She may be the youngest math genius in the United Kingdom. Esther Okade plays dress up, invents fantasy games, and is delightfully cheeky with her mother. But this 10-year-old is different from her peers. She’s going to university.
Esther, from Walsall in England’s West Midlands region, has already taken a Math A-level exam, a qualification usually reserved for 17- and 18-year-olds, and scored a B. Since then, Esther’s mom has helped her to enrol on an Open University course. The Open University is a U.K.-based distance learning college, and Esther is already top of the class.
At the age 10 years, Nigeria-British Girl Esther Okade got admission to study Mathematics in UK Open University. pic.twitter.com/bdiojiuZCw
— NTA News (@NTANewsNow) March 12, 2015
“It’s so interesting,” Esther told CNN, after receiving 100 percent in a recent exam. “It has the type of maths I love. It’s real maths—theories, complex numbers, all that type of stuff.”
Esther has grand ambitions: she wants to study for a PhD after she finishes the Open University degree. And not just for the sake of studying, either. She wants to open her own bank. “I want to have my own bank by the time I’m 15,” the ambitious youngster clarified, “because I like numbers and I like people and banking is a great way to help people.”
Esther’s talent runs in her family. Her mother, Omonefe Okade, 37, is a mathematician. “Esther is doing so well,” she said, proudly. “By the time she was four … I saw that she loved patterns so developed a way of using that to teach her new things. I thought I would try her with algebra, and she loved it more than anything.”
“Applying to the university was an interesting process because of her age,” the math prodigy’s mom continued. “After they interviewed her they realized that this has been her idea from the beginning.” After a mandatory meeting with the vice-chancellor, Esther had to progress through a telephone interview, an essay, and a written math exam. She passed with flying colors.
— CNN Africa (@CNNAfrica) October 11, 2016
Originally, however, Esther’s mom was not so easily convinced. Esther had started begging her mom to consider university applications when she was just 7 years old, after achieving an A-grade in a Math GCSE examination. Mrs. Okade, however, thought her daughter was far too young. Esther continued begging for three years, one day exploding in frustration: “Mom, I think it is about time I started university now.”
Esther’s mom described Esther as “flying” when she was accepted by the Open University in December of 2018. She still had reservations, however, and is keen to make sure that while her daughter follows her dream, she doesn’t compromise her childhood. “We want her to enjoy her childhood as well as her maths,” she said.
Esther’s younger brother Isiah is 6 years old. Not to be beaten, the second young math whizz in the family is also studying for his A-levels. Both Esther and Isiah are homeschooled by Mrs. Okade, who teaches them out of the living room of their three-bedroom abode.
Esther’s father, Paul, 42, is very proud. “The desire of every parent is to see their children exceed them and take the family name to great heights,” he shared. “My children have done just that.”
Esther’s parents’ reverence for education also extends beyond the boundaries of their own family: Paul and Omonefe Okade are building a primary school in their home country of Nigeria’s Delta region, called Shakespeare’s Academy. “On one hand, billions of dollars worth of crude oil is pumped out from that region on a monthly basis,” Mrs. Okade said, “and yet the poverty rate of the indigenous community is astronomical.”
Esther is also giving something back to the community. The industrious 10-year-old is writing a series of workbooks for children called “Yummy Yummy Algebra.” “As long as you can add or subtract,” Esther confirmed, “you’ll be able to do it.”
“I want to show other children they are special.”