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Chinese New Year of the Math Prodigy

Child genius.

A 9-year-old math prodigy began university life Tuesday – and promptly declared his first lesson “easy”.

“I learnt it two years ago,” March Tian Boedihardjo said after attending the lecture on mathematical analysis at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Asked what he had learned, he said: “You would not understand that.”

The Hong Kong-born Indonesian-Chinese was admitted to a five-year undergraduate and master’s program in math by the university last month after obtaining an A in both math and further math, and a B in statistics in the General Certificate of Education (GCE) A-levels in the United Kingdom. He has also taken courses in Oxford.

The Hong Kong university’s decision to admit him had sparked debate on whether such a young child could communicate with the older students and get used to campus life.

Yesterday, March was accompanied by his father, who carried his son’s school bag and raincoat. He will attend his son’s lessons for the first six months.

The little genius had a hectic schedule. He had a math class at 8:30 am, followed by a two-hour Spanish class at 11:30 am. He attended the convocation ceremony after lunch.

March said he felt excited getting into university as he could continue learning math.

However, unlike at the press conference held last month to announce his admission – where he seemed relaxed and toyed with the microphone – March appeared impatient and annoyed when meeting the media yesterday, continually asking his father whether he could leave.

March said he was confident that he would adapt to campus life and that he preferred to live in Hong Kong. “Life in the United Kingdom was boring,” he said.

March’s schoolmate Janice Yim, a translation major, said she attempted to greet the prodigy.

“But he did not respond. He was surrounded by his father and university staff. He was too shy,” she said.

But Fion Wong, a fellow student in the Spanish class, said she was impressed by March.

“He introduced himself in Spanish. He was eager to express himself and chat with the teacher,” she said.

Extra security staff were deployed on the campus to prevent reporters from sneaking into the classrooms.

University president Ng Ching-fai said they were confident that March will be nurtured well as they will allocate extra resources to help the child with his social skills and a tailor-made curriculum.

“We will adjust the curriculum if he finds it too easy,” he said.

“He is very impressive. He is still a child, but speaks in an orderly and logical manner,” he said.

Ng urged the media not to put the child under the spotlight.

“The pressure will affect his studies and annoy his schoolmates,” he said.

Not to mention Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will no doubt be jealous of the young boy’s skills in “calculation and tabulation.”

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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