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Cameron visits Trinity College Cambridge to assess his maths ability


Cameron Thompson is a 14-year-old maths prodigy from north Wales. He passed with high grades at maths GCSE and A-level and is now taking an Open University degree in pure maths. So what does it feel like to be a teenager growing up with raging hormones and a towering intellect?


At the age of 11, Cameron sat a school entrance maths test.


“One hundred and forty one out of 140, I broke the system, I think I did well,” he says.


At the same age, he sailed through two GCSEs in maths and additional maths, and in the same year passed his maths A-level with flying colours. But being brilliant at maths has become Cameron’s entire identity, and trying to fit in at school and develop his social skills has somehow become left behind in a desire to escape mediocrity.


“I have the social ability of a talking potato,” he says.


“Most people my age do despise me. I’ve been like this for years. I’m used to being ignored.”


The foundations of his academic success have also been shaken by the fact that his grades for his degree course have been dropping, and he is panicking. In the first year, his marks were up in the 80s, putting him in the top 0.5%. But on a recent assignment, he scored 72%, a healthy grade by most people’s standards, but not enough to secure the distinction that he wants.


“I am a bit worried about failing the Open University,” he says. “I just am, despite the fact that, technically, I shouldn’t be doing it for about another five years.”


Fresh start


Although Cameron can easily identify the answers, he has trouble explaining how he came to his conclusion, bringing down his overall marks, and he will only be able to continue with the degree if his marks show signs of improvement.


His parents, Rod and Alison, who live near Wrexham, are unsure whether his struggle to explain is due to his age, or the fact he has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism that can occasionally combine great mental prowess with communication problems.


“Apparently plenty of people with Asperger’s are really intelligent, high achievers,” Cameron says. “People like Einstein and Newton, they had supposed Asperger’s.”


The pressure of making sure his marks improve on his next assignment is a worry for Cameron.


It is not his parents that drive this ambition to achieve, but Cameron himself, and to add to this stress he is also growing up.


“Mum first noticed a moustache, she saw it and told me about it,” he explains. Not long after that, one of his younger sisters, 10-year-old Beth, accidentally ripped it off with a piece of sticky tape.


With his family moving house, however, Cameron is facing a fresh start at a new school and the opportunity to try to establish a new social life.


“It gives me a chance to start again, so they reckon [I’ll] actually work my way up the social ladder, instead of just staying at the bottom,” he says.


“If I can make it to the middle I’m less likely to be bullied there, certainly not physically.”


One characteristic of Asperger’s is a difficulty to make friends, and Alison worries that her son does not always listen to social cues.


“Sometimes tact goes right over his head. Naive would be the best word for it,” she says.


“He is a brilliant kid. He couldn’t do enough for everybody. At the same time, while sometimes he is oblivious, he is also very sensitive,” she says.


Read in Full:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15482101


World’s extraordinary prodigies


  • *Michael Kearney started studying for an Associate of Science degree at Santa Rosa Junior College in California at the age of six
  • *Korean child prodigy Kim Ung-Yong was able to read in Japanese, Korean, German and English by the age of four
  • *American Gregory Smith was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 12
  • *Akrit Jaswal from India, a child surgeon, operated on the hand of a young girl when he was seven
  • *Singer Cleopatra Stratan from Moldova had recorded an album by the age of three


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