The childhood of Yew Chung International School Year 9 student Victor Lin Shao-yuan was a bit different. Most people's childhood memories include playing with dolls or mini cars. He remembers his favorite toy was a calculator.
"I can't remember when I started to have an interest in maths," the 13-year-old said. "But my parents told me I could count from one to 100 when I was 18 months old; could accurately add and subtract up to three digit numbers by the age of two, and memorize my times tables up to 20 x 20 when I was three."
Lin, pictured, was seen as a gifted student at the age of nine after taking a Talent Search Test at the Center for Talented Youth, a non-profit center providing gifted education to young people around the world under Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
He got an extremely high score in the test, in the 99 percentile (top 1 percent) compared with students two grades above. He later became a member of the Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education, which allowed him to access more advanced mathematics events and activities outside the classroom.
Early this year, Lin took home the Gold Award (Secondary Section) and Most Outstanding Candidate Award for Maths as well as the Most Outstanding Candidate for Problem Solving in the World Class Arena Elite Competition which featured more than 600 contestants from Hong Kong, the mainland, Macau and Taiwan.
In March, he won a Silver Award and 1st Honor at the International Mathematical Olympiad Hong Kong, making him a Hong Kong representative in the finals in July in the mainland.
Lin admitted he was nervous about the coming tournament, which gathers the top maths elite from high schools around the country.
"The contest mainly tests your logical thinking and problem-solving skills," he said.
"We have about four hours to solve three problems, which is obviously not enough. It is not only challenging but fun also as there is no standard answer for each question.
"You are open to every mathematical equation and theorem to demonstrate the statements." As the normal- year mathematics curriculum is no longer suitable for him, Lin is self- studying Year 11 International General Certificate of Secondary Education Additional Mathematics, which is two levels higher than his school year.
"I am thankful to my school's classification system for mathematics," he said.
"The curriculum is tailor-made for students of different abilities, encouraging me to take up greater challenges and keep improving."
When asked about tips for students who want to improve their maths, Lin said there are no short cuts, only persistent practice and exercise will help.
"It really depends on how much effort you are willing to make to improve your mathematics. I always look for additional knowledge outside of textbooks. I also create my own maths questions and try to solve them with different methods," he said.
"I also advise checking out the website of Khan Academy, which provides free online resources, practice exercises and instructional videos in a range of subjects. There are tutorials for different levels and you can choose the topics that you are interested in. I can spend all day in it."
Even with his outstanding maths talent, Lin said he is no different to other students when it comes to other subjects and leisure activities.
"I am also interested in physics and music. I am going to take Grade 8 piano exams this month and I practice every day. I take everything I do seriously," he said.",