£±¡£×î´óµÄÌì¸³ÊÇ¼¤Çé¡£If you can give your son or daughter only one gift,
let it be enthusiasm. ºÇºÇ£¬×¢Òâµ½ÉÏÎÄÀïÓÃµ½GIFTÕâ¸ö´ÊÁËÂð£¿

£²¡£½ÌÓýÒª³¤Ô¶¡£Firstly, one should not focus overly much on a specific
artificial benchmark, such as obtaining degree X from prestigious
institution Y in only Z years, or on scoring A on test B at age C.

£´¡£ÒªÍÆÍÆ¿ªÐÄ¡£it is important to enjoy one¡¯s work; this is what sustains
and drives a person throughout the duration of his or her career, and holds
burnout at bay.

£µ¡£ÖØÅ¬Á¦£¬²»ÒªÖØÌì¸³¡£Thirdly, one should praise one¡¯s children for their
efforts and achievements (which they can control), and not for their innate
talents (which they cannot).

£¶¡£ÁìÓòÒªÁé»î¡£A child may be initially gifted in field X, but decides that
field Y is more enjoyable or is a better fit.

The ancient art of mathematics, Tao has discovered, does not reward speed so
much as patience, cunning and, perhaps most surprising of all, the sort of
gift for collaboration and improvisation that characterizes the best jazz
musicians. Tao now believes that his younger self, the prodigy who wowed
the
math world, wasn¡¯t truly doing math at all. ¡®¡®It¡¯s as if your only
experience with music were practicing scales or learning music theory,¡¯¡¯

I have Chinese parents but my upbringing had essentially none of the
elements described in the article, being much more Australian in nature. It
seems to me that this sort of philosophy, when it works, tends to produce
children who have good academic performance up to the undergraduate level
but do not necessarily have the right skill set for doing well the graduate
level and beyond.

Tao: I was born here, in Australia, in 1975, in Adelaide. I grew up and
stayed here in Adelaide for 16 years. When I was a kid, I was accelerated. I
skipped five grades in primary school. This meant that I started high
school at age 8. But I was already taking more advanced maths classes (Year
11), even when I was in primary school I took some high-school maths classes
. And when I was at high school I took some maths classes at uni. My mother
and father had to arrange this with the headmaster and the head of
department, so it was very complicated. But it all worked out. When I got my
Bachelor degree at Flinders University, Garth Gaudry, my advisor,
recommended very strongly that I study abroad, so I went to Princeton and
completed a PhD. My advisor in Princeton recommended I stay in the States. I
've been with UCLA ever since, pretty much. Except I've spent a few summers
in Australia, at ANU and UNSW.

Gazette: When you skipped all these grades, did you skip them in all
disciplines or just maths?

Tao: It was staggered. At age 8 I was in Year 8 for things like English,
PhysEd, etc. But for maths I was in Year 11 or 12.

Gazette: Did your parents encourage you to become a mathematician?

Tao: I think initially they were at a loss. They didn't know what it was
that you do as a mathematician. Once they realised that I liked maths more
than physics, they were happy to let me do what I liked and I'm very
grateful for that. They didn't push me into something. In Asian cultures,
there's always a big pressure to do something prestigious like medicine or
law, but for some people this is not the best career. I'm happy that they
didn't mind that I liked maths.

Gazette: Have you got any brothers and sisters?

Tao: I have two brothers, both younger than me. One is still in Adelaide
and works for the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, and the other
is in Sydney and works for Google. It was his dream job. He lobbied quite
hard. He even had a web page at one stage explaining why he should be hired
by Google, with his resume, etc. It probably helped him getting the job.
Google likes that kind of thing.

Gazette: Have you ever considered working for Google yourself?

Tao: Not really. I like academic maths too much. They do some interesting
problem-solving but most of it is programming. I can program, but I'm not as
good at that as I am at maths.

Gazette: What do you like most about academia?

Tao: I like academic freedom. You can work on your research, and it doesn't
have to be directed. It doesn't have to be what your boss is telling you to
do. It is very flexible. And I like teaching, when you get the students to
learn something that they couldn't see before. Their eyes light up: "Ah, I
get it now" And this makes you feel like you're doing something very useful.
I like the culture: talking to other mathematicians. Everyone who does
mathematics does it because they like mathematics. They are not doing it for
the money.

