Teacher leads two national math Olympiad teams
Vo Quoc Ba Can, who was once the coach of Vietnam’s and Arab Saudi’s national math Olympiad competition teams, wants to teach a new generation of students who will help put Vietnam on the world’s mathematics map.


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Vo Quoc Ba Can (right) when he was a student of the Can Tho medical school



As a respected teacher of both Vietnamese and Saudi students, Can still does not have a certificate in teaching.

Applying for the medicine & pharmacy faculty at Can Tho University, as requested by his parents, Can gave up his dream of studying at a pedagogical school. 

“My parents said teaching was a hard career, and that it would be too difficult to find a job in this field,” he recalled. 

However, Can decided to become a teacher. Graduating from university, he opened a class in HCM City to earn his living. On weekends, he returned to his home city of Can Tho to teach students. 

During his six-year study at the medical school, Can met Tran Nam Dung, a silver medalist at the IMO 1983, who was then a lecturer at the HCM City University of Natural Sciences and the High School for the Gifted at the University. Dung today says Can is a very famous name on math forums.

In September 2012, he visited Hanoi, but could not find an official job at local schools because he did not have a certificate on pedagogy skills.

But Can maintained his classes and worked as a private tutor. As he became better known, he had many students from Hanoi and Quang Ninh.

In April 2013, he unexpectedly received a call from Le Ba Khanh Trin, head of the Vietnamese International Maths Olympiad (IMO) delegation, who had won an IMO gold medal many years ago. Trinh asked Can to coach Vietnamese IMO competitors.

At the age of 25, Can’s dream of becoming a teacher was realized. He was the youngest teacher of the national competition team. In 2017, Vietnam won four gold medals at IMO, the highest achievement so far.

Can was also a coach of the Saudi math competitors. The achievements of the students were modest until they worked with mentors from Vietnam. 

With the assistance of Vietnamese teachers, silver medals have become more commonly seen since 2014. At the IMO 2015, Saudi Arabia ranked 41st, the highest in history.

Can said he was able to become a successful teacher because he had met respected teachers and mathematicians.

During his six-year study at the medical school, Can met Tran Nam Dung, a silver medalist at the IMO 1983, who was then a lecturer at the HCM City University of Natural Sciences and the High School for the Gifted at the University. Dung today says Can is a very famous name on math forums.


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Thanh Lich

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