Self-taught boy, 13, beats 30,000 in GCSE maths exam

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The Independent Online
MARCUS FONG, aged 13, has come top out of 30,000 candidates in a GCSE maths examination for which he taught himself.

He received no tuition from his parents and did not follow a GCSE course at his school, Shene comprehensive in Richmond, London, before passing the exam three years earlier than his fellow pupils. Marcus, who will receive a silver medal from the Southern Examining Group and United Biscuits, said yesterday: 'I prepared myself for the exam by reading books and looking at past papers.

'The teachers also gave me some past papers to keep me occupied during maths lessons. I didn't have a work routine. I think some of the other GCSE candidates in the school studied quite a bit more than I did.'

Unlike many child prodigies, Marcus has not been coached by his parents. His father, Michael Fong, said he was extremely pleased with the result as Marcus always seemed to have a too casual attitude to do well in maths.

'Neither I nor my wife can do the maths he does - he left us behind about three years ago. I wasn't bad at maths but could only do about 5 or 10 per cent of the maths papers that Marcus did for this exam.' Marcus, who said 'Wow' when he heard about the medal, first showed signs of exceptional ability when he was about three months old, when he would concentrate on a story being read to him for as long as an hour. By the time he was 18 months old he could read words and he was on to novels at the age of three. 'He never had to learn to spell or learn his times-tables,' his father said. 'He is one of those people who have a natural ability.'

Marcus passed four other GCSEs, maths from another exam board with grade A, a maths extension paper with distinction, English (grade B) and computer studies (grade C)

He is not certain that he wants to be a mathematician. Mr Fong said: 'He isn't all that interested in maths. He had a passion for dinosaurs, then for aeroplanes, particularly military ones, and now it's computer games.' The Fong family have been in Britain for a year while Mr Fong held a Commonwealth Relations Trust Fellowship. They return to Australia soon.

Education, page 25

Letters, page 28

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