S'porean boy learns trigonometry by himself at 8, scores A* for IGSCE O-Level maths at 9

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Guan Zhen Tan | July 04, 2021, 08:52 PM

At the tender age of nine, Elias Lee scored an A* for a paper equivalent to E-Maths for the O-Levels.

Started picking up maths and science in kindergarten

Photo courtesy of Clarence Lee

Speaking to Mothership, Elias' father, Clarence Lee, said that he and his wife discovered their child's interest in math and science when Elias was in kindergarten.

Elias' parents are both educators: Clarence teaches physics and mathematics as an education specialist at Graviton eCademy, while his wife, Cheryl Lin, is a college science teacher.

There were plenty of math and science textbooks lying around the house, which led to Elias picking up said textbooks and reading them.

Elias' tremendous learning speed saw him excelling in several subjects such as maths, science, art and music.

It astonished his parents and left them in disbelief; Clarence recalls that they often "broke out in cold sweat" at his accomplishments.

"His tremendous learning speed astonished my wife and I, and we grew concerned about his potential. How deep is his potential? How do we develop his potential and talent? Will we place Elias through unnecessary stress?"

Learned trigonometry in Primary 2

Photo courtesy of Clarence Lee

After seeking advice, Elias sat for an internationally recognised IQ test when he was six to gauge his potential.

The test revealed that he was within the 99.9 percentile — essentially, his IQ was above 99.9 per cent of children his age.

That was only the beginning of Elias' academic achievements, including that of completing PSLE science and maths assessment books at Primary 1.

In an interview with Lianhe Wanbao, Clarence said that when Elias was in Primary 2, he asked his father what the "sin" button on the calculator meant.

Clarence explained it to him briefly, not expecting that the boy had filled up a notebook with trigonometry concepts a few days later.

At that same year, Elias was already combing through his father's teaching materials for O-Level and A-Level maths.

"Elias only checked with us if he really could not figure out something. With brief explanations, Elias was able to internalise the concepts thoroughly and extend and apply to other questions."

Performed well in IGSCE Maths

Elias' stunning progress meant that by mid-2020 — halfway through Primary 3 — he had already studied all aspects of Elementary Mathematics (E-Maths) and Additional Mathematics (A-Maths) at O-Level standards.

His parents decided to let him take the IGCSE O-Level exam, as it was "well within his learning capacity by then and the examinations will not be adding any form of stress to him".

This is also because the IGCSE O-Level exams allow Elias to sit for it as a private candidate, while MOE only allows candidates 15 years old and above to sit for the GCE O-Level exams.

Elias even picked the more rigorous and challenging version of the GCE O-Level E-Maths exam — the Cambridge International Mathematics (Extended) syllabus, which has three papers, including an extra paper on Investigative Mathematics and Modelling.

Elias took eight days of study leave to prepare for the exam in October 2020, a decision that was supported by the child's school's principal, Clarence said.

In April this year, Elias received his results. He had scored 93 points, or an A*.

Elias with his family. Photo courtesy of Clarence Lee

Elias, who is currently in the Gifted Education Programme (GEP), continues to treat his schoolwork seriously, and Clarence shares that he is doing well in all subjects.

Besides sitting for O-Level A-Maths and A-Level maths papers in the near future, he plans to work on others skills such as programming and music.

Top image via Clarence Lee