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Iraq-born teen solves 300-year old math puzzle

Finds formula to explain and simplify Bernoulli numbers

A 16-year-old Iraqi immigrant living in Sweden was the youngest student to solve a math puzzle that has stumped experts for more than 300 years, Swedish media reported last week.

In just four months, Mohamed Altoumaimi found a formula to explain and simplify the so-called Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of calculations connected to numbe theory named after the 17th century Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli, the Dagens Nyheter daily said.

Altoumaimi, who came to Sweden six years ago, said teachers at his high school in Falun, central Sweden were not convinced about his work at first.

"When I first showed it to my teachers, none of them thought the formula I had written down really worked," Altoumaimi told the Falu Kuriren newspaper.

He then got in touch with professors at Uppsala University, one of Sweden's top institutions, to ask them to check his work. After going through his notebooks, the professors found his work was indeed correct.

Although the Bernoulli numbers formula had previously been solved, Altourmaimi's solution was praised because of his young age and school level, the paper reported.

Lindahs said that Altoumaimi is a very gifted student and found it remarkable that a high scool student was able to solve the puzzle.

When I first showed it to my teachers, none of them thought the formula I had written down really worked

Mohamed Altoumaimi, student

Senior lecturer Jan-Aake Lindhal verified the formula, but added that although correct, it was well known and readily available in several databases," a statement from the university said.


"It's really exciting, now all the teachers have come and congratulated me," the teen said of the response to his formula.

Altoumaimi plans to take summer classes in advanced mathematics and physics this year.

"I wanted to be a researcher in physics or mathematics; I really like those subjects. But I have to improve in English and social sciences," he told the Falu Kuriren.

I wanted to be a researcher in physics or mathematics; I really like those subjects. But I have to improve in English and social sciences

Mohamed Altoumaimi, student