Gazette: Do you do much teaching?

Tao: Nowadays I mostly teach graduate courses. I also have my own graduate
students, six graduate PhD students. They are quite mature. I've been gone
all month now, and they've been looking after themselves. So they've just
sent me an email with feedback for the last three weeks of what they have
done. that's great. In my students I look for someone who is independent and
mature and hard-working. As long as they have some sense of mathematics,
they don't have to be amazing. They can always pick this stuff up later.

Gazette: Did you always like maths?

Tao: Yes, ever since I can remember. My parents tell me that at age 2 I was
trying to teach other kids how to count using number blocks. Although as a
kid I had a different idea of what mathematics was than I do now. I thought
it was always puzzles and games. I didn't really understand why we do
mathematics until a lot later. I certainly enjoyed doing the abstract. I
also enjoyed doing arithmetic.
Gazette: Do you still like doing puzzles?

Tao: Not so much. I think I get enough of it at work.

Gazette: What made you choose to study maths at school or uni?

Tao: It was what I enjoyed doing. As I said before, I really liked solving
puzzles. I really liked it when the rules were very clear: what was right
and what was wrong. So I had a lot of trouble with English. English was the
subject I couldn't get the point of. "Write whatever you feel like?" - what
does that mean?

Gazette: Have you ever considered doing anything else?

Tao: When I was a kid I didn't know what maths research was. I thought there
was someone who gave you problems to do and you do them, like a giant
homework project. When I was told you have to come up with your own research
problems, I had no idea. How does anyone do that? I remember thinking I'd
be a shopkeeper. This was something I understood. You could have inventory,
and you'd buy things and keep a record. That seems to make sense. I've done
a little bit of consulting for government agencies. This was nice, but I do
like the academic environment much better.

Gazette: Why do you do mathematics?

Tao: It is rewarding. When you discover something and it makes sense, you
can explain it to other people. You get this good feeling, like when you
solve a crossword puzzle. You didn't understand it before, now you do. You
feel smarter. You've really made some achievement. I really like the fact
that you can always build on what you did before and on what other
mathematicians did before. It's not like fashion for example, where each
year you do something very different from the previous year. I've only been
doing research mathematics for 15 years, but I can see how much the fields I
've been working in have advanced and how our tools are getting better. It's
great to be part of this progress.

Gazette: You've contributed quite a bit!

Tao: Not just me. There are a lot of really good mathematicians out there.
Every time there's a breakthrough It's great to hear about. I'm talking at
the plenary lecture here about Perelman's work on the Poincare Conjecture.
It's a really great achievement, and I had nothing to do with it!

Gazette: Is it difficult to combine the life of a Fields Medal winner with
family life with your son and wife?

Tao: The Fields Medal doesn't impress them. It is a big deal in mathematics
and right after I got it there was some media attention. But 99% of people
in the world have not heard of the Fields Medal. And even if they did, Los
Angeles has so many celebrities, I think it wouldn't be a big deal. This is
one reason why I like living in LA, I can be anonymous â€¡± no-one
cares. I wouldn't want to be a celebrity anyway. I give a public lectures,
say 500 people show up, and I sometimes wonder if they show up because they
want to learn some maths or if a lot of them just come because they've heard
that's this famous person. A little bit of this is good, but being a
celebrity shouldn't be the main aspect of yourself. You should focus on the
content.

Gazette: Has the medal changed your life in any way? Are you busier than
ever?

Tao: I was already busy, and I'm still busy. I'm just busy in slightly
different ways. It means that I get invited to more events. And I do feel I
have more of a responsibility of being a spokesperson or role model for
mathematics. I've noticed sometimes when I talk to other mathematicians, and
I say something I didn't really think carefully about and people take what
I say off-hand much more seriously. "Oh, this is very deep", if I'm making
some simple observation. Sometimes you have to watch what you say a bit more
.

Gazette: Is there any advice you could give to early career mathematicians?

