Sunday 25 December 2011

Random Thoughts on Math Olympiad Journey

This is posted by LJ's mum.

Contrary to what some people believe, I do not think it is necessary to start Math Olympiad (MO) training very early. Lim Min started to do MO in P6 when preparing for MO competitions (namely RIPMWC and SMOPS) that her primary school sent her to participate. Lim Jeck started in P5 when he was tasked to help solve some of the MO problems that Lim Min could not handle, and Lim Li started in P4 when she first took part in NMOS. I think it is important to have a strong foundation in Math basics before embarking on this MO journey, hence P4 or P5 might be a good starting point.

All three of my children did not attend any formal MO training when they were in primary school. They simply learnt from solving problems found in the competition solution books, with me and my husband providing occasional guidance on Math topics which are new to them. For Lim Min and Lim Jeck, formal olympiad training is mainly provided by their schools (RGS & RI and NUS High, respectively) and also by the SIMO trainers at NUS Math Dept (students are selected into SIMO Junior/Senior/National training teams based on SMO results).

Among my children, Lim Jeck is the most passionate and talented in Math/MO, and he can spend much of his free time creating original MO problems and solving them. In my opinion, NUS High, which specialises in Math and Science subjects, is a perfect fit for him. If he were to join a mainstream school, he might not have achieved what he had achieved so far or be able to reach his full potential, amid all the "distractions" like heavy humanities subjects, ‘O’ levels, JC project work, contrasting subject, General Paper and ‘A’ levels that he would have to grapple with. For Lim Min and Lim Li, I would reckon they are good but not exceptional at MO, and though their passion in Math/MO is there, it pales in comparison with Lim Jeck’s.

The MO journey is definitely an arduous one. Besides talent, I think one needs to have lots of passion, determination, perseverance and hard work to continue with the journey. Throughout the years, I have observed many top primary school MO winners fading from the MO scene once they got to secondary schools. I believe high school competitions are too competitive and the interest of these past winners diminish after they fail to clinch good awards. The MO journey also requires sacrifices. For instance, intensive IMO preparation will take away 4-6 weeks of school lessons (meaning, lots of catching up to do after any major competition). School holidays are also burnt, with training, and more training. But I guess if the child enjoys it, he/she will not resent it - this is akin to the working life: we would not dread going to work if our job happens to be our hobby! For Lim Jeck, it becomes a habit for him to frequent Mathlinks (Art of Problem Solving website), and as I mentioned before, he enjoys creating problems for others to solve, and solving problems posted by other Mathlinkers. That's why I feel we should never push our kids to pursue something they have no passion in, it won't work and both parents and children will suffer. But I strongly believe that as parents, it is our responsibility to carve out their niche areas or discover where their passions lie, and to encourage/support them by providing the necessary guidance and resources. In my case, it could be getting the relevant competition solution books and advanced level Math text/guide books, and encouraging my children to work on the questions prior to any competition. Once the child is on track, we can take a back seat (less prodding needed) and just let him/her cruise at a comfortable pace.

To excel in MO, I think being years ahead of your peers helps a lot. For Lim Jeck, the fact that he took part in SMO (Junior), AMC10 and AIME in P6 gave him an edge over those who came on board in Secondary 1. After being exposed to tough questions in AIME, it was natural that he would find the primary school level RIPMWC questions a piece of cake! Being exposed to challenging questions much above your level helps to build self-esteem and confidence to tackle challenging questions at your level. You know, in any competition or exam, the mindset is very important. If you think that you should be able to solve the questions, there is a high chance that you can solve them (like a self-fulfilling prophecy). As a MO competitor, Lim Li is very confident that there is no PSLE Math questions that she cannot tackle; if she did not get full marks for any school Math exam papers, it can only be due to carelessness or misreading of questions. Hence for Lim Li, just after her PSLE, she has started to work on many SMO (Junior) and SMO (Senior) questions. However, she is not in the same league as Lim Jeck, who had already worked on many SMO (Open) questions during his post-PSLE period.

About expectations on IMO, I think Lim Jeck was extremely fortunate to be able to secure a World #2 in this year's IMO (the Geometry Question 6 helped to seal his fate). I really do not expect him to repeat the same remarkable feat next year. Nevertheless it would be great if he could win another two Golds in 2012 and 2013, as a total of 3 Golds, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze would likely secure him a place in the World Top 10 positions, in the IMO Hall of Fame.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

NUS 2011/2012 Semester 1 Exam Results

This is posted by LJ's mum.
Lim Jeck's NUS 2011/2012 Semester 1 (Aug to Dec 2011) exam results was released today. He got an A+ for Linear Algebra II (Year 2 Math module).

His NUS 2010/2011 exam results are here.

Sunday 18 December 2011

3rd WengsWorld Jigsaw Puzzle Competition

This is posted by LJ's mum

We took part in the 3rd WengsWorld Jigsaw Puzzle Competition held at Tiong Bahru Community Centre yesterday, from 3.30 - 6 pm.

There were 18 teams taking part. Each team was given 2 hrs to complete a 500-pc jigsaw puzzle.

Saw Hean and Sor Khim in 1 team. Their puzzle was almost completed at the end of 2 hrs.

Lim Min and Lim Jeck in the progress of fixng their puzzle.


Lim Min and Lim Jeck emerged champion and won a puzzle each!

1st: Lim Jeck and Lim Min (1 hr 7 mins)
2nd: Dorothy and Roger (1 hr 39 mins)
3rd: Min Yu and Yang San (1 hr 41 mins)
4th: Stella and Yuwen (1 hr 50 mins)

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Heye and Kitty puzzles

Heye 750-pc puzzle (Opera Bavaria) done in 1 day.

Down Town Kitty 1000-pc puzzle done in 2 days.

Monday 12 December 2011

Acer Aspire i7 Notebook

2 days ago, I bought a new Acer Aspire notebook with 2nd gen Intel Core i7-2670QM processor, nVidia GeForce GT 540M 1 GB VRAM, 4GB DDR RAM and 15.6" monitor. The detailed configurations are as follows:

This Acer notebook computer cost $999 and was bought at the Gain City Show @ Suntec. I have used my SMO 2011 prize money (total about $2500) to pay for it. I have given the HP notebook computer ($799) which I bought in Sep to Lim Min. After deducting $1800 for both notebook computers, I still have about $700 left for my savings.

Monday 5 December 2011

Another Puzzle done

2500-pc puzzle - took about 1 week to fix it.

It is a good quality MB brand puzzle, the interlocking is so secure that Lim Li can lift up the entire puzzle (without glue).