Alumni Kaleidoscope: Binyong Sun - PhD(MATH)
SERENITY OF A MATHEMATICAL GENIUS
"Mathematics ought to be learned meticulously and slowly." This is how Sun Bingyong teaches maths to his daughter, a style that is antithetical to how this great and important subject is usually taught at schools today. Schools and math teachers should pay heed to Sun; a PhD graduate of HKUST ('05), he was recently appointed as a fellow at the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences at just age 42.
Describing Sun as a mathematical prodigy might be an understatement. By age 8, he was regularly beating adults at a popular card game called "24" in China; such was Sun's prowess, his peers refused to play against him. While still in sixth grade in primary school, Sun was able to solve math problems—from his older brother's major secondary school exam.
"Bingyong displayed an amazing sensitivity and touch for numbers at a young age," recalls Sun's mother. Hailing from Zhoushan City in Zhejiang, Sun is the second of three brothers in his family. While all three were academically successful, Bingyong's formidable mind was evident during his middle and high school years: he won an award in a Chinese national chemistry competition and later, the top prize in a national math Olympiad. When asked about these childhood achievements, Sun modestly replies, "Luck was on my side, I have a great memory that helped me with those competitions."
While maths is sometimes taught by throwing many difficult questions at students that must be solved quickly, Sun disagrees with that approach—he argues going steady is more important. "Since doing mathematics involves lots of steps, it is better to take twice as much time to guarantee each stage is correctly done, because when a single mistake is made, the whole process must be restarted again, and that wastes time."
Sun is not a math nerd who spends all his days thinking about numbers however: he enjoys watching TV dramas, reading online novels and hiking with his daughter. He also regularly travels from Beijing to Zhejiang to see his mother. For all of his successes, Sun—in life and in mathematics—continues to pay attention to the fundamentals.
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