Faith Odunsi, 15, a pupil of The Ambassadors Schools, Ota, Ogun State, who recently won the Global Open Mathematics Tournament, an international competition with participants from Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Australia, shares her experience with Punch correspondent, ALEXANDER OKERE
What is your name and how old are you?
I am Faith Odunsi. I am 15 years old.
What class are you in and what is your state of origin?
I am in SS3. I am from Ijebu in Ogun State.
You recently won the Global Open Mathematics Tournament. How does this achievement make you feel?
It makes me happy and honoured.
How did you react when you were announced as the winner?
I was already tense, so I just smiled. I was too anxious to dance. I was tense because it was a tough competition.
Which other countries fielded contestants in the tournament?
I saw pupils from the United States (of America), China, Ghana and others.
At what point were you convinced that you would win?
It was at the point when we got to the end of the questions and I got the answers correctly. My heart raced but I felt relieved.
You went through some stages before the international tournament. Can you tell us about them?
In the first stage, there was a computer-based test and we had to answer many questions in one hour. My score in the test was 66. The second stage took the same format and I also scored 66. The quarter and semi-finals were on Microsoft themes. We were asked questions and we put in our answers; the first to put in the correct answers got 10 points.
Which of those stages was the toughest for you?
I think the first was the toughest because I was just getting used to the CBT and timing.
Were you at any stage scared that you might be defeated by other pupils?
Yes, I was – at the semi-finals. I entered a tiebreaker with a female pupil named Adrija Panda. I think she was from one of the Asian countries.
Is it true that you won with a margin of 30 points?
Yes, in the finals.
What was your total score?
What was the score of the first runner-up?
The first runner-up scored 10 points. The pupil was from another country.
This achievement must have come through proper preparation. How did you prepare for the competition; did you read for hours or late at night?
I didn’t want it (tournament) to affect my academic activities. So, after classes, I had another class with my teacher who coached me. At a point, he had to take me out of the class as (the date for) the competition got closer. So, I had to split my reading time. I am a boarding pupil, so I had to study at night from 11pm to 12am.
Did you receive any prize for emerging the winner?
It came with a monetary award of $1,000. The organisers said they would come for the official presentation of the award.
Is it also true you set a record in Cowbellpedia in 2019 by answering 19 questions in 60 seconds?
How did you do that?
At that time, we were through with our school examinations, so it was easy for our teacher to teach us and give us exercises in the form of the ones we did at Cowbellpedia. There was also an audience to help us get used to the environment. So, that reduced the pressure.
Did you solve all the mathematics problems in your mind before saying the answers?
Yes, most of them, though we were given some papers. They were all mathematical questions. In my school, we were taught how to practise mentally and avoid errors. The school organises extra classes for students taking part in competitions.
Have you participated in other competitions?
Yes. I have been taking part in the national Olympiad since I was in JSS2. I have also taken part in Kangourou Sans Frontieres, South African mathematics Olympiad, American Mathematics Competition and Pan-African mathematics Olympiad. For the national Olympiad, I was made the Queen of Mathematics from JSS3 to SS2. For the South African mathematics Olympiad, I got medals. I got a silver medal in the Pan-African mathematics Olympiad in 2019. I was also made an ambassador of my school.
How much support did you get from your parents while preparing for and during the Global Open Mathematics Tournament?
My parents were supportive and they advised me. They also gave me reading tips.
What are their occupations?
My dad is a medical doctor while my mum is a businesswoman. I think I got my mathematical skills from my dad.
Did he tell you how he felt when you won?
I haven’t gone home since then but he called and said he was very proud of me and happy.
How did you mum react to it?
She was very happy. I wasn’t at home when the result was announced but she must have danced.
You seem to love mathematics. Is it your favourite subject?
It is one of my favourite subjects. I also like Information and Communications Technology. But I would choose mathematics over ICT.
What do you like about it?
I like the fact that once you get the concept, you should be able to know how to solve a problem. It’s basically logical reasoning and using your brain.
How would you describe your academic performance at school?
We didn’t have any prize-giving day in SS2. But I have taken the Cambridge examination. I got six A* and one A. I scored 90 per cent in six subjects – Biology, Chemistry, Physics, ICT, Mathematics and Additional Mathematics. I got an A in First Language English.
Many people find mathematics difficult to learn. Have some of your classmates complained to you?
Yes, they have. They tell me they don’t understand the questions sometimes.
So, what do you tell them?
I try to explain to them and tell them that it is just about knowing the concept and understanding it. I also teach my friends.
Do you enjoy teaching?
I enjoy teaching to an extent.
To what extent?
I don’t enjoy it when it distracts me or affects my time to study. I have a personal timetable for studying and solving past questions.
What are the other things you avoid because they distract you?
Sometimes, it could be unnecessary talks. But my academic work doesn’t affect my social life. I still talk when I need to.
What are your hobbies?
I like reading books. I like interesting movies. I also play games once in a while. In the last inter-house sports, I won Monopoly for girls.
With your performance in the sciences, what do you intend to study at the university level?
I want to study Computer Engineering.
Do you have a school in mind?
I would like to study outside Nigeria because the facilities are better abroad and the experience is better. I don’t think I will be limited in Nigeria; I just think the opportunities will be better abroad.