Maths wizard, 11, could be the next Vorderman

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The Independent Culture

If countdown executives are struggling to find Carol Vorderman's replacement, they might want to consider their current contestant Kai Laddiman.

The 11-year-old maths prodigy is storming through the latest series, winning eight shows in a row and becoming the youngest "Octochamp" in 20 years. Next week, he will take part in the quarter-final against rivals four times his age. If he gets through to the final and wins, he will be the youngest ever Countdown champion.

Kai, who already has a maths AS-level under his belt, began watching the programme when he was two. "I learned my letters and numbers from the show," he said. "I've wanted to go on Countdown since I was nine and I kept asking mum if I could go."

In the current series, Kai, of Broad Oak, East Sussex, has twice managed to create a nine-letter word from random letters. Unlike many contestants, however, he does not jot down his workings on paper.

"I normally just see the words," he explained. "I don't really write them down – they just sort of come to me."