De La Salle's math whiz kid

WARREN, Mich. – Earlier in the school year, nearly 3,800 students participated in the 63rd annual Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition. 

The two-part exam – sponsored by the Michigan Section of the Mathematical Association of America – is intended to encourage students to develop their interests and abilities in mathematics.

Minseok Bae doesn’t need a boost. The De La Salle Collegiate sophomore has always had a high mathematical acumen.

“He’s just very interested in learning,” De La Salle math teacher Joe Novak said. “Anybody who passes Calculus 1 as a freshman is surprising. He just has a great attitude. He’s a happy kid who wants to study. He’s not satisfied with just being in school. I think he just wants to continue to learn. He’s very gifted and very much focused.”

Calculus helps to understand changes between values that are related by a function. It is used in many different areas such as physics, astronomy, biology, engineering, economics, medicine, and sociology.

An exchange student from Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, Bae was among 37 De La Salle students who took the first exam last October. He recorded the second-best score among 350 students in Macomb County. He finished with the 152nd best overall test score in the state, 29th among sophomores.

The first exam was taken by 3,798 students from 117 high schools and middle schools. The test consisted of 40 multiple-choice questions involving topics from high school mathematics. 

The top 1,000 were invited to take the second exam in December with a chance for the top 100 finishers to win scholarships. The second exam was five challenging problems, and students had to write their solutions providing full justification and proof of their claims.

Aside from his love of math, Bae’s time at De La Salle has been anything but one dimensional. He has been involved in extracurricular teams and clubs at De La Salle.

“He has part of the soccer program in the past and plays badminton with Mr. (Kyle) Kopy all of the time,” Novak said. “He joined the robotics team and basically learned how to code through the whole programming. He had never done it before. But they had a certified engineer come here once a week and teach him.”

Bae came to De La Salle last year without knowing English. That alone makes his overall academic success extremely impressive.

“Coming here and not knowing a thing, it’s fascinating how he picked up on English so fast,” Novak said. “This kid is at least one of the smartest math students I’ve ever taught. But as a sophomore, there’s never been a sophomore that’s in his spot right now. He loves it. He studies. I only see those (math scores) going up in the next two years.”

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