Three Cambodian students won gold awards in the grade 12 math competition at the Singapore and Asian Schools Math Olympiads (SASMO). A total of 33,679 candidates from 28 countries competed in the tough contest.
Lim Chhingy, was the highest ranked among the three.
“Of the grade 12 students, I was the top Cambodian, and placed 81st out of 94 students at the regional and global level,” said Chhingy.
The overall winner was a student from the Philippines.
Based on the large number of students participating, SASMO decided that just 40 per cent of the contestants would medal, with the group broken down into gold, silver and bronze.
“It feels amazing to know that out of 38 countries and over 30,000 entrants, I am in the top 100. I am very proud of my achievement, and dedicate my win to my family and my society,” she said.
The SASMO Math Competition was established in 2006, and is one of the largest math exams in Asia.
It expanded from 155 local participants in 2006 to more than 20,000 from 19 countries in the 2016 tournament. By 2019, the number of candidates jumped to over 30,000.
According to the SASMO website, the medallists came from Azerbaijan, Brazil, Cambodia,Canada, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, USA, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the competition was held on paper for those in Singapore and online for those outside the country.
“SASMO is not only a math competition that seeks out the best students, but also builds confidence among all students,” said the website.
Chhingy has been competing in domestic and international math competitions since 2020.
She won gold at the Angkor Mathematics and the Math Kangaroo Cambodia competitions, while SASMO 2020 was her first international event. In grade 10 at the time, she won a silver medal.
“Originally, I applied for the international programme just to gain experience and did not expect to win a medal. I knew someone who had done the competition, so I wanted to do it too. My first experience was successful, so I have continued to focus on learning more and adding to my knowledge,” she told The Post.
When she first heard about this year’s competition, she began researching the exams and studied previous papers. The exam was held online in May via a link, and cost $25 per subject.
“You had 90 minutes to sit the exam, which had 25 questions. 15 of them were multiple choice and the remaining 10 needed to be answered and our working shown,” she said.
When she participated in the 2020 competition she did not notice many Cambodian entrants, but as the global pandemic left many students isolated at home, many turned to searching the internet and researching the exams. A Telegram group with over 3,000 members was set up to share information.
“In 2020, I had a tough time even applying for the exam, as I was not very computer literate. Telegram was not widely used at that time either. When it came time to sit the examination, I struggled with the online platform. I had never studied in a private school, so using Zoom was really new to me. I didn’t even know how to type,” she recalled.
Chhingy, who is gaining popularity for her math skills, said that the SASMO exam was at a far higher level than her grade 12 curriculum. It was only because of her extensive research that she was able to win gold.
In order to get familiar with the subject, she spent six months to one year studying high level mathematics. Because Covid-19 restrictions kept her from going out much at all, she was able to focus on mathematics.
“This year, Cambodian students won more than 40 gold medals. We also brought home many silver and bronze awards. Over 100 Cambodians participated, in grades one to 12,” she said.
The grade 12 student from Chea Sim Santhor Mok High School admitted that she did not complete all 25 questions, but completed more than half of the exam.
She said that many exercises were not included in her school curriculum, and were very complicated. She would like the education ministry to include higher level mathematics, but accepted that it might not be possible yet.
“We should look at the ability of most students. Because some won’t easily grasp these high level ideas, it might not be worth the ministry introducing them. Exercises like the ones in the exam require a great deal of concentration, and not all students are capable of this,” she said.
Chhingy’s mother Chheng Somara expressed her excitement at her daughter’s achievement.
“I’m very happy because I know it wasn’t easy. I don’t demand perfect scores from her, but I am very happy and satisfied with my daughter’s result,” she said.
She said her daughter did a lot of work at home on math and English writing exercises during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The proud mother, who wants her daughter to pursue a career in medicine, said: “If my child is awarded a scholarship and goes abroad to study, I won’t stop her – I will congratulate her. I don’t want to keep her just here, but want her to have a successful life. Nowadays, gender biases are changing and all young people, male and female, should be encouraged to live independently.”
Chhingy loves medicine, business and training for international competitions. She has ambitions to pursue international scholarships.
“I want to encourage all students to be brave and self-confident, as well as to train harder. When I first attempted the competition, I was not a strong student, but I worked hard to improve and am a proud gold award winner,” she said.