his parent's home in San Jose, Calif. "There was definitely some pressure there, but at the same time it's also very relaxing in the sense that we're all high school students.
"We know that there's more to math than just the competition."
Song said the problems they were given at the Olympiad could be solved with techniques that are taught in high school. However, they involve using multiple steps and combinations of techniques that aren't necessarily taught in school, he said.
"It's still a difficult task. You have to think about how to actually use the techniques you already know to solve these problems," Song said.
Team Canada's coach, Jacob Tsimerman, said it was apparent from an early age that Song had the skills to become one of the greats in the field of mathematics.
He recalled meeting Song when the student was in Grade 4, and seeing something special in him.
"Even then it was very clear: he was creative, he was very enthusiastic about math, he was very down to Earth," Tsimerman said. "So pretty early on, we had our eye on him."
Song originally hails from China but grew up in Waterloo, Ont. He has been attending a private school in New Hampshire since 2011, and will start at Princeton University next month.
With files from The Canadian Press