Jacob Bradd’s teachers knew he was special when he started doing algebra and calculus in year 3.
By the time he was in year 5, he asked if he could sit the School Certificate maths exam, which he duly blitzed.
Now 13, the Cordeaux Heights youngster is one of the youngest students in NSW to do the Higher School Certificate exams in maths extension 1 and 2.
‘‘Extension 2 was quite challenging but it’s meant to be,’’ the Illawarra Christian School student said. ‘‘I actually really enjoyed doing it.’’
While many kids his age are still mastering fractions, Jacob is comfortable with exponential functions.
Jacob’s progress has surprised his peers and parents, John and Trish, who once suspected he may have had a developmental delay.
‘‘My wife is a speech pathologist and she raised a few concerns about his development the year before he started school,’’ Dr Bradd said.
‘‘She thought he might be a little bit delayed. So I took some time off work to just go through the basics with him to get him ready for school.’’
Dr Bradd, a hydrogeologist at the University of Wollongong and part-time maths and science teacher at the Illawarra Grammar School, took his son through basic maths such as addition, subtraction and multiplication.
‘‘I told him, ‘We’ll do division later because that’s a bit harder’,’’ Dr Bradd said.
‘‘He woke up the next day and said, ‘Dad I’m ready for division.’ He seemed to pick it up fairly quickly.’’
Now Jacob’s ability has surpassed his father’s and he would like to study university-level maths next year.
Illawarra Christian School principal Simon Lainson said Jacob has been accelerated in all subjects and is currently in year 8, having skipped a year of school.
‘‘He’s a very bright child,’’ he said.
Dr Jae Yup Jared Jung, a senior research fellow with UNSW’s Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information Centre, said children with Jacob’s ability were unusual and could not simply be created by hot-housing.
‘‘Obviously a lot of it is to do with genetics,’’ he said.
‘‘But if the ability is not nurtured it is not going to translate into exceptional achievement.
‘‘That has a lot to do with the environment: the school, the teachers, the parents.
‘‘It also has a lot to do with the child’s personal attributes such as motivation. When all those elements work in tandem, that’s when you see exceptional achievement.’’
However, he warned that gifted children can be at a higher risk of teasing from fellow students.
‘‘In an egalitarian society such as Australia, students with exceptional abilities can sometimes be ridiculed by their peers and they choose to dumb down,’’ he said. ‘‘However, if a child is supported by their peers, or accelerated into a class with children of higher ability, there is less chance they will be exposed to social ostracism.’’
Jacob, whose interests include piano, guitar and soccer, said his school friends were very accepting and he was always happy to lend a hand with homework.
But like an average 13-year-old, he is still uncertain as to his future when he finishes school.