# Swedish teen tackles centuries-old numbers challenge

David Landes · 28 May 2009, 07:49

Published: 28 May 2009 07:49 GMT+02:00

**A 16-year-old Iraqi immigrant in central Sweden has single-handedly figured out a formula with Bernoulli numbers that is normally reserved for much more seasoned mathematicians, earning him praise from professors at prestigious Uppsala University.
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**'Let schools suspend pupils': Björklund**(14 Apr 09)**Swede in US school exchange nightmare**(23 Mar 09)**Sweden to reward quick learning immigrants**(13 Mar 09)**Employers shun foreign-born grads**(12 Mar 09)

Mohamed Altoumaimi, who moved with his family to Sweden six years ago, is a first year student at the Falu Frigymnasium high school in Falun in central Sweden.

Long interested in mathematics, Altoumaimi has spent the last four months toiling over his notebook in an attempt to write a formula to explain a number of complex relationships dealing with Bernoulli numbers.

The numbers are named for the 17th century Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli and consist of a sequence of rational numbers which are important for number theory.

Needless to say, Altoumaimi’s teachers were more than sceptical when he showed up to school recently claiming he had come up with a formula all on his own.

“When I first presented it to my teachers, none of them believed that the formula I had written down really worked,” he told the Falu Kuriren newspaper.

Undeterred by the doubts of his teachers, Altoumaimi decided to contact a professor at Uppsala University in hopes of validating his work.

“Right away he wanted to take a look at all my calculations and the documents where I show that the formula really works,” said Altoumaimi.

While it's not the first time that someone has shown such Bernoulli number relationships, it's highly unusual for a first year high school student to make his way through the complicated calculations, according to Uppsala University senior maths lecturer Lars-Åke Lindahl.

"He's a very clever guy," Lindahl told The Local.

"What he did isn't necessarily new, but it is quite remarkable for a first year high school student to take on these types of problems all on his own. It's certainly an achievement."

Lindahl verified Altoumaimi's formula and proof before contacting his teachers to tell them what a gifted student he was.

"We're going to keep our eye on him," said Lindahl, adding that he told Altoumaimi he is welcome to come study at Uppsala University upon completing high school.

In addition, Lindahl has offered to provide books and tutoring to Altoumaimi in order to ensure he continues to develop his maths skills.

"I think he's likely beyond being able to get the kind of help he needs from high school math teachers," said Lindahl.

*Story continues below…*

Altoumaimi’s high school plans to take advantage of the teenager’s skills with numbers next autumn by having him serve as an instructor for several math teachers in Falun and explain his work to them.

“It’s really exciting, now all the teachers have come and congratulated me,” he told the newspaper.

Otherwise, Altoumaimi plans to continue studying advanced math and physics over the summer.

“I wanted to be a researcher in physics or mathematics; I really like those subjects. But I have to get better at English and social science,” he told Falu-Kuriren.

## Your comments about this article

So, the natives receive lower wages due to wage pressure and the local culture is eroded and diminished which in turn reduces the opposition to these policies.

It is a beautiful virtuous circle for the bankers and corporates, for the 99% of the population it is a complete disaster, a vicious circle.

Multi-culturalism has been incredibly successful, in that the goal is to divide and weaken, despite what the politicians tell you.

Maybe immigrants are to blame for the financial crisis?

Ha ha ha

the complexity of mathematical problems boggles the mind and it's the crux of so many elevated sciences. personally, i hated math because i just don't get it, but i get that there are people out there who not only are able to conceive such structures, but are able to apply it to "everyday" things which are a benefit to all of us.

way to go mohamed.

Where are those other people who always advance here on TheLocal that refugees are useless?

I hope this kid gets the support he really needs. From the article, I see how the "Jante Lagen" played in the brains of his teachers: he contacted himself the professors at UU.

The way these professors handled the thing shows the beauty of Sweden: if the kid was in a fully corrupt country, his formulas would be attributed to another person (more connected).

Unfortunately westerns always try to show the negatives sides.

Anyway

Well Done Mohammad! keep the hard work and find more formula :) Oh i forgot to tell you guys that Iraqi and Palestinian are very smart when it comes to mathematics.

he's a NOT an immigrant anymore he's a swede now! since he cracked this code he moved up from immigrant to a swede status i just had a great idea,what if all immigrants crack a code then there will be no more immigrants in sweden!! life would be grand and u know swedes they like to claim their own, GOOD JOB! keep up the good work!!

discrimination, not racism. There is a difference.Give him a stick-on ponytail and put him in charge of Swedens finances - it would make a cracking story if nothing else!!

Inlet

Moreover, capturing such talent to serve our tribe is guaranteed to impoverish millions of his tribe. It's colonization of the most criticized kind.

