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Langley math whiz off to prestigious workshop

A Langley teenager with a fascination for numbers is off to a prestigious math workshop.

Sixteen-year-old Seokmin (Aaron) Lee, a Grade 11 international student at Langley Secondary, has been invited to the Lloyd Auckland Invitational Mathematics Workshop.

It runs June 2 to 8 at the University of Waterloo, which boasts one of the country’s top math and computer programs.

The purpose of the program is to provide an in-depth study in mathematics and problem solving and to provide an opportunity for those students to meet other similar students.

Lee earned the invitation after placing 10th overall out of more than 12,000 other Grade 11 students at the 2013 Fermat Math Contest.

The contest saw students write an exam — under supervision from a teacher — designed to test their problem-solving abilities based on what they have learned in the curriculum, and then answer some other questions designed to test their ingenuity and insight.

Rather than testing content, most of the contest problems test logical thinking and mathematical problem solving.

This was done back in February and Lee managed to score 144 out of 150, which placed him tied for tenth in the country.

Sean McGovern, the head of the math department as LSS, says this is the top score he can recall from a Langley student in his eight years in the district.

“It is incredible,” he said of his pupil’s score.

“To be honest, it was hard,” Lee admits.

While in math class, students are tested on what they have learned, a test like this requires a different brand of thinking.

“In this test, it was totally out of text book,” he explained.

“I kind of need my creativity, besides my math skills.”

McGovern says that people tend to think that those with strong math skills are just smart, but that is not the whole story.

“They are hard workers too,” he explained.

“Not only does he have a knack for math and a sharp mind, he works really hard. He is willing to put in the time and the studying.

Seokmin (Aaron) LeeLee is excited to go to Waterloo as this will be his first time attending an event like this. The top 50 scorers on the test are all invited to attend and they spend the week working in the university’s math department and meeting some of the professors.

Lee came to Langley in September 2011 from Korea, where his father works as a doctor specializing in nephrology — the study of kidneys — while his mother is a university professor.

But for Lee, he sees numbers and calculations in his future.

“I have always been innately interested in numbers and in math,” he said.

He thinks the fact his mother encouraged him when he was younger to try and avoid using calculators and instead doing the math in his head has helped make his successful in the subject.

“That really helped me,” he said. “It saves me time.”

Lee was born in Korea, but the whole family has spent some time living in the United States.

As for his post-secondary plans, he has not determined where he will attend — whether it is the U.S. Canada or back in Korea — but Lee does plan on studying something to do with numbers, possibly with an eye on business or economics.

Source: Langley Times

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