Aanya Goyal, a 13-year-old pupil at Alleyn's School in Dulwich, south London, recently made history when she become the youngest schoolgirl to be selected for the UK team which will compete at the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO) next month.
The maths lover, who had the backing of her maths coach father and former Olympian himself, Amit Goyal, used the extended period of lockdown last year to throw herself further into her passion of mathematical problem-solving. She focussed her time on a series of exams organised by the UK Mathematics Trust (UKMT) for the tough selection process for the British team at the EGMO, which is being hosted by Georgia in a part-remote setting this year.
Over 600,000 secondary school students across the UK appear for the UKMT challenges every year and only the top 1,000 are invited to the British Mathematical Olympiad in November each year. Of these, the top 100 are invited to Round 2 of the British Mathematical Olympiad in January – a three-and-a-half-hour competition comprising four challenging problems. Aanya went on achieve a Distinction and was ranked among the top four girls to be selected for the UK team for the EGMO, also becoming the youngest – a record held by a 15-year-old until now.
Here she speaks to iGlobal about what the achievement means to her and what makes maths such a favourite for her.
What does maths mean to you?
Maths means problem solving. Before I started school and in primary, I did a lot of puzzles, crosswords, sudoku variants, kakuro, etc. In secondary, I did codebreaking, cipher challenges, chess, and linguistics. I have been exempted from normal maths lessons at school.
The Olympiad problems are all about being creative and digging deep. Sometimes, a problem can take many days to solve but it is all about not giving up easily and to keep coming up with new ideas.
What is your message for others out there who might find it a tough subject?
I would say that many students do not give maths a real chance. The adults keep repeating that maths is tough and that is what people of my age have heard all their life so a few of them adopt it as a reality.
In England, adults constantly joke about being bad at maths creating low expectations, so many students think it is ok to be bad at maths.
The more you practise, not only does maths become easier it also becomes more exciting and rewarding. But if you approach maths without confidence and without a real heart then it can become pointless and cold.
What is your career dream that you would like to work towards?
At the moment, I am focussed on winning a medal for the UK at the EGMO. I do maths for the joy I get out of it and not for any career goals.
I will study maths at university but my career choices include law and politics. I also happen to be in the shortlist of 50, again mainly sixth formers, from which the UK team for the International Linguistics Olympiad, to be held in Latvia in July 2021, will be selected next month.
What are the plans for the EGMO championship?
The EGMO in Georgia has been transformed into a hybrid event due to Covid, with individual countries deciding whether to travel or to participate remotely. The UK has chosen the remote option.
The UK team will likely meet in one location but the details are not finalised. I am the only one in the team from London.