High achiever makes mark at Mathematics Competition

Bachelor of Science graduate Johnathan Leung represented the University of Auckland at the 2021 Simon Marais Mathematics Competition (SMMC) in October.

Johnathan Leung wrapped up the academic year with an impressive performance, scoring 29. This put him in the top 11.1% of all competitors, with the highest score for all of Aotearoa.

“For me, this event was an opportunity to take on a challenge and try to do something that is not covered in the usual university classes, and I was surprised to get a top result considering the difficulty of the competition,” said Leung.

The SMMC is a prestigious event that challenges the best and brightest undergraduates in mathematics from around the globe.

For me, this event was an opportunity to take on a challenge and try to do something that is not covered in the usual university classes, and I was surprised to get a top result considering the difficulty of the competition.

Johnathan Leung

Inspired by the Putnam Maths Competition, the annual event aims to encourage creative mathematic problem-solving, identify talented students, promote healthy competition, and connect competing academics.

The event is well renowned for its level of difficulty. “To succeed at the SMMC, a competitor needs to have mastered a broad base of advanced mathematics and be able to tackle problems that are not just new to them but are sometimes unsolved,” said Padraic Bartlett, a Professional Teaching Fellow at the University of Auckland.

The competition consists of two closed book sessions lasting three-hours each with a break in between.

The University of Auckland has consistently had strong representation at the SMMC, with students competing every year since the inaugural event in 2017, excluding 2020 due to Covid-19 disruptions.

The 2021 event was held online via Zoom due to Covid-19. Leung said this environment was not ideal, with sometimes noisy working conditions presenting a unique challenge.

The promising young academic has now completed his Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Maths and Computer Science, with his sights set on an Honours degree in Computer Science in 2022, and aspirations for a PhD in the future.

He would like to compete again in 2022 if the opportunity arises, and recommends the experience to others as a great way to academically challenge yourself and develop your problem solving skills. Even solving one problem is a big achievement.