CHONG Fai, the winner of this year's Inter-school Mathematics Contest's individual event, spent most of his time looking up mathematical terms in the English dictionary instead of doing calculations. Mathematics lessons at Pui Kiu Middle School, where the fourth-former is studying, are conducted in Chinese. Mathematics homework and exercises are also in Chinese. Reading English questions and answering in English are a big challenge to Chong Fai. However, Chong Fai's good Mathematics background and hard work helped him beat the other 39 participants and win the top title in the individual section of the contest. ''The questions were quite easy, but my English is not very good since I was born in the mainland and have been in Hongkong for only nine months. ''I spent a lot of time looking through the dictionary while preparing for the competition,'' he said. Chong Fai said the contest not only raised his interest in Mathematics, but also his interest in English. The Inter-school Mathematics Contest '93, organised by the Joint School Mathematics Society, was conducted in English because the organisers found it difficult to translate the questions into Chinese. ''We thought of using both English and Chinese questions, but there weren't many Chinese Mathematics textbooks to find questions from, so we gave up the idea,'' the chairman of the organising committee, Jenkin Ho Lok-kei, said. The contest was aimed at promoting students' interest in Mathematics. ''We want to make students realise the importance of Mathematics in daily life,'' Jenkin said. ''The contest also gives them an opportunity to exchange ideas and learning experiences.'' The competition, open to all Form 4 students, was divided into group and individual events. The preliminary contests were held early this month at St Louis School and the final was held recently at the City Polytechnic of Hongkong. Twenty schools and 40 students made it to the finals in the group event and the individual event, respectively. Diocesan Boys' College stole the limelight in the group event by winning the championship. The team won a scholarship worth $2,000 and the Hongkong Telecom Foundation Cup. Team members - Isaac Vun Yu-seng, Yuen Fu-lam, David Law Siu-lung and Wilson Lau - were excited as it was their first attempt at such a contest. ''We just wanted to get some experience. We did not spend much time preparing for the contest,'' Issac said. Yu-seng was the happiest among the team as he also won the second prize in the individual event. Wefield Lee Yue of Hongkong Tang Kang Po College won the third prize. The runners-up in the group event were King's College and Ying Wa College. Professor Wang Gungwu, Vice-chancellor of the University of Hongkong, presented the prizes to the winners. ''Mathematics is more than a tool to science and technology. It is a language by itself. It is also an international language,'' Professor Wang told the contestants. ''Learning Mathematics is a way to overcome whatever disability you have in languages,'' he added. Professor Wang said Mathematics might be ''an extra dimension in the competition for academic place and achievement'' for Asian students.