For some kids, Math is not one of their top talents or hobbies. But for others, it’s a passion. Known as the Mozart of Math, Terence Tao is a renowned mathematician. He’s won over 27 notable awards, and has a IQ of 230. Thats the 3rd highest IQ ever recorded! Here’s his story
Terence Tao was born on July 17, 1975. His home country Is Australia but his roots are Chinese. It could be said that Terence was born with a gift and a love for numbers. When he was 2 years old, Terence attempted to teach 5-year-old children how to read, and count numbers. You heard me, he taught kids 3 years older than him! When asked how he himself learned, he replied saying he had been watching Sesame Street. Even now, Terence doesn’t even remember that.
His parents tried sending him to a private school, but a little over a month later, they pulled him out. The teachers didn’t know how to teach someone with his level of skill and knowledge. He was so ahead of the game to a point where he was skipping grades. At the age of 7, he began high school, 8 years before other kids would normally start. He was already teaching himself calculus at the time.
When I was seven or eight, whenever I was getting too rowdy at night, my parents would give me a math workbook to work on to quieten me down.Terence Tao
Two years later, 9-year-old Terence started University… No I’m not joking. His mom began driving Terence back and forth between his High School and University classes. After school, he would spend most of his free time reading math textbooks, sometimes up to three or four hours! Unlike most kids, this was something Terence enjoyed and loved doing. The role his parents played was just guiding him along this path. Everything else he taught himself.
A year later, at 10 years old, Terence entered the 1986 International Mathematical Olympiad, winning the Bronze Medal. In the following 2 years, Terence would go to win the Silver and Gold Medals in the 1987, and 1988 Olympiad. Not only was he the youngest IMO competitor to this date, he’s the youngest to win all three medals, and he was only 13!
“I don’t have any magical ability. I look at a problem, play with it, work out a strategy.”Terence Tao
After his success, 14-year-old Terence began attending Flinders University. It was only then when he realized that Math wasn’t just a game like the logic puzzles, and board games he played as a kid. He thought mathematicians just solved random problems that were given to them, not knowing it could be used to solve and understand real world situations, and that one could make a living out of it.
“I always liked numbers. When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to be a mathematician, but I had no idea what that entailed.”Terence Tao
At 15, he wrote his first research paper, one of many to come. He soon graduated, receiving his bachelors and masters degree at 16! He was then given a scholarship to Princeton University. Moving to America, Terence studied for 4 years before earning his PhD at 21. That’s 4 years faster than the average student.
In 1996, when he was 24, he became the youngest professor of the University of California. He’s gone on to write and publish 350 research papers and 17 books! One of his many accomplishments is creating a program that can reduce the length of time of an MRI scan. For something like a lung scan that can take 2 minutes, the patient has to hold their breath for that amount of time which could be fatal. But Terence was able to create a system that reduces the time to 10 seconds.
Another one of his discoveries was made with British Mathamatian Ben Green. It’s called the Green–Tao theorem. There are certain prime numbers (numbers that can’t be reduced) that have an equal spacing between them like 3, 7, and 11. These are called Twin or Cousin primes, depending on the gap between them. The theorem dictates that there are an infinite amount of these prime numbers. But they don’t know which one those are… yet.
In 2006, Terence won the Fields Medal which is like the Nobel Prize for mathematicians. He’s also the youngest to win the International Congress of Mathematicians Award. Along with that, he’s won the MacArthur Fellowship Award, The Royal Medal, and the BreathThrough Prize in Mathematics (which also comes with a sum of $3 million dollars), to name a few.
Terence Tao’s story is truly incredible. He didn’t have to choose math for his career, but it was what he loved. He’s proof that if you’re really passionate about something, and you commit to it, you’ll be met with not only success, but fulfillment.
So, I want to leave you with two things. First, I want to encourage you to take action on your dreams. I don’t care if you’re 8, or 50 years old. There’s no rule saying you have to wait to pursue what you love. And the second thing I want to leave you with, especially for you kids out there… SIT DOWN and do your math! Stop procrastinating! You have no excuses!