Home» News» News» Media»

Math genius gains attention

JUN . 01 2021
Peking University, June 1: As the national college entrance exams approach and people are cheering for the college candidates, a video of a Peking University math teacher has become popular on the internet.

In the video, he introduces himself as an undergraduate and graduate student in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Peking University, the champion of Shandong province in the high school mathematics league, and a gold medalist in the Mathematics Olympiad, which has also guaranteed him admission to Peking University.

Netizens immediately recognized that this unassuming teacher was a real big shot, known as Chen Jingrun's successor and a rare mathematical genius — Wei Dongyi!

Childhood and adolescence

Wei Dongyi was born in 1991 in Shandong to a highly intellectual family. His father was a university mathematics professor who always kept many mathematics books at home. As a child, Wei Dongyi's favorite hobby was to read his father's books. In his first year in primary school, he read a book titled Loo-keng Hua's School of Mathematics, which gave him a different kind of joy by solving the problems. He has been fascinated by mathematics ever since.

Wei Dongyi joined the middle school's Olympiad training team at an early age and trained with a group of high school students in his junior year. During his senior year, he was selected for the Mathematics Olympiad National Training Team.

There are eight exams to go through in the training team, and each exam contains four questions, allowing students to solve them in three hours. Zhang Yijia, a gold medalist in the National Mathematics Olympiad, could only complete one or two questions in four hours.

Of these 24 questions, Wei Dongyi completed 23 and a half, a record that even his coach was amazed by. He often solved all the questions in the first hour of the test. Many of the methods he used were self-invented and were much more concise than the standard processes, and became known as the "Wei Method".

Therefore, the coaches of the national team would observe the time taken by Wei Dongyi to finish the exam to estimate the difficulty of the questions.

Two gold medals with perfect scores in IMO

What made Wei Dongyi famous was his amazing performance at the IMO (International Mathematical Olympiad) which has long been considered the most prestigious of the five major subject competitions.

Wei Dongyi participated in the 49th IMO and got his results: of six questions, 100 percent accuracy with full marks.

More than 500 top competitors from all over the world participated that year, and only three of them achieved a full score. Wei was one of the three. It is said that the most difficult question of the year was the finale of the plane geometry problem, which Wei Dongyi easily solved using pure algebraic methods.

It is not easy to get a full gold medal in such a world-class competition. A year later, Wei Dongyi came back again.

In this competition, Wei beat the legendary Tao Zhexuan, who taught himself calculus at the age of seven and won the IMO gold medal at the age of 12, by a time ratio of 1:7. Tao Zhexuan was invited to solve the sixth problem of the finale, which took him seven hours, while Wei Dongyi took only one hour in the competition.

That year, he was a sophomore in high school.

Years in Peking University

After winning the IMO twice, Wei Dongyi enrolled in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Peking University.

In one of the classes where Wei was the teaching assistant, the professor introduced himself to the students as follows, "If there is something you don't understand when solving a math problem, you can ask me. If I don't know the answer, you can ask the teaching assistant. If the teaching assistant doesn't know it then I guess the topic is wrong."

What makes him famous around the campus is his brilliant performance in the Yau Shing-tung Student Mathematics Competition.

There are 58 textbooks to study in preparing for the Yau Shing-tung Student Mathematics Competition, covering three times the textbooks of the mathematics department in both Tsinghua Univeristy and Peking University.

Wei Dongyi won four gold medals in analysis, geometry, probability and application, in addition to algebra, as well as the individual all-around gold medal.

Rejects Harvard offer

Wei graduated with high scores from Peking University in 2014, and got an appealing offer from Harvard University who promised to exempt him from taking English language tests. Without hesitation however, he chose to stay at Peking University for his master's degree, after which he got his PhD in only three and half years.

In 2019, Wei completed his post-doctoral work and became an assistant professor in the Mathematics Department of Peking University.

In the following years Wei published 25 papers, many of which were in leading international journals.

Source: China Daily