Maths mastermind from Sheffield makes top three in trans-Atlantic contest

Yuji in action during the finals
Yuji in action during the finals
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A maths mastermind from Sheffield did his country proud when he went head to head with some of the brainiest youngsters from across the Atlantic.

Yuji Okitani, who studies at Tapton School, in Crosspool, flew to San Diego to compete in the grand finals of Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.

Yuji receives an award from George Andrews, former president of the American Mathematical Society

Yuji receives an award from George Andrews, former president of the American Mathematical Society

The 17-year-old, who fought off competition from 1,100 UK students to earn his place there, finished a highly credible third after pitting his wits against 11 other finalists from across the US and Canada.

He bagged $750 for himself and the same again for his school to spend on new maths equipment.

The modest teenager said he never expected to do so well and was actually quite relieved he didn't make it through the final head-to-head buzzer round, as he wasn't sure his nerves could take it.

"I really enjoyed the whole experience, especially meeting the other competitors and getting to see some of the world's top mathematicians speak," he said.

Yuji with the other finalists

Yuji with the other finalists

"I did much better than I expected to and I'm glad in a way I didn't have to take part in the buzzer round as that would have been too much pressure for me."

Yuji plans to save most of his money for university but to splash out on a meal to thank friends who accompanied him to the UK finals in London, where they provided much-needed moral support.

Saturday's grand final was won by Samuel Goodman, from Las Vegas.

The competition was organised by the American Mathematical Society, with the UK finals coordinated by the Good Thinking Society, a charity dedicated to the promotion of science.

Science author Simon Singh, who chairs the society, said he was 'tremendously proud' of Yuji. He urged young mathematicians to start practising now for the next instalment of the competition, which starts in September and will conclude in Baltimore, where a top prize of $10,000 will be up for grabs.