Saturday, May 18, 2024

Meet Camarines Sur’s Young Math Wizard


Meet Camarines Sur’s Young Math Wizard


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With his screen freezing several times due to an unstable internet connection and the clock ticking relentlessly, 10-year-old Kiefer Maverick Pasion mustered every ounce of willpower to overcome what was seemingly an insurmountable obstacle in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Mathematical Olympiad (Big Bay Bei) held online on March 25.

But the technical glitch could not derail the well-deserved win of this Camarines Sur pride, who was one of the final round gold winners of the annual international contest organized by the Olympiad Champion Education Centre in Hong Kong.

His recent victory earned him a spot in the Battle of the Gold of the World International Math Olympiad in Shenzhen, China, in January 2025.

Asked how he survived the grueling 90-minute online math competition, Pasion said there was a point when he was tempted to think that there was no way he could make it, but his grit and positive mindset just won over him.

Quoting Audrey Hepburn, the math prodigy said, “Nothing is impossible; the word itself says I’m possible.”


Math prodigy

Pasion’s love for numbers started when he was in kindergarten.

“I usually find it fun when I discover difficult questions that really challenge my brain into finding out how to answer them,” he said.

Now a Grade 5 student at Nabua Central Pilot School (NCPS) in Camarines Sur province, his mother, Leonora, said she only realized that her son’s inclination toward numbers went beyond mere fondness when he started competing when he was in Grade 3.

His first medal came in April 2022, when he won a bronze in the Philippine International Mathematical Olympiad (Heat Round).

In the same year, in October, he also bagged the bronze medal in the American Mathematics Olympiad and a silver in the Thailand International Mathematical Olympiad (Heat Round).

A month later, he clinched the silver medal in the Hong Kong International Science Olympiad (Heat Round) and took home the bronze in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Big Bay Bei) (Heat Round) in December.

Like a tree growing stronger with each passing season, Pasion continued his winning streak in 2023, adding 13 more medals in various national and international mathematical tilts.

This year, he is set to compete in the annual Philippine Mathematical Olympiad on April 14, the Thailand International Mathematical Olympiad (Final Round) on the 28th of the same month, and the Hong Kong International Mathematical Olympiad on May 26.

The youngest son of a tricycle driver and a housewife in a brood of three, this promising prodigy said it was his sister, Russle Joy, a civil engineer, who nurtured his exceptional gift.

“In my free time, my siblings, especially my sister, would help me solve practice problems at home. When she’s busy with work, I review on my own and look for more practice problems to widen my knowledge.”

Aside from his sister, he also credits his NCPS coach, Melvin Federis, for his success.


A “regular kid”

While Pasion has earned the moniker “math genius” in his school given the prestige he has brought to the institution, his mother said he is just a regular kid who also finds it hard to juggle his time because he is into a lot of extra-curricular activities.

Beyond his passion for numbers, he also dabbles in writing, even winning first place in the feature writing (English) category at the District Elementary Press Conference on March 23, 2024.

On top of that, he is also the vice president of the student body at NCPS.

But there is more to this young achiever than his academic achievements.

“Kiefer is a very generous, kind and hardworking boy,” Leonora said.

When he is not immersed in solving complex math equations or crafting compelling features, this young phenom watches anime and plays online games. Just like any other kid his age, he is also into dancing in Tiktok.

In a country where Filipino young learners remain among the world’s weakest in math, as revealed by the results of the Program for International Student Assessment 2022 rankings released in December 2023, Pasion’s achievements offer a flicker of hope to the education sector in its quest to improve math literacy in the Philippines.

While the task of addressing these learning gaps may seem daunting, it is, in the words of Pasion, “not impossible.”

“When you think something is difficult, don’t try to avoid it. Embrace it, study it, and gather information so you can find the solution,” he said. (PNA)