Home / Around DB Articles / The Mathematician – A breath of fresh air!

The Mathematician – A breath of fresh air!

Posted in : Around DB Articles, Profile on by : Around DB , Comments: 0

Happy to go that extra mile, Henrique Bastos is sharing his love of maths with DB kids and Hongkongers who need it most.

Elizabeth Kerr reports
PHOTOS BY Baljit Gidwani – www.evoqueportraits.com

Henrique Bastos has finally found time to sit down (via Google Meet) for a chat. There’s been a lot of back and forth trying to set up a meeting with a little help from his boss, Karim Arditi at Discovery Bay-based tutoring centre Mathemagic.

To be fair, it sounded a bit like Henrique was a child genius; a 10-year old maths wizard. But he’s actually a 17-year-old Kellett School student on the verge of graduation, very much a young man, whose shaggy light brown hair gives him a Wyatt Russell look. He responds with a mildly sheepish chuckle.

“I look old, I know. Everyone tells me that.” for the record, Henrique doesn’t look old. He looks like a guy with two “high energy” dogs and a penchant for philanthropy, perhaps not in the form of cash but certainly in the form of mathematical knowledge.


Brazilian-born, Henrique’s been living in Hong Kong since he was nine years old, when his banker father relocated with the family – there are four Bastos kids. A much-anticipated trip to São Paulo, endlessly postponed due to you-know-what, finally happened this past summer. The vacation included a detour to the UK to scope out universities for next year. And yes. Henrique will be studying mathematics.

“OK, so I’m trying for Cambridge and St Andrews,” he states before rushing to add, “I’m probably not getting in, but I’m going to try.” When the subject of maths truly comes up, Henrique talks about the beauty of the subject, how amazing it is theoretically and how much he respects it. (This interviewer is equally awed by maths, doesn’t get a lick of it.) He quickly focuses on the way almost anything can be broken down into a brilliant combination of letters and numbers.

“That’s one of my favourite par ts of maths, breaking things down into equations. That’s how you actually understand it,” he explains of discovering his appreciation for the ancient Babylonian art. As an autodidact, Henrique is quick to acknowledge how intimidating it can be. “I get it. I was like you. I hated maths, I really did. And I was really bad at it,” he says with a chuckle. “There was no point in it. I was only doing what I needed to.” But when Henrique broke his leg badly, age 11, and wound up in hospital for an extended period, he got bored. “So bored I picked up a math book.” The rest, as they say, is history.


Henrique claims he simply found the right books to help him along, and once he clocked the concepts there was no looking back. Being as sharp as a tack helps, but he’s sure anyone can pick up maths beyond 2 + 2 is 4.
“I’m sure you would get it,” he states confidently despite never having seen my grades. “And after you develop a passion for it you actually take the time to understand it. No one gets this stuff right away. It’s never too late.”

It’s that passion that led Henrique to Karim’s Mathemagic Higher Math & Science Studies Centre (www.hlmathemagic.com), which was recommended by his Krav coach. Now, he teaches kids as young as six (and the occasional teen) the fundamentals, even with kids being, well, kids. Their preference for play has him making up games for maths answers, but if it works that’s just fine with him. “There is that satisfaction in being the reason they understand something new,” he says.

And though it’s not an issue he’s faced himself, there’s no way Henrique would teach girls differently from boys, a bugbear of educators worldwide. “It does suck that still happens.”


Henrique is also putting his skills to work with celebrated local charity RUN (Rebuild, Unite and Nurture) Hong Kong (www.runhk.org). The family has donated time to charities in the past – his parents did it, his sister volunteers at Mother’s Choice – so when Karim pointed him towards RUN, he took the opportunity. RUN has been supporting refugees and asylum seekers, particularly women, since 2015 through sport and education as the building blocks for a safe and dignified life. The organisation runs classes rooted
in physical activity, but also more practical classes in computer science, English and maths. Enter Henrique.

“This is very different from ‘normal’ teaching. When you teach kids, they’re doing it for grades. That’s not wrong, it’s just what it is,” Henrique declares with a grin. “Working with refugees and asylum seekers is entirely different. Everyone is there because they really want to be. They have families to take care of, most are not allowed to work; they have small government budgets to live on and they still show up for class. They ask for homework! I’ve never had anyone ask for homework.”

“It’s amazing and you can see progress,” Henrique adds. “I taught a class that started on multiplication a while back and they’re on binomial expansion now. This led to them asking me about fractional factorials, which was a great excuse to mention my favourite function – the gamma function. Even though they didn’t understand it yet, they were excited to know they would understand it one day. It’s very fulfilling.”


Because Henrique makes it all sound so easy, I ask the obvious question: Is there a single piece of advice he can share that might help we who are… not so strong at mathematics figure it out? There is, and that’s easy too: Drop the rote memory work.

“Get back to the basics and make yourself understand them instead of learning formulas,” he says. “Work on mathematical proofs; know why you’re using a formula. Too often we start with exponentials and we don’t even understand what functions are. Or trig? If you don’t understand the proofs, and you’re just taking a teacher’s word for it, you’ll never get it. When it makes sense, you don’t need to memorise it. That’s it there. Don’t memorise maths.”

The conversation winds down with a rapid-fire listing of Henrique’s favourite maths movies. Good Will Hunting sits at the top, with The Man Who Knew Infinity coming a close second. It takes place at Cambridge, so duh. He adds A Beautiful Mind and then The Imitation Game, which he liked, but as it was mostly about spies and Alan Turing’s troubled life, it wasn’t his favourite. Henrique has just one lesson today so it’s off to run with the dogs later but, as a parting shot, he recalls the DB photoshoot to go with this interview. Evidently, that was a good time too. Who was the photographer?

“Baljit,” he says. “I loved him. He’s great.” Ask Henrique if he’s prepared to be a cover boy and the reply is swift. “No need. I’m sure there are better stories out there.” Not better but it is the CNY issue, so ultimately the publisher went with a rabbit. Go figure!

Tags: ,

Add New Comment


× Thank you for your comment. Your feedback has been submitted to an administrator for approval.