Furthermore, if this lad's triumph leads to more immigration of non-integrating incomers, then Swedish society will suffer - women in particular are likely to find their entire environment changed for the worse. Let's get a grip.

Mohammed: LOL. Are you kidding? I'm going to study at MIT, Stanford , Oxford, or Cambridge where I can be around other smart people. L8rs.

What has happened to the political correctness of Swedish media? Normally, the ethnic background of people never is mentioned. What is the reason that in this case the ethnical background is so important that the reader is informed about it?

Don't take any notice of the blonde racists, they never finished school and would not understand your achievement even if it bit them on the bum!

You will give heart to all like me doing mathematics components of courses.

Congrats young fella, hope you get your 72 virgins without needing to blow yourself up... instead by rocking maths and physics

Work with the infidels instead of killing them, now THERES a concept!

but i guess the reason is that the media realized the level of negativity towards refugees is quite high and thought of writing something good about them

congrats mohamed

Now I have to find out what exactly Bernoulli numbers do. I have the same confusion about the Fibonacci pattern. I know what they are, how they function up to a certain level and then I get waaaaay lost. Same thing with the Golden Mean. I know it helps understand music theory, but then I get lost again. This kid has my full approval for simply sticking with this stuff, because I can only take three steps before I stop, all brain activity dead.

"Furthermore, if this lad's triumph leads to more immigration of non-integrating incomers, then Swedish society will suffer - women in particular are likely to find their entire environment changed for the worse. Let's get a grip."

Translation - 'all very well, good job old boy, etc. But lets talk about immigration for a second. At the end of the day, he is from a culture I find undesirable.'

Especially like the way you refer to our 'tribe' - I assume you are a native Swede? Otherwise you just come across as (more of) an elitist racist dude.

Anyways, despite all the negativity, what a cool story. Doogie Howser-type kid. Makes me want to watch that crappy 'Numbers' show again.

DenMT

See? Instead of memorizing the Koran - this bright young man applied his intellect to greater endeavors.

You go Mohamed.

.

It seems that an earlier version of TheLocal's article claimed that he "figured out a formula that has challenged great mathematicial minds for 300 hundred years". This sounds like he solved a puzzle that nobody has been able to solve for 300 years. (Never mind the "300 hundred".)

What really happened is that he re-discovered a formula that is already well-known, and was discovered in 1883. So the formula is not new, and in fact much more efficient formulae for the Bernoulli numbers are already known.

Surely he is a clever guy to re-discover such a formula, but TheLocal's enthusiasm went off the absurdity scale.

That's right. Far be it from a Swede to correct someone.

and Andy..why is it so difficult you to accept a good thing done by a smart kid?...and you think Iraqis are dangerous to women here?...

these kind of comments are far more dangerous than anything else

learn to appreciate people without thinking about their race..its not so difficult!!

but Mohamed now has some.Why cannot the immigrants get past the fact that he is an immigrant and just use this discussion board to applaud a "young man who mastered a Bernoulli formula" ?

Why do you have to rape this young man's glory and bend the issue to your own uses?

Nowhere in the discussion do i see stated the percentage of student's his age who can do this. No celebration or congratulations, nor dreaming of how this could enrich or impede his life's happiness.

Forget African, Caucasian, Asian, Alien,...etc.

Is the competitiveness and the self proclaim of glory (whether for a nation, religion , culture or tribe) , so important that you would pillage this students happiness for your own perverted , twisted and selfish reasons?

Take your immigration issues somewhere else!

however, unfortunately sweden has serious failures with regards to immigration and integration. it stems primarily from a lack of experience and it isn't sweden's fault, but it is sweden's problem. also unfortunately, these serious discussions are impossible to have on a public forum like this where the most vocal are usually just spewing out propaganda or talk-show one-liners.

Take your immigration issues somewhere else!You just joined today. Umm, you do know the majority of posters from Sweden who post here are, well, immigrants, right? From my side, I am delighted that someone, immigrant or not, succeeded in bringing attention to a mathematical puzzle. Who knows, maybe there is a key to solving the energy crisis or cancer somewhere within it. (I still am not sure exactly what Bernoulli is, but I'm working on finding some Numbers for Eejits pages to help explain.) But I also take a bit of pride that this bright young man came from outside Sweden, because he raises the awareness among native Swedes that the outsiders have a lot to offer our chosen new country, as well. I see this as only a good thing, and his being an immigrant is a plus.

Wow what a tragedy if a person do the bad thing you label it Arab-- Muslim- when he do the good things you take away the credit.

sighh....

I would write the heading like " Muslim Teen solved Centuries old........."

But i dare you would not write it like this and take away the reality .because you are afraid and scare..

