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May 29, 2018

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Student from SCIS Pudong qualifies for the AIME

Twelfth-grade student at the Shanghai Community International School Steve Shin has had quite a year of success in mathematics competitions. Back in November 2017, he earned the highest score for SCIS-Pudong participants at the University of Waterloo’s Canadian Senior Mathematics Competition. Shin received further recognition during this competition for scoring in the top 25 percent worldwide.

In February 2018, Shin became the first SCIS-Pudong student to qualify for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination. He accomplished this by scoring in the top 5 percent worldwide of students participating in the American Mathematics Competition. The AIME is the next step in the qualification process for the world’s most prestigious mathematics competition, the International Mathematics Olympiad. We talk with him about his passion and preservation on mathematics.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself?

A: I am originally from Seoul, South Korea. I am involved in many sports with my favorite being basketball. You can always find me up in the gym or on the court outside, shooting a ball around during my free time. I am also very interested in the field of mathematics and solving problems, which is why I am part of the math club here at SCIS.

Q: You recently participated in a mathematics competition in Suzhou, how did it go?

A: I have been participating in the Suzhou competition since 10th grade. I am very happy with this competition even though we did not get a podium finish as a school; together with my teammates, I placed third out of 30 teams in something called the “Buddy Group” category. Essentially, the Buddy Group pairs together six competitors from different international schools to compete against other teams. I’m pretty proud of being able to place in the top three! Although our school wasn’t able to be as competitive as other schools due to our size, I think it was an amazing opportunity to go together with my classmates, as well as juniors, and collaborate as a team.

Q: You’ve recently been invited to take part in the American Invitational Mathematics Examination, how did you qualify?

A: The AIME tournament is an opportunity giving to students who have performed exceptionally well in the AMC 10 or AMC 12 tests. The AMC 10 allows for anyone in 10th grade and below to participate and the AMC 12 allows students from grades 11-12. The top 5 percent in the AMC 12 and the top 2.5 percent in the AMC 10 qualify to compete in the AIME.

Q: What kind of math problems do you typically encounter on these tests?

A: At first glance, the problems asked may look fairly complicated but in reality they don’t require so much high level of math, but rather they require the ability to solve questions creatively. It tests you on your approach to problem-solving rather than simply your capability to memorize mathematical formulas.

Q: How do you prepare for these types of competition?

A: Well, I never really prepare only for competitions. On a daily basis, whether that’s during class time or my free time, I like to solve difficult math problems. I think the constant challenge is what prepares me.

Q: Why is solving problems important to you?

A: Ever since I was young, I have been attracted to engineering and I am hoping to pursue a career in that field after graduation. This means I have to be good at math and I need to be constantly practicing. I also feel highly satisfied when I am able to find the solutions to extremely difficult questions. It may take me several hours but it is all worth it when I finally discover a simple solution to a difficult problem.

Q: Who were the people in your life who have influenced and helped you to pursue your passion for mathematics?

A: From SCIS, Mr Newell stands out as someone who has had a big impact on my life. He has been my teacher since Grade 10 and has always motivated me with good feedback, encouraged me to participate in all these competitions and is always challenging me to do better. Also Mr Biltz, who is in charge of the math club and my physics teacher. He is always willing to hear me out and gives me advice and suggestions when I need them. He also pushes me to try my best, for example, this year he gave me the 2014 Cambridge math examination questions for me to try and solve by myself!


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