At 15, Bengaluru’s Pranjal Srivastava has bought home a gold medal in the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO) after seven years. He is also the youngest Indian ever to bag gold in one of the toughest competitions across the globe. Considering the subject a ‘fun activity’, Pranjal has been participating in math competitions since class 3.
While this was his second attempt at IMO, last year, he bagged the silver medal. Pranjal thinks it is his determination to understand the subject over “mugging” that gives him an edge. A change in approach can help India get over its math phobia, believes the child mathematician.
“I have been lucky in finding the right mentors, who helped me understand the subject. I have read a lot of recreational math books which helped me solve puzzles with mathematics solutions, thus elevating my interest in the subject,” said Pranjal in interaction with indianexpress.com.
“I solved a lot of practice questions and worked on my weak areas, like geometry. I practice complex math problems whenever I get free time,” he shared. Claiming there was no particular strategy to attain the gold, Pranjal said he focused on the subject and not any particular competition.
The child mathematician was also the first Indian to grab a gold in the Asia Pacific Mathematics Olympiad and has won the Tournament of Towns along with other competitions. He was also among the national toppers of Olympiads in informatics but chose to pursue the math Olympiad instead.
CBSE also tweeted his achievement this month.
Pranjal’s medal is noteworthy because he is youngest ever to win a gold medal from India The competition had 210 countries and more than 600 participants.@HRDMinistry @DrRPNishank @PIB_India @PIBHindi @DDNewsLive @PTI_News @AkashvaniAIR @PIBHRD pic.twitter.com/Nx3kSI972Z
— CBSE HQ (@cbseindia29) October 13, 2019
Having participated in several competitions, he has made connections with other math enthusiasts, with whom he can discuss mathematical concepts, which helped him in the IMO. His mentors include a PhD student from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Coming from a background where both his parents are information and technology (IT) professionals and his elder brother is pursuing theoretical mathematics, Pranjal is keen to pursue mathematics or theoretical computer science. He hopes to study at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) or MIT, US for higher education.
Having won several medals and visited many countries at a tender age, Pranjal has gained exposure with each win. However, raising a child prodigy is not an uphill task, believe his parents. His father, Ashish Kumar Srivastava, comments, “On my visits abroad, I would pick up interesting books that would help Pranjal learn mathematics in a fun way. This developed his interest at a very young age. Be it math or music, we never pressurised our children and helped them develop their individual interests.”
“Sending him for the Olympiads is like sending a child for any fun activity, such as playing cricket. These competitions have helped Pranjal get in touch with like-minded people from across the world. They exchange math problems and their discussions teach him more about the subject,” he added.
Apart from math, Pranjal also loves music and can play the piano and the drums.
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