July 28, 2023
PHNOM PENH – The Singapore International Math Olympiad Challenge (SIMOC) came to a grand conclusion on July 25, having drawn an impressive pool of over 1,600 contenders from 25 nations.
Notably, this included 37 bright young minds from an array of Cambodian educational institutions.
Among these keen mathematicians who collectively bagged an astounding total of 42 medals, the shining star was undoubtedly Thavrak Bunn Vattanak.
At 15, Vattanak clinched a gold medal in the prestigious Math Olympiad Contest.
This victory was particularly noteworthy as it marked the return of Cambodian participants to the international arena after a gap of six years.
“This is a momentous year. After a six-year hiatus, Cambodian candidates have returned to the SIMOC, securing three top spots and a gold medal in this elite mathematical competition,” remarked Yem Sophorn, the Singapore International Math Contests Centre country representative for Cambodia.
A distinctive feature of the SIMOC is its emphasis on problem-solving skills evaluated via written tasks, alongside the cultivation of teamwork through interactive games and brain teasers. Aspirants are pitted against their global peers, with an eye on both individual and team accolades.
The competition is divided into three categories, namely the Math Olympiad Contest, an individual category, and two team-based events, the Mind Sports Challenge and the Maths Warriors.
Each offers its own distinct set of hurdles and prospects for the contestants to exhibit their mathematical prowess and tactical acumen.
Vattanak’s triumphant journey was not confined to the Math Olympiad Contest.
He further demonstrated his mathematical versatility with a bronze in the Mind Sports Challenge and a silver in the Maths Warriors Competition.
“With the cumulative scores from all three competitions, I achieved the second-highest score globally, earning me a trophy to take back home,” Vattanak reflected.
The Math Olympiad Contest is a written examination designed for individuals and covers 11 progressive levels, accommodating students from Grade 1 through to Grades 11 or 12.
Each participant has a time limit of 90 minutes to answer a total of 25 questions. The test starts with an encouraging 15 bonus points, with the maximum attainable score set at a commendable 85 points.
Section A comprises 15 multiple choice questions where correct answers garner two points, unanswered questions receive zero, and incorrect answers incur a penalty of minus one point.
Section B, on the other hand, includes 10 open-ended questions, with each correct answer gaining four points and no penalty for errors.
The Maths Warriors is a captivating game devised by Henry Ong, founder of SASMO, back in 2002. Its mission was to enhance students’ mental arithmetic and mastery of times tables, testing their mental agility and strategic planning capabilities.
Originally launched in Singapore, Maths Warriors found its way into the esteemed Singapore International Math Olympiad Challenge in 2015. Its success prompted a contribution to Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports marking its debut as a national contest.
In 2020, a collaboration with the Cambodian Mathematical Society was initiated. Its focus is to boost the professional growth of teachers and provide an increased number of scholarships for Cambodian students and educators.
Plans are afoot to extend it to a national-level competition in other ASEAN nations as well.
The Mind Sports Challenge is a riveting one-hour activity, where teams join forces to solve tangible puzzles, earning points based on their problem-solving prowess.
As Vattanak gears up to advance to the 12th grade in a fortnight, he underscored the significance of early skills enhancement for Cambodian students who have set their sights on international competition.
Vattanak’s accomplishment underscores the potential harboured by young Cambodian mathematicians, and he intends to carry this winning streak into the 2023 International Mathematical Olympiad slated to take place in Indonesia.
The team’s victory haul included an impressive 13 gold, six silver, and 23 bronze medals, along with three students clinching top spots in the 11th-grade combination programme.
Another young prodigy, Kongvong Udom Pisoth, a 10th grader from the New Generation School at Preah Sivath High School, brought further honour to Cambodia. He managed to secure a bronze medal in the esteemed Mind Sports Challenge at SIMOC.
Though the Mind Sports Challenge enjoys popularity across Asia, it’s still a burgeoning concept in Cambodia, often regarded more as a game than a mathematical discipline, as Pisoth observed.
“The Mind Sports Challenge transcends simple puzzle-solving; participants earn points reflecting their problem-solving prowess,” he shared with The Post.
‘Preparation is key’
Not to be outdone, Kosal Sokha Vitou, a fellow 10th grader from the same school, achieved won gold in the distinguished Maths Warriors (team-based) category at the 2023 Singapore International Math Olympiad Challenge.
“I had to go beyond the state curriculum and familiarise myself with previous exam patterns to clinch the medal,” Vitou told to The Post.
In the Maths Warriors event, Vitou collaborated with other international students, exhibiting his strategic thinking and mental arithmetic skills.
The achievement marks a major milestone in Vitou’s mathematical journey.
Vattanak, Pisoth and Vitou have been active participants in international math competitions since 2019, garnering numerous awards in bronze, silver and gold.
“We urge our peers to engage in national and international competitions across various disciplines.
Thorough preparation is key, whether through formal education at a mainstream school or independent study,” the trio stated upon their return from Singapore on July 25.
Sophorn extolled the students’ accomplishments and called for more Cambodians to take part in national and international competitions.
Eligibility for the competition extends to those who have bagged gold, silver, or bronze medals in renowned math contests such as the Singapore and Asian Schools Math Olympiad, American Mathematics Olympiad, or Singapore Math Challenge held in Cambodia.
“Following this splendid performance, I believe there are numerous capable Cambodian candidates who could participate in this competition. The only roadblocks are resource limitations or lack of awareness about competition details,” Sophorn stated.
Furthermore, for highly capable Cambodian candidates who are financially constrained, Sophorn invites them to contact him directly on Telegram at 092 889 859 to explore scholarship opportunities for this competition.
For additional examination details, visit the SIMCC Cambodia Telegram team at https://t.me/+spvMALns7w40Y2Fl.
Cambodia’s performance at the Singapore International Math Olympiad Challenge highlights the ascending prowess of its young mathematical talent.
With sustained support and increased opportunities, many more such success stories will be expected.