Boy genius who never went to school started university-level maths aged five
MEET Ahaan Rungta, the boy genius who was studying college-level maths at five, calculus at seven and quantum mechanics by 13.
At 15, he began a master’s degree in maths and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a year later, he is in the top six per cent of his class. But the teenager never went to school.
Instead, he learnt everything he knows from bingeing on online courses.
An avid reader by two, he was learning about physics and chemistry when most children were just starting kindergarten. His mother, who homeschooled him at their house in Florida, said the only challenge was finding enough material to satisfy with his voracious appetite for knowledge.
Ahaan devoured lectures, quizzes and exams, learnt several programming languages and had completed a university course called Introduction to Solid State Chemistry by nine. Around the same time, he enrolled in the Stanford University Educated Program for Gifted Youth, and he’s a talented chess player.
But Ahaan insists he isn’t gifted, telling MIT’s news page he was just lucky to be born at the time colleges and sites including brilliant.org started offering free courses online.
Ahaan has been fixated on MIT since he was a child. His family moved from India to Fort Lauderdale in 2001 when he was two, and then to Massachusetts when he was 12, so he could meet “like-minded people”. All Ahaan wanted for his 13th birthday was to visit the Institute.
“MIT has been my middle school, my high school, my entire education,” he said. “In an ideal world, I would want to major in everything.
“I will never forget the feeling of walking into the lobby of building seven, looking up, and then touching the pillars to see if they were real. I couldn’t believe I was at MIT. My life and my ambitions moved to another level at that moment.”
Ahaan, whose father runs an Indian restaurant on the campus, is extraordinarily intelligent and dedicated, with his LinkedIn page displaying a bewildering list of achievements and awards. But he attributes all his success to websites, which he claims are better than school.
“In school, you’re given homework and one week later you find out how you did,” he told the university newsletter. “The benefit of learning to solve online is you get instant feedback; you learn right away and then the next problem is all of a sudden easier.”
The internet is already revolutionising how we learn, and it could make prodigies of all our children, as long as it doesn’t come at the price of just being a kid.
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