Calculus at age 8 no problem for Cary 4th-grader

CARY – What do you get if you combine an 8-year-old kid, 6,152 math worksheets and calculus? Akash Sureshkumar.

The Cary fourth-grader is the youngest student in North America to complete the college-level math program at Kumon, an after-school learning program. He did all the work in four years and finished before starting fourth grade.

The average Kumon student finishes the program in five years and is 16 years old.

Akash, who attends Canterbury Elementary School in Crystal Lake, said he thought of algebra as a mystery game in which he tries to figure out X.

“It’s fun to subtract multiple digits,” he added.

Kumon instructor Nicole Prihoda started working with Akash about four years ago.

“I’ve got to admit I didn’t realize right away that this was a bright child,” she said. “And then, once he got into the calculation of adding, I could see that he was very bright.”

Prihoda said her colleagues encouraged her to push Akash to move through the math program.

“[As] he was going through algebra, graphing, he had very few questions for me, and when he did, I would give him maybe a 10-second hint and he would figure out the problem,” she said. “And I thought, ‘this was just astonishing.’ ”

Akash’s father, Sureshkumar Arumugam, said he and his wife, Jayameena Kathirvel, originally decided to enroll their son in the program when they saw his strong interest in math. Both parents work in computer engineering.

Arumugam said the instructors challenged his son.

“They were very encouraging,” he said. “They are very careful. They always make sure that he is comfortable.”

Arumugam said he worked hard to explain to his son how math applied to everyday life, such as taking means and averages to maximize space.

“We teach him how it would be useful,” he said.

Now that the program is completed, Akash’s father said they planned to review some of the math concepts with him and focus on word problems.

Eventually, Akash said, he wants to attend Harvard and become a doctor.

Prihoda said she felt lucky to have had her experience with Akash.

“He made me a believer,” she said. “All children have a greater potential than I think we give them credit for.”

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