The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

A Passion for Mathematics Part Two

It's official, William Steinberg won Gold! In the last edition of Thistle, I wrote about the amazing achievements of one of our Brisbane House boys who was about to embark on a journey that would see him travel to Bath, England, and compete in the most prestigious school age Mathematics competition in the world. Not only did the Australian team perform extremely well, placing 18th out of 112 countries, William also achieved outstanding personal success. Out of the six Australian competitors, Williams individual results were the highest in his team placing him 28th out of 672 competitors. This result earned William a Gold Medal and is just one of 22 that have been awarded to an Australian competitor since we joined the competition back in 1981.

The IMO was first held in Romania in 1959, and, is now widely recognised as the most prestigious competition for high school age students around the world.  Notably, since 1978, sixteen successful participants of this competition have gone on to be awarded the Fields Medal, regarded as the highest honour a Mathematician can receive and has long been compared to the Nobel Prize for Mathematics. Similarly, outstanding participants of this competition have had successful careers in Universities, solving some of the most complex problems of the modern era, such as, Grigori Perelman who proved the Poincare conjecture (one of the seven Millennium Prize Problems).

Needless to say, for Scotch, we are incredibly proud to have a student of this calibre in our midst and earlier I had the opportunity to speak to William about his incredible achievement. Having started school in England, I was surprised to learn that William went to a small school of only 100 students where he was one of just 11 in his class.  Perhaps recognising his ability early, William worked with a tutor who exposed him to the world of Mathematics beyond the classroom curriculum.  Picking up concepts quickly, he moved to Scotch in Year 6 where he was already familiar with the curriculum up until Year 9. At that time, Mrs Erikson, the Dean of Teaching and Learning in the Middle School worked with William to start on the Year 10 curriculum and by Year 8, William was attending classes in the Senior School and topped Year 10 Mathematics.

In Year 9, William started the International Baccalaureate HL Mathematics course, along with WACE Physics. By the end of Year 10, he had finished both courses with an A grade in Physics and a rare Grade 7 in HL Mathematics. Fortunately, the IB offers a Further Level Mathematics course only studied by a handful globally, but this gave William and one other very talented Year 11 student Daniel Weise, the opportunity to broaden their Mathematics beyond the high school curriculum. As this course is only examined in the May session, due to the lack of students studying it in the Southern Hemisphere, both boys will complete this course in under 18 months giving them an incredible background to start University.  In asking Mrs Reyhani, to share her experience of teaching William, she wrote;

"Our lessons look very different to a typical Maths lesson.  William has so much experience with solving Mathematical problems.  Perhaps even more than I have as a teacher of Mathematics. He enjoys creating new problems and sharing them with others.  Often William will come to class ready with a problem for us to solve together.  If he has already solved it himself, he is excited to share the problem with us and see how we might approach it.  If he is yet to solve it, he is eager to discuss his thoughts and ideas with us and together we try and find the solution.  If one of us has a more "elegant", as he would describe it, way of solving the problem he acknowledges this and revises his own approach.  It is fascinating to watch the discussions between the two students and the way they talk about Mathematics."

William, like most Year 11 students, does not know what he wants to do with his life but whether he studies at Cambridge, Oxford, MIT or ANU, he certainly knows it will include Mathematics.  For now, like every student, he has to concentrate on his IB Diploma, prepare for assessments and examinations and think about what he might like to do for his 4000 word Extended Essay. Similarly, he also has to dedicate hours to Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS), an IB requirement, and we are delighted that William has decided to share some of his passion for Mathematics with our younger budding Mathematicians in the Junior School.

Congratulations William, our community is incredibly proud of your achievement.