17-Year-Old Fashion Student Ranks 12th in Alibaba Global Math Competition

Jiang Ping’s success has provoked some skepticism online

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3:51 PM HKT, Fri June 21, 2024 1 mins read

On June 13th, Alibaba’s research program DAMO Academy released the list of finalists for the 2024 Alibaba Global Mathematics Competition. Among the 801 finalists from prestigious institutions like Tsinghua University, Peking University, and MIT, one name stands out: Jiang Ping, a 17-year-old studying fashion design at Jiangsu Lianshui Vocational School. She achieved 12th place with a score of 93, making her the only girl in the top 30.


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Jiang Ping presenting her solution to a math problem.


This unexpected achievement has sparked skepticism from various quarters. Critics question the authenticity of her exam results, pointing out errors in her presentation and her previous academic performance. Leaving aside the excessive exposure of her personal information, doubts seem rooted in biases about whether a young girl can excel in mathematics. In response, her math teacher defended her, emphasizing Jiang Ping's dedication to mathematics, stating that she spends all her time outside of eating and sleeping on practicing math. The teacher, who himself participated in the competition, ranked 125th. To her supporters, Jiang Ping’s success is a testament to both her natural talent and her relentless effort.


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Jiang Ping using a sewing machine for her coursework.


The question of why the math prodigy attends a vocational school specializing in fashion design has sparked curiosity among Chinese netizens. Jiang scored a respectable 621 out of 780 on her high school entrance exam, leading some netizens to question if societal preferences favoring sons’ academic paths over daughters’ were at play here. However, in an interview, Jiang Ping clarified that her primary interest lies in fashion design, which she believes is better taught at vocational schools. She sees mathematics as a secondary interest (in her words, a “Plan B”) and welcomes the chance to reveal this lesser-known aspect of herself.


From any perspective, the Alibaba competition has fulfilled its goal of discovering new mathematical talent by opening access to participants from all fields. Faced with online criticism, Jiang Ping remains steadfast and unperturbed. She is now preparing for the final round, determined to demonstrate her mathematical talent with a performance that matches the high expectations now placed on her.


All photos via Alibaba.

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