The Experience of Enumeration Expands
Mathematics was Chong Hip-kuen’s favourite subject in high school. So he naturally looked for a programme that would take his exploration in the science of numbers to new heights when he applied for university three years ago. The Enrichment Mathematics programme at CUHK caught his eye as mathematics has long been a signature discipline at CUHK. On top of being the top mathematics programme in Hong Kong, CUHK’s ranks consistently highly in the major university rankings (below all 2017 ranks):
- 28th among 200 (US News)
- 36th among 402 (QS)
- 52nd among 243 (Essential Science Indicators)
Further, Hip-kuen noticed that the CUHK programme aims for developing students into all-rounded mathematicians. The highschool graduate considered this important since changes in global economy has increasingly required the acquisition of both expert knowledge and multiple soft-skills. This is in agreement with the thinking behind the programme, as Prof. Jun Zou, Choh-Ming Li Professor of Mathematics and Chairman of the Department of Mathematics, said, ‘The Enrichment Mathematics programme makes great contribution to a variety of fields including finance, education, commerce, engineering, computer science, marketing, business, medical research, statistics, physics, information technology and pure mathematical science. As everything has touched upon mathematics, building up a strong sense of mathematical thinking can enhance one's logic, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.’
The programme covers both pure and applied mathematics. With the knowledge of pure mathematical science, students can develop a feasible research path on advanced mathematics, statistics and computer science. Students can also enroll in the double stream in Enrichment Mathematics and Computational and Applied Mathematics (CAM). The knowledge provided by applied mathematics subjects, such as numerical computations and contemporary techniques of big data analytics, can lead students to the realm of applied sciences which covers finance, engineering, business, marketing and medical research.
When asked what he found most valuable about the programme, Hip-kuen said, ‘Peer support is the most valuable thing I found in this programme. Since this programme aims to enroll a group of students dedicated to mathematics, it offers me a quick start to form a study group with fellow students to further explore new knowledge in mathematics.
‘Before I was admitted into CUHK, I did not understand the meaning of teamwork in mathematics. In secondary schools, mathematics was taught one-way, from the teacher to the students. Discussions of questions in mathematics were deemed to be useless, as mathematics learning was supposed to be done on one’s own.
‘However, after joining this programme, I finally understood that mathematics can also be studied in the form of study group. Everyone has his/her own interest, and by forming ourselves into groups, we can relay the knowledge we read from books to others, and shorten the time they need to study the topics themselves. It is far more efficient than each of us taking on the textbooks individually.’
This learning mode is enabled by the wide range of physical and computing facilities as well as academic and logistical support provided by the Department of Mathematics. There is enough space for the students to hold meetings, symposiums and talks for academic and social purposes. The provision of multi-media facilities and the spacious learning environment can help students study in a relaxed way.
Hip-kuen went on to say, ‘Also, the professors in this programme are active and willing to answer academic and career-planning questions from us, sometimes over meals, to make sure we are on the right track and are getting the most out of the programme.’
The 36 teaching staff members are indeed another asset of the programme. Very few new students can help not being impressed by their knowledge, devotion and innovation. Hip-kuen recalled, ‘Different from the traditional style of giving examples and stating explicit theorems, I have met inspiring professors who are more concerned with helping us lay down a good foundation by offering us chances to explore the theorems ourselves, writing down our own proofs and deepening our memories by visualizing them either by pictures or diagrams.’
Hip-kuen has not been busy only in the classrooms or with his study group. He was one of the academic officers in the Mathematics Society of CUHK last year, and made quite a few friends. ‘Relationship among students in the Department is strong due to the presence of the Society and through organizing events for students to meet and socialize with each other. We have built a robust social network within the Department and this is useful in communication and for future careers.’ As the Department has students coming from all over the world to do cultural and academic exchanges, Hip-kuen is well adapted to a multi-cultural atmosphere, and well-prepared for the many exchange opportunities at renowned universities in the US, Europe and other parts of the world—Caltech, UCLA, MIT, etc. He is going to McGill University in Montreal for exchange, and opined, ‘Changing the location of studying can enrich my cultural experience and broaden my horizon. Moreover, this exchange programme can also help me find a most suitable learning method for mathematics, since the teaching styles in Hong Kong and in Canada are different.’
Like Hip-kuen, students of Enrichment Mathematics typically came with excellent results in public examinations like IB, GCE and DSE, in mathematics and other related subjects. Admission scholarships are available to every freshman and other scholarships to students with outstanding academic performance.
Although the programme admits only about 27 new students each year, the career fields for its graduates are many and varied. Many of them pursued an academic career after completing their PhDs in MIT, UCLA, Caltech, Princeton, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, etc. Many more work as educators, engineers, computer scientists, entrepreneurs and businessmen after obtaining sufficient mathematical, logical and critical thinking skills and the global vision they got from exchange programmes and academic conferences. Students with these goals in mind can also enter the mathematics programme through the science broad-based admission.
If you are mad with maths and considering Enrichment Mathematics, Professor Zou has this to say to you: ‘Studying advanced mathematics is never easy but the challenges and inspirations it brings you are more useful and powerful than you can imagine. Not to mention how unforgettable the global and academic vision you may gain here, you can utilize the knowledge you learn for good because mathematics is the only subject that touches every single aspect in life.’
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018