• Kyodo


Thirteen-year-old student Hibiki Sugawara is counting his blessings after becoming the youngest person to pass a college-level mathematics proficiency test.

“I was really happy when I found out that I passed it because I wasn’t so sure if I got some questions right,” Hibiki, a second-year student at a public junior high school in the city of Chiba, said recently.

The nonprofit Mathematics Certification Institute of Japan confirmed the milestone for the Level 1 exam last month.

The previous age record for passing the hardest of the institute’s exams, which measure skills ranging from preschool counting of simple numbers to university-level complex calculations and applied mathematics, was held by a 14-year-old.

The pass rate for Level 1, including calculus questions, is 7 percent, according to the institute. For the first time, more than 20,000 individuals took this year’s 15 levels of tests.

Hibiki grew interested in numbers at around age 1 when he was given a broken PC keyboard, according to his mother, Atsuko, 43. “He apparently learned them while playing with it,” she said.

At elementary school, he progressed ahead of other pupils in arithmetic lessons, she said. Teachers often let him spend time alone in the principal’s office playing math games.

Hibiki said he has been tackling questions geared toward university-level math. “It’s fun to find out how neatly I can manage to solve a question,” he said.

His next goal is to take part in the International Mathematical Olympiad.

Hibiki said he wants to be either a mathematician or a computer programmer.

Other than mathematics, he said he likes drawing manga and playing card magic tricks with his sister, who is four years older. He is also an avid fan of the TV animation series “Doraemon.”

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