September 7, 2016

Peter Peng Helps U.S. Team to Gold Medal; PRISMS Student Stars in Hong Kong Olympiad

Peter Peng:Joseph Li IMO

NOT RIO, BUT HONG KONG: Junyao (Peter) Peng (right), with his PRISMS math teacher Joseph Li, shows off his gold medal, won as a member of the U.S. team at the 57th International Mathematical Olympiad in Hong Kong this past summer. (Photo Courtesy of PRISMS)

Rio was not the only spot on the globe for Olympian accomplishments and impressive displays of gold medals this past summer. 

In Hong Kong at the 57th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), the United States team won first place for the second straight year — and Junyao (Peter) Peng), a senior at Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS) was one of six members of the U.S. team.

The world’s most prestigious high school math competition, the IMO hosted teams from more than 100 countries. Over a three-day period in early July, the 602 student competitors in Hong Kong worked individually to solve math problems. The individual scores were combined to make up the team total, and the U.S. scored highest with 214 points out of a possible 252, ahead of South Korea in second place (207) and China third (204).

“Peter has a keen interest in math,” said Joseph Li, Peter’s teacher and head of the math department at PRISMS. “In fact he is interested in everything about numbers and logic: puzzles. mathematical journals, card games, etc. Peter has already begun to do math research like an undergraduate.”

Marilee Jones, PRISMS assistant principal, described Peter as “a big math talent and a wonderful kid,” and Mr. Li emphasized Peter’s range of attributes, “Peter has a lot of interests other than math. He likes playing soccer and is the best defender on our team. He respects and understands other people and he is good at collaboration and communication.”

The six members of the U.S. team were selected by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) through a series of competitions culminating in the USA Mathematical Olympiad. Following his selection, Mr. Peng joined 75 peers for three weeks of problem-solving immersion at the MAA Olympiad training program in June at Carnegie Mellon University.

Mr. Li, who in addition to his work at PRISMS is also an experienced coach of math competitions and the deputy leader of the Chinese IMO team, further praised Peter’s great success and the success of the program at PRISMS.

“At PRISMS,” Mr. Li noted, “Peter is not alone. Students on the math team here have a lot of discussion about interesting math challenges. From my point of view that is the best way to learn. Everybody on the team benefits from that, and PRISMS’s Falcons have become one of the best high school math teams in the whole country and have won many team awards.”

Located on Lambert Drive off Rosedale Road, PRISMS is a highly selective, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)-focused international boarding and day school for grades 9-12. It was founded in 2013, with its first graduating class of 18 last June. Founded on the concept of combining principles of China’s STEM education and America’s STEM education, PRISMS emphasizes the research process and the acquisition of research skills, such as open-minded inquiry, problem-solving, innovation, intellectual honesty, and risk-taking.

Urging others to follow Peter’s example, Mr. Li said, “I have found a lot of talent in New Jersey, especially around Princeton. I have met many students in this area who are very clever and good at math. My suggestion to these kids is: consider math as a game, find more fun in math, challenge yourself and you will find that fun.”