Pure Mathematicians versus Applied Mathematicians

“A pure mathematician, when stuck on the problem under study, often decides to narrow the problem further and so avoid the obstruction. An applied mathematician interprets being stuck as an indication that it is time to learn more mathematics and find better tools” 

Distinguished differential geometer Eugenio Calabi

Ref: https://www.quantamagazine.org/20151203-big-datas-mathematical-mysteries/

Prof ST Yau’s 丘成桐 Talk to Chinese Youth on Math Education 

Prof ST Yau 丘成桐 , Chinese/HK Harvard Math Dean, is the only 2 Mathematicians in history (the other person is Prof Pierre Deligne of Belgium) who won ALL 3 top math prizes: Fields Medal 1982 (at 27, proving Calabi Conjecture), Crafoord Prize (1994) , Wolf Prize (2010).

Key Takeaways :

1. On Math Education
◇ Compulsary Math training for reasoning skill applicable in Economy, Law, Medicine, etc.
◇ Study Math Tip: read the new topic notes 1 day before the lecture, then after lecture do the problems to enhance understanding.
◇ Read Math topics even though you do not understand in first round, re-read few more times,  then few days / months / years / decades later you will digest them. (做学问的程序).
◇ Do not consult students in WHAT to teach, because they don’t know what to learn.
◇ Love of Math beauty is the “pull-factor” for motivating  students’ interest in Math.
◇ Parental Pressure.

2. “3D” facial photo using Math

3. Pi-Music: 1 = “do”, 2 = “re”, 3 =”me”…
Pi =3.1415926…

4. Math Olympiad: Prof ST Yau had criticised publicly it as a bad Math training, not the “real” Math. 

An audience tested Prof ST Yau on a Math (Accounting) Puzzle which he couldn’t  solve on the spot. He said Mathematicians are poor in +-×÷ arithmetic. 

5. Chinese students in USA: China sends over 200,000 students to USA universities. They are good in secondary / high school Math with known solutions,  but poor in graduate PhD Math which requires “out-of-the-box” independent thinking skill for finding unknown solutions. Recent few years Chinese students (eg. Stanford Prof 李骏 : 1989 Harvard PhD)  in USA have improved standard in PhD research.

6. Research is not for fame. It takes many years to think through an interesting topic.


1. Prof ST Yau’s Best Seller Book 《The Shape of Inner Space》avail @ NLB (Ref #530.1) 11 copies in most NLB branches@ AMK, Bishan etc.

2. Interview Prof ST Yau by HK TV (Cantonese)

3. 丘成桐 (2008) 评中国 和 美 国的教育 : 中国学生不爱看课外书, 因为考试太重, 课余时间花在玩电脑游戏。

4.  丘成桐 (2016): 中国大学本科要注重基础教育, 才能培养世界级一流人才