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17-year-old defeats AI in global math contest

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17-year-old defeats AI in global math contest

A 17-year-old fashion design student from China has stunned the nation and the world by defeating artificial intelligence and students from prestigious universities in a highly competitive math contest.

Jiang Ping, who attends a vocational school in Jiangsu province, finished 12th in the latest qualifying round of the Alibaba Global Math Competition. This well-known contest saw participation from students of top universities, including MIT, Stanford, and Princeton, but Jiang’s humble academic background made her success particularly remarkable.

Vocational schools in China are not known for academic rigor, and Jiang was the only participant from such a background among thousands of competitors. Her performance has sparked an outpouring of support and admiration across China. A hashtag about her achievement had gathered 17 million views by Saturday. “In a life not defined by others, anyone can be a dark horse,” read the hashtag in Chinese.

The competition’s qualifying round, which ended last Saturday, lasted 48 hours and was conducted online, featuring multiple-choice and essay-length questions on applied mathematics, probability, and algebra. Despite the challenge, no AI teams qualified for the finals, the organizers revealed on Chinese social media platform Weixin.

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Jiang’s underdog victory has spawned ardent fans. Some have even visited her parents’ home, bearing gifts of alcohol and money. Shopping malls in her hometown hung pictures of her on their walls, celebrating her achievement.

Jiang, who ranked among the 801 global finalists, will compete in the final eight-hour test on Saturday. The results will be announced in August, with winners receiving up to $30,000 in prize money.

In an interview posted by the competition organizers, Jiang expressed her love for mathematics. “Working on advanced math brings out my desire to explore,” she said. This interview alone gathered over 4 million views, with many viewers expressing their amazement and questioning the authenticity of her feat. “People who can perceive beauty in mathematics and physics are generally at the next level,” one user wrote. “We must protect and nurture them.”

Jiang’s success has also impressed multiple Chinese universities, which took to social media to congratulate her. “Kudos to Jiang Ping! Anyone who has a dream is amazing!” Zhejiang University, a prestigious institution in eastern China, wrote in a post on Weibo.

Her teacher, Wang Runqiu, who ranked 125th in the contest, encouraged Jiang to join the competition. “I want to help young people as much as possible, and let them know they can have a different future,” Wang was quoted as saying by state media People’s Daily.

Math was initially a hobby for Jiang. “I didn’t think I deserved to even join the competition,” she admitted in the interview. However, her performance has opened new doors, and she now plans to study at a reputable university. “If studying fashion design is my plan A, then exploring the world of math is my plan B,” she said. “I hope my plan B can be seen.”

Despite her high marks on a high school entrance examination, Jiang chose to attend her current vocational school because her older sister and good friends were also students there, according to the school’s Communist Party secretary.

The Alibaba Global Math Competition, which started in 2018, is open to all math enthusiasts, regardless of their background. This year marked the first time AI teams were allowed to participate.

“No matter what the future holds, this interest will continue,” Jiang said, reflecting on her journey and future prospects.

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