He did not take the privilage of so called swedish system....

see, that's the problem. people shouldn't get labeled even when it's "positive" especially not in a headline. the information can come in the context of the article as it did here. we all know he came to sweden 6 years ago from iraq. personally, i find it more of a victory since he probably suffered for much of his childhood (the insecurity of all the craziness going on around him) and only 6 years into a totally new language and alphabet. kudos to him.

it's a good story and we need more of them.

I remember when I first visited Sweden 9 years ago I could hardly find another black face .. But it didn't phase me. I currently work from home and my Partner is white Swedish...

Now we plan to move to Sweden in a few months with the Family 2 young children .. BUT NOW I fear for the reception that my children will receive.

Why can't we just live as one?

Smart kid reminds world that math is important?Somebody should track this young man down, show him all the posts, and ask HIM how he wants the world to describe him. Jeez. It's just a cool little story, no need to go ballistic, right? SmartDad, I would think you will find people in Sweden much like they are everywhere else. Some great, some so-so, and a few with their heads up orifices. If you really are worried, and you're coming from a really different type society, like the US, then come here for a visit first. Check out the dagis situation, see what a typical apartment or house in your income range looks like, find out from colleagues how much you can earn, go to a grocery store you get an idea how much it will cost to feed your bambini. While you're checking that out, your antenna will be up, and you'll get a feel for whether or not this is the right place to raise your kids. But that kind of advice and question probably deserves its own post, if you seriously are worried. Other than that, I still think this kid has done something way cool, and as a fellow immigrant Swede, good on him.

Now keep this thread on topic, goddammit!

considering he's in his first year at gymnasium...is anyone surprised? the same university extended an early invitation as they see he has worthy potential.

are you jealous your math(s) skills don't add up?

and the university did NOT extend an early invitation. Lars-Åke Lindahl of Uppsala University politely told the guy that he had done a good job, but that it is all well-known theorem and that he needs to study more. When he is big enough he is welcome to study at the university. He is no doubt a bright boy, but if he continues on the present road he will be a nadir like Elin Oxenhielm.

I have a truly magnificant proof but there is not space to write it here...

Swede idiots.

One correction BTW - it was NOT the Arabs who invented algebra, though

they were probably the ones who conveyed the texts to the Western Europeans, just like they helped W. Europeans rediscover the works of the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers which the Arabs had preserved.

While algebra is a Westernization of an Arab word (as are alcohol, alchemy, etc.), the Europeans actually learned about algebra from the works of the PERSIAN mathematician Muhammed ibn

Musa al-Khowarizmi. It is pretty clear that the Persians got many of these ideas from earlier work of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, Hindus and other ancient peoples, and then made advances of their own.

it seems some updating on the story has occurred. regardless, as the current story goes lindahl contacted the kid's teachers and called him a "wiz" --now that's a translation so maybe in swedish it was another word. however, it wasn't the professor patting him on the head and moving on as if he had signed an autograph.

i think everyone understands he has more studying to do. what's the "normal" math(s) curriculum for a first year gymnasium student ?

It is what many people seem to want to believe. Which can only lead me to conclude that people want to be seen as victims. Talk about being psychologically messed-up.

He doesn't look like an ethnic Swede but Swedish is a nationality also and you don't have to look a certain way to be Swedish. You a stormfronter?

Remind that C(k,n) = k!/(n!(k-n)!)).

Blimey I had no idea so many mathematicians read this forum.

This formula has been posted on Wikipedia, then removed after that.

I believe if the formula described in the picture of this page, then this formula is incorrect.

Bad news!

Bn = Sum(i=0,n) (1/(i+1) Sum(p=0,i)( (-1)^p C(n,p) p^n))

If this is not a formula that the news has posted, then what is it?

Bn = Sum(i=0,n) (1/(i+1) Sum(p=0,i)( (-1)^p C(p, n) p^n)), where

C(p,n) = p!/(n!(p-n)!).

p is smaller than n because it shifts from 0 to i, where i

Interesting article, but I think it is slightly patronising to Iraqi's and other immigrants alike. It basically says, "look, we found a clever Arab boy...."...

Some of the comments here are absolutly astounding in terms of racist content and also on the opposite side eg, the article shouldn't of mentioned he was Iraqi.... He is Iraqi and he lives in Sweden and he is making a fair go of it.... Deal with it and divert your attention to more constructive issues like removing your thumb out of your own rectum...

Bn = Sum(i=0,n) (1/(i+1) Sum(p=0,i)( (-1)^p C(i, p) p^n)).

Notice, C(p,n) is incorrect. C(i,p) is correct.

vvttttt5@yahoo.com

The spirit of the late Bernoulli lives within you.

""

Those four ardous months have started to release your hidden talents. Utilize them well my friend, for the world of mathematics and physics await you. I encourage you to become a member of the Society of Physics Students.

Take your time and enjoy life, mathematics just like life itself--is universal.

I greatly encourage CalTech, Berkeley, and MIT with great mathematic programs that will make you feel right at home.