Esther Okade, from Walsall in the West Midlands, seems in many ways to be like any other ten year old – she plays dress up, plays with dolls and likes being in the park with her family.
On the other hand, she’s also an undergraduate, with plans to take on a PhD by the time she hits her thirteenth birthday. Esther is currently enrolled at the Open University, taking her course from home. She began in January 2015 and quickly reached the top of the otherwise adult class, scoring 100% in some of her exams.
Esther said: “It’s so interesting. It has the type of maths I love. It’s real maths — theories, complex numbers, all that type of stuff.
“It was super easy. My mum taught me in a nice way. I want to [finish the course] in two years. Then I’m going to do my PhD in financial maths when I’m 13. I want to have my own bank by the time I’m 15 because I like numbers and I like people and banking is a great way to help people.”
There are always a number of stereotypes and assumptions surrounding child prodigies and their parents. While some are concerned with ‘pushy,’ ‘helicopter parenting,’ this is often not the case. Esther herself stated that she had to beg her mother, Efe Okade, to allow her to explore enrolling in university for three years before they even investigated the idea.
“I actually wanted to start when I was seven. But my mum was like, ‘you’re too young, calm down,'” said Esther.
Esther has been jumping over educational hurdles since she was young – well, younger. At age six, she sat her first GCSE in Mathematics, receiving a grade C, and a year later, at age 7, re-sat the exam and received an A grade. She went on to complete A Level Mathematics and receive a B grade. All by the time she was ten years old.
Efe, Esther’s mother, and Paul, Esther’s father, had enrolled her in a private school, but after a few weeks decided to pull her out and home school her, after noticing significant shifts in their daughter’s behaviour.
Efe said ”One day we were coming back home and she burst out in tears and she said ‘I don’t ever want to go back to that school — they don’t even let me talk!’
“In the UK, you don’t have to start school until you are five. Education is not compulsory until that age so I thought OK, we’ll be doing little things at home until then. Maybe by the time she’s five she will change her mind.”
They began by focusing on basic numerical skills, but Esther quickly accelerated past these foundations. By age four, she had moved on to algebraic and quadratic equation. She hasn’t slowed down since.
Esther’s younger brother, Isaiah, is following hot on her heels. At the ripe old age of six, he is about to sit his first A level exam in June of this year.
When asked how she helped her children along, Efe said: “Some children learn very well with kinesthetics where they learn with their hands — when they draw they remember things. Some children have extremely creative imaginations. Instead of trying to make children learn one way, you teach them based on their learning style.”
If you’ve got a budding mathematician or whiz-kid in English in your household and you want to help them to move at a pace that matches their ability, consider taking a look at the Exemplar Education system.