On Pi Day, the MIT Club of Hong Kong and MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node jointly hosted a stimulating evening to discover the connection between math and creativity.

Po-Shen Loh demonstrates creative problem-solving on a 64-bit number square. Photo by Marina Chan.

Marina Chan | MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node
March 21, 2017

March 14 is Pi Day for math enthusiasts around the world, a celebration of the world’s most famous mathematical constant. In recent years at MIT, Pi Day has evolved into the Institute’s unofficial holiday. The Admissions Office announced its admission decisions on Pi Day, and on this day in 2017, MIT held its first 24-hour giving challenge.

Hong Kong joined in on the celebration. The MIT Club of Hong Kong and MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node co-hosted a talk with guest speaker, Po-Shen Loh, a math professor at Carnegie Mellon University and national coach for the USA International Mathematical Olympiad team.

Attended by an audience of educators, parents, and students from primary and secondary schools across Hong Kong, Loh shared the connection between learning math and creativity.

“Math helps dig deep into the axiom to find out how to solve a problem,” said Loh. “It’s like disruption.”

After demonstrating a math challenge live on an eight-by-eight number square, he revealed his methodology and urged the audience to “think of new ways to solve that no one has tried before – invent a new system.”

An advocate for education reform, Loh offered practical advice for parents and educators. “Teach creative ways to decompose a problem. The best way is not to do drills; do smart drills, with interesting puzzles.”

Since leading the Olympiad team, Loh has brought home USA’s first win in 21 years and also the nation’s first consecutive win after taking home the top spot in last year’s competition held in Hong Kong. He attributed the turnaround in part to the rise of communities harnessing the power of the internet and personalized learning, which he believes has “the ability to convert interest into incredible performance.” Loh is tapping into this learning revolution with his own education technology startup, expii.com.