### Solo study is a factor for prodigy

#### Math wizard has drawn comparisons with some of the brightest stars in the field

Nov 28,2009
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| Lee Su-hong, center, solves math problems on the board with students majoring in mathematics at a student lounge in the math department at Seoul National University. By Park Jong-keun |

Lee Su-hong, 16, a freshmen majoring in mathematics at Seoul National University, is not only the youngest person in Korean history to gain entry to Seoul National University, he has just won a major prize as the youngest contestant at the 28th annual Korea Undergraduate Mathematics Competition, which was held last month.

The contestants in the event are divided into two groups. One is for undergraduates majoring in mathematics or related study; the other is for students studying other majors.

Lee overwhelmed a total of 262 competitors in the first group to take the top prize.

Scholars in the Korean mathematical society are stunned with this youngster’s performance, saying that his studying methods are remarkable.

Lee has been studying by himself since he entered the university. He didn’t receive separate education for gifted children or special training from professors.

“I knew he was very talented but not like this. It is not easy to find a gifted person like him in the world,” said Lee Seung-hun, a professor of mathematics at Youngdong University in Yeongdong County, North Chungcheong.

Whenever he has questions, the student resolves the problem by searching either reference books or online.

He has no instructor to help him.

In one case, the professor found out that the young man would go right into modern algebra, a fundamental subject for learning factorization in prime factors, after studying prime numbers.

“Nowadays I am hooked up with linear algebra,” the math whiz said. “It is very interesting for me to realize the essence of problems one at a time.”

His grade point average for last spring semester was 4.06 out of total 4.3. He got As in all courses except Korean language, for which he got an A-.

The youngster not only studies, though. He’s also in three music clubs.

“The young man is a well-rounded gifted person whose intelligence and emotional quotient are equally developed,” said Kim Myung-hwan, a professor of mathematics at SNU.

Experts said expectations on Lee Su-hong are as high as those on Kim Yu-na, the national figure skating icon, and Park Tae-hwan, the nation’s first Olympic swimming gold medalist.

Scholars have also compared the young student with Terence Tao, a 34-year-old Chinese-Australian mathematics prodigy teaching at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Tao was awarded the Fields Medal, often described as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics, last year.

The medal is awarded to two to four mathematicians under 40 years old at each International Congress of the International Mathematical Union, a meeting held every four years.

The prize money to the recipient, worth $15,000, comes from the estate of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields.

Tao and Lee Su-hong were both the youngest gold medalists ever to participate in the International Mathematical Olympiad. They were both 15.

“I believe the Korean mathematical sector could be improved due to Lee’s performance and contribution,” said Kim Do-han, president of the Korean Mathematical Society, an academic organization.

“I am sure that a Korean mathematician could be awarded the Fields Medal in the near future.”

By Lim Mi-jin [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]