Gifted boys aged 12, 16 given scholarships for study at UNE

Published 22 April 2010

relativityThe University of New England has recognised and encouraged the remarkable gifts of two of its youngest students: Adam Walsh, aged 12, from Tara in southern Queensland, and Matthew Frazier, aged 16, from Uralla in northern NSW.

The University has presented the two boys, who both entered Bachelor of Science degree programs at UNE last year, with scholarships for 2010 worth $2,500 each.

“I seem to have been doing maths all my life,” said Adam Walsh after the presentation ceremony at UNE this week. “I just love it.” Adam’s father, Steve Walsh, confirmed that Adam’s mathematical journey had begun as a toddler, when he found a school arithmetic book in a box of junk bought at a fete and worked his way through it.

“When he had exhausted that book,” Mr Walsh said, “he would beg every morning to be taught something new. For five minutes after breakfast and before work, I would give him a new concept and some problems on his chalkboard. When I came in for lunch, he would proudly show me his answers and new problems he had made up for himself. One day I suddenly realised that, during the previous two months of five minutes’ light-hearted tuition a day, he had mastered fractions, decimals, percentages, and short division.”

By the time he was ready to start school at the age of six, Adam had taken his mastery of mathematics to university entrance level. “Adam used to do tap-dancing with a local group,” Mr Walsh said. “On picking him up from a rehearsal one day, I was met by the sight of Adam standing on a crate in front of a whiteboard, teaching about ten high-school girls how to solve simultaneous equations.”

Adam began mathematics studies at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) at the age of nine, and completed more than half of a Bachelor of Science (Mathematics) degree course before program cuts at USQ resulted in his enrolling at UNE. “In the search for another university offering real mathematics by distance education, Adam found UNE,” Mr Walsh said.

Over the past few years, too, Adam has been attending his local State high school, where he took Year 11/12 English, History and Biology last term. He plays the piano and trumpet, swims, and does competitive pistol-shooting. His hobbies include astronomy and amateur radio. But among all his activities, Adam said, “maths is the prime interest”.

When asked about the future of his mathematical journey, he said: “I just want to keep building.”

Matthew Frazier was identified as gifted well before he started school. Now in Year 11, he has chosen subject acceleration rather than grade acceleration throughout his schooling at Uralla Central School. He completed his Higher School Certificate mathematics studies in Year 9, and at that time enrolled in a Bachelor of Science degree program at UNE majoring in mathematics and applied physics. He has achieved High Distinctions in all three of the units he has completed so far. He is studying Year 12 Physics at school this year, and is talented in his other school subjects. He is also an avid and successful sportsman.

“Matthew is self-driven,” said his father, Wayne Frazier. “We don’t have to tell him to do his assignments,” added his mother, Pam Hunter, “although it could be midnight when he does them. He fits it all around his sports.”

At the moment, Matthew (like Adam) is doing his university studies by distance education, working at home and in his many free periods at school. He’s hoping that, after he completes HSC Physics this year, he’ll be able to spend some of his free school time getting face-to-face tuition on the UNE campus.

“We’ve been fortunate in his school,” Matthew’s mother said. “They’ve kept him engaged, and have given him a lot of help through timetabling.” Matthew’s mentor from Uralla Central School, Glenn Pardy, accompanied him and his parents to the presentation ceremony.

In presenting the boys with their awards the Head of UNE’s School of Science and Technology, Professor Graham Leedham, said the scholarships recognised their “special gifts and extraordinary achievements at such a young age”. “The University congratulates you on your success and encourages you to continue,” he told the boys.

Mrs Norma Abey, UNE’s Relationship Manager, said that donors of scholarship funds to the University were always delighted to hear about the students benefiting from their generosity, and that these awards to such exceptional young scholars were a particular cause for celebration. Benefactors who would like to provide ongoing scholarship support for these and future gifted young students at UNE should contact Mrs Abey at norma.abey@une.edu.au.