The stereotype is obsolete, but there are those who still believe the subject of mathematics is male territory, not made for girls. Sea Navy, a grade nine student at the ICS International School (ICSIS), is actively debunking it.
The 14-year-old received a perfect score of 6.0 in the Mathematics Cambridge Checkpoint examination, administered last year, and she has a certificate issued by Cambridge University to prove it.
The exam is not limited to Cambridge University but is available to many international students in participating schools, including those at ICSIS.
It is intended to test students’ aptitude in mathematics and sciences, and the results are graded on a scale of zero to six. Students’ exam papers are sent to England for grading, then mailed back directly to their respective schools.
Sea Navy’s strategies for success were simple. “I need to read every problem until I get an idea of how to solve it,” she says, adding: “When I complete all the problems, I go back over them multiple times to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes in my calculations.” Along with her remarkable result on the Cambridge exam, Sea Navy has also won contests in spelling, mathematics and computer typing hosted by ICSIS itself.
Asked how she prepares for these contests, Sea Navy explains: “I usually read a lot and watch movies in English to improve my language skills and mathematical problem- solving ability.”
Two other grade 9 girls at ICSIS, Vuth Rattanak Vatey, 14, and Siv Thida, 14, earned high marks in the Cambridge Checkpoint Examination. Not surprisingly, they both listed mathematics as their favourite subject because it doesn’t require them to memorise a lot of information.
If they remember the appropriate form-ula, they can solve problems on the spot by using logic.
“I’ve loved maths since I was a child, and as I grow older I’ve put more effort and practice into it, which makes me love it even more,” Sea Navy says. “When I manage to solve a problem, it encourages me to solve another one.”
ICSIS vice-principal Martin R. Tosh says the school offers three courses: science, mathematics and English. “We’re particularly proud of our students here, especially these young ladies because we know they’ve all worked extremely hard despite having short recreation breaks,” he says.
These young women are changing gender stereotypes one incredible test score at a time. Hopefully, their achievements will encourage other young Cambodian maths enthusiasts to enter the competition.