Tao: Doing mathematics is a long-term thing. I've had grad students who said
, "OK", I'm doing my PhD, and at the end of the four years, I'll have learnt
everything I need to know, and I'll be a leader in the field". It doesn't
work that way! You have to work through undergraduate, and through graduate,
and even after you finish, there is still a lot more to learn. Mathematics
is huge. You have to keep pushing yourself and not be content with doing
just one or two things and sit in this niche of mathematics and never
venture out of it, if you want to really progress. I'd describe it as like
running a marathon. You can't just sprint right through it. You have to keep
learning, and really enjoy doing mathematics. If you don't enjoy it, you
won't have the stamina to keep at it. But it is very rewarding if you keep
at it.

Things could have been different for Terry Tao. He might have used his brain
with evil intent. "Okay, I don't think it would count as evil, but a lot of
my PhDs, they go into the finance industry, Wall Street, and typically they
earn ridiculous salaries. In fact, I don't even know exactly how much they
earn. It's probably good for my health not to know." He is now absent-
mindedly stroking the family's fluffy tortoiseshell cat, which has jumped
onto his lap. Tao himself was once head-hunted by a hedge fund. "But I don't
know, these things never sort of really interested me."

HEHE¡£¡£½ÌÊÚÒ²»áËá¡£

He's done some consultancy work for the US intelligence bureau, the National
Security Agency. "It's not as glamorous as it sounds. You spend a year
going through security clearance and then you work on some problems which
you don't know where they came from, they don't tell you that much," he says
, and then corrects himself. "No, it's interesting work; it's kind of fun
actually..."

I myself have not seriously played these sorts of games for years, so I
could only come up with a few examples immediately: the game ¡°Planarity¡°,
and the game ¡°Factory Balls¡± (and two sequels). (Edit: Rubik¡¯s cube and
its countless cousins presumably qualify also, due to their implicit use of
group theory.) I am hopeful though that readers may be able to come up
with more suggestions

¡°Many parents of gifted children tend to overestimate their children¡¯s
ability, they want to maximise speed,¡± says Billy. ¡°One thing I disagree
about with the gifted-children movement is the emphasis on acceleration.
Many gifted-education people, particularly teachers who have diplomas in
gifted education, are all brainwashed with this idea of acceleration,
acceleration, acceleration. What about lateral thinking? What about
creativity?¡±

In contrast to the effusive praise other parents heaped on their little
Mozarts, the Taos avoided excessive flattery and downplayed the importance
of winning.

It was a policy they put in place partly to deal with the challenge
presented by their youngest son, Nigel. A prodigy at chess and maths ¨C his
IQ qualifies him as profoundly gifted ¨C Nigel faced the difficulty of being
merely exceptional in a family where extraordinary was the norm. At 14 he a
won bronze medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad in Hong Kong.
By then, however, Trevor had become an international chess player, met prime
minister Bob Hawke and been made the subject of a book, a PhD thesis and
countless media appearances. Terry, meanwhile, had written his first maths
textbook at 15, earned a masters degree at 17 and was starting a doctoral
thesis on harmonic analysis at Princeton University.

Miraca Gross, a professor of gifted education at the University of NSW who
has known the Taos since 1984, is among the many who note that one of the
family¡¯s most remarkable qualities is the absence of egotism and rivalry.
¡°There¡¯s an enormous, deep affection between the three boys,¡± says Gross.
¡°By the time Terry was 10 years old he was actively looking for ways he
could help his brothers on their paths.¡±

Asked if he sees any parallels between Trevor¡¯s autistic quirks and his own
, Nigel doesn¡¯t seem in the least offended. ¡°Well, I think there is a
correlation between autistic behaviour and maths and music ¨C that¡¯s quite
frequently commented on. And even myself and Terry, we do quite like our
clever little puns and crosswords and games. If there are shades of
stereotypical autistic behaviour, I¡¯m sure I¡¯ve got fractions of it. The
little intellectual patterns in maths and music, I¡¯m quite happy to amuse
myself with those things, more than the average man, I think. It¡¯s just a
different mindset.¡±