Our outreach: effort and history

Department’s Outreach Effort

There are three major directions of the outreach effort of the department. These works are targeted at different receivers with an emphasis on people who are more interested in mathematics, so that our effort is in line with the mission of the department. Hang Lung Mathematics Awards (HLMA) aims at the high school students who would have a potential of scientific research and likely will study beyond undergraduate. Enrichment Programme for Young Mathematics Talent (EPYMT) targets at high school students who have a strong ability in mathematics who will continue their university study in areas that requires good quantitative and analytical skills. The department also takes every opportunity to present interesting and motivational public talks for students, teachers, and parents. A particular series of public lectures is called New Wave Mathematics.

Hang Lung Mathematics Awards (HLMA)

Mission

HLMA is to encourage secondary school students to realize their creative potential in mathematics and sciences by stimulating their passion for intellectual discovery; to promote spirit of mathematical research among them; and by this to enhance the standard of mathematics education in Hong Kong.

About it

HLMA started in 2004. The award ceremony is held biennially at the end of every even year. Registration begins in the middle of every odd year so that students may do the research for 18 months.

Each time, at most 8 awards are given out. The awards are 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze, and 5 Honorable Mention.

Since participating in a research has no guarantee of having a concrete result, the table below shows statistics at two stages of participation.

Year

Number of Participation

Students

Teams

Schools

Submitted research

2004

400

110

60

53

2006

300

100

51

55

2008

230

80

50

50

2010

340

100

75

46

2012

250

90

62

44

2014

220

70

42

34

2016

240

80

60

46

2018

260

90

60

55

The Team Formation and Submission

In order to encourage the spirit of exploration and research, the design of HLMA has been flexible and only necessary requirements are imposed. Each team consists of at most 5 students from the same registered secondary school in Hong Kong. Except being in the same school, there is no further condition on team members. Each team is supervised by a teacher of the school. The teacher only provides support and guidance, but not actively participated in the research process. A school may have several teams and a teacher may supervise more than one teams, but a student can only belong to a single team.

A team may submit a research report before a specified deadline (usually it is the end of August). There is only very minimal requirement, just involving the format of a title page, an abstract, and the main paper. In general, it is suggested to be written in the style of an academic paper and it should follow the academic standard of integrity and making reference.

The 4-Stage Assessment Process

After the submission deadline, an internal screening is performed by the screening panel, usually consists of 4 to 5 teachers of the department. The aim is to screen out reports of too low quality which do not need further review. After some years of reputation of HLMA, submissions are usually of reasonable standard and about 90% of the submission will proceed for further review. This internal screening process takes about 3 weeks.

The next assessment process is external review for about 2 months until late November. Each paper that goes into this stage will be sent to 3 external referees. These referees are mathematicians from all over the world. We have about 35 regular referees and we also seek reviews from particular experts for some special submitted research topic. Since usually there are 40 to 45 papers to review, that means we will receive 120 to 135 referee reports. All these referee reports are documented by an online interface which automatically sorts the better reviewed papers to the top.

The third assessment stage overlaps with the above stage. Around mid-November, when more external reviews are available on the online platform, members of the Scientific Committee will start to study the reviews and the submitted papers. Usually, there are 20 to 25 very good research projects which receive recommendation by at least 2 external referees. The Scientific Committee will focus on these projects and select the best 13 to 15. These shortlisted teams will be invited to attend an interview in mid-December in front of the whole Scientific Committee.

The final assessment stage is the so-called oral defense by these shortlisted teams. Each team first makes a brief presentation, which is open to be seen by the public attending the event. The video recording of this part is also made public on the internet. Then, it is a closed door interrogation by the Scientific Committee.

After all these, the Scientific Committee will decide the winners according to their judgment of the academic quality of the works by the teams.

Promotion and website

Before registration, that is, in the first half of every odd year, there are two rounds of posters and flyers sent to every secondary school in Hong Kong. Detail information is given in the website for the HLMA, https://hlma.math.cuhk.edu.hk. Student teams will register directly on the website.

Financial overview

For each time (biennially), the monetary prize for the 8 awards is HK$1 million for winning teams, teachers, and schools directly given out by Hang Lung Properties. There are also 3 full-tuition and 5 half-tuition scholarships, which currently worth HK$687,500, given out by the department. There is an operation money of HK$1.4 million donated by Hang Lung Properties, and an estimated amount of at least HK$600,000 on ceremony and banquet spent by Hang Lung Properties.

Participant Achievement

We have been trying to maintain contact with participants of in order to know of their development and let them share their experiences. However, since participants usually have diverse interest and development besides mathematics, it is easier for us to maintain longer contact with those who continue in mathematics.

Most of them finished their high schools with brilliant performance and entered prestigious universities. Besides mathematics, many of them entered medical school, engineering or science; even English Literature, Psychology, and Pharmacy. Some of them went abroad either for undergraduate or graduate studies. The universities attended include Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick in UK; MIT, Columbia, Cornell in the Northeast of USA to Stanford, Caltech, USC in the Southwest. In each of 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, there are winners who had completed PhD and developed their career in research and universities education. Participants of 2012 and 2014 usually have completed undergraduate study and we know of several PhD candidates. There are also some who have notable achievement. For example, a winner in 2004 is now a neural scientist and a medical doctor; another winner in 2008 has won an award in optimization due to his leading research.

Enrichment Programme for Young Mathematics Talent (EPYMT)

Mission

EPYMT is an educational programme for gifted high school students in Hong Kong who have strong mathematics ability. It serves as a nourishing ground for excellence to emerge. It provides further mathematical excitement and challenges for students who will be future leaders in science, engineering, and finance.

About it

EPYMT started in July 2002. From 2002 to 2006, each year there were 5 courses distributed in Sept-Dec (Saturdays), Jan-May (Saturdays), July, August. From 2006 to 2017, each year there were 4 courses in the summer. Last summer (2019), 5 courses were offered. In some years, 1 to 3 courses were provided for other units, including HK Academy of Gifted Education, Gifted Education Unit of Education Department of HKSAR, or Summer Institute of CUHK.

Most of the courses are designed to reach the level of 1st year in most universities. A few harder courses have content of final year university. Most courses have about 35-40 enrollment, while the harder ones usually have 15-20 enrolment. The average enrolment of a year is about 135.

Promotion and website

Posters and flyers are sent to all high schools in Hong Kong in December and February each year. Advertisement may be placed in several major newspapers. Online application starts in April. Details of the courses are given in the website of EPYMT, https://epymt.math.cuhk.edu.hk.

Financial Overview

EPYMT started by a private donation and received support from Quality Education Fund. Since 2007, it is supported mainly by department private fund and course fee collected from students. Students having family financial difficulty will have fee waiver. In addition to the fee, the department commits an extra funding of $40,000 per course. In other words, for 4-5 courses a year, the funding on top of fee income is about $160,000-200,000.