11-year-old math whiz from Montreal beats the odds at international competition

Omar Aly says he loves studying statistics and probability because they always have a surprise one way or another.

« It’s also very easy to understand and that’s the thing with math: everything makes sense if you understand it, » he said.

Omar is an 11-year-old Grade 6 student at Royal Vale School in West Montreal and he just scored a perfect score in the world’s largest online math competition, Caribou Contests.

And statistically speaking, his perfect score – the only one in its category – was well above the average of 38.24%. There were 13,159 international participants in the 5th-6th grade category.

It was the first of six exams, and Omar is feeling well so far.

« I felt happy but also a bit relieved, » Omar said. « I worked so hard and finally got this because it’s my last year at Royal Vale so I have to try to do my best. »

Last year, Omar was in the top six percent.

Omar said he prepared for the competition by doing as many practice tests as possible, with his father reviewing the answers with him. He said he was grateful for his father’s involvement because « it helped me a lot ».

Omar said he will continue to work to improve his math skills because having a solid understanding of the subject, he explained, will help him if he decides to become an engineer, scientist or mathematician.

Omar Aly, 11, surrounded by his two sisters and parents, Mostafa Ali and Somaya Zaharan. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC)

Her father, Mostafa Ali, is a structural engineer. His mother, Somaya Zaharan, is a medical resident at McGill University.

Zaharan said it was Royal Vale staff who suggested Aly compete and then paid him to enter. Once they figured out the contest format, Aly and her dad got to work.

But they only worked on it twice a week in about 30-minute sessions « so it’s not too much pressure, » Zaharan said.

« Over the past two years, he’s been doing better and better, » Zaharan said. « I’m very grateful and very proud of him. »

She always tells him that God has blessed him with this passion for science and math, and that he shouldn’t brag about it, but use it as a tool.

“We hope it will be a way for him to understand what he wants to do in the future,” Zaharan said.

The online exam was conducted in the school library alongside approximately 40 other participating students from the school

Patrizia Battaglia, Omar’s teacher, said he deserved « all the credit. He did all the hard work ».

Battaglia described Omar as humble. She said he often volunteers to help others and his passion for math and science is evident.

“While other kids write in their journals about summer camps and what they did on the weekends, Omar teaches us about different types of engines and how they work,” she said.

« I hope other students see that hard work really pays off and curiosity is the catalyst for wanting to learn more and you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to put in the work. »


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