This 17-Year-Old Girl From China Is a Math Prodigy, Defeating Students From MIT, Cambridge, and Stanford

  • Jiang Ping is from rural China. She studies math in her spare time as a self-taught mathematician.

  • She placed 12th in the finals of Alibaba’s math competition. Thousands of students were left out.

This 17-year-old chinese girl is a math prodigy. She has beaten students from MIT, Cambridge, and Stanford
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Jiang Ping is a 17-year-old girl from rural China. She studies fashion design at Lianshui Vocational High School in Jiangsu Province north of Shanghai. However, Jiang spends much of her free time studying math on her own—and she kept it secret. Until a few days ago, no one knew how good Jiang was at math. In fact, she has a great natural talent for this discipline, and she just proved it.

In China, the government designed vocational schools for students whose qualifications don’t allow them to enter secondary schools. Many vocational school students come from rural areas of the country, and most don’t continue studying. The ideal way to enter university is to gain access to a high school because it has the resources to prepare students for the entrance exam, which in China is known as the “gaokao.”

Jiang Ping’s Story Has Exposed the Inequality in China’s Education System

For the past six years, Damo Academy, part of the almighty Alibaba Group, has held a prestigious annual math competition that attracts Chinese students from the world’s top universities. Some come from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford in the U.S. or Cambridge in the UK, while others hail from Tsinghua University, one of China’s most prestigious universities.

Damo Academy will announce the final results in August, but somehow, no matter what, Jiang has already won.

Jiang was the center of attention during this competition. And she did it on her own. The fact that she studied math in her spare time and was self-taught didn’t prevent her from beating hundreds of students from the world’s top universities and advancing directly to the finals of the competition, which took place last weekend. Damo Academy will announce the final results in August, but no matter what, Jiang has already won.

In fact, she managed to place 12th in the tests on her way to the finals. There were 800 students at this stage. “Learning mathematics is difficult, but whenever I solve a problem, I feel very happy... I don’t care what the future holds. No matter what happens, I will continue to study math. I have never thought of giving up,” Jiang told the South China Morning Post.

The young woman’s story is exciting, no doubt. Still, more importantly, it highlights the inequalities inherent in China’s education system. “Jiang Ping’s story reminds us that we need to optimize the mechanism of talent identification and cultivation further so that talented and hardworking people can excel as early as possible,” China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency wrote.

Still, Jiang's access to the finals has sparked some controversy. Thirty-nine finalists sent a joint letter to the organizing committee questioning her math expertise. The committee has yet to rule on this complaint, but this conflict isn't stopping this young woman's story from inspiring millions of Chinese students. In fact, the video telling her story on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, already has more than 6 million likes. Good luck, Jiang Ping.

Imagen | Weibo

More info | SCMP | ABC News

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