Q: Prodigy Teen's Works

Does anyone know the facts about the following matter? It is not my intent here to deny these children the credit and recognition they receive, but I need to ask: Recently, I read about prodigy teens (est. 17 year olds) working on various complicated math and science solutions…most of which is all theory. Some has no practical application at present. Who checks their work to make sure they aren’t misapplying what they believe they know?

For example, in math, one can misapply the same formula, or set of formulas, consistently and develop a bogus solution set steering the prodigy teen away from the correct solution set. Articles on these teens never fully address this, but sometimes, I see a blurb about minimal mentoring beyond the high school level, in some cases. The key word, though, is “minimal”. Can they do it correctly, alone?

Some of these topics require such a large amount of requisite knowledge, it really makes me wonder. - Jinx

Without a cite, it’s hard to know what you’re talking about, but isn’t this exactly what scientists do with their students every of their lives? Why is this any different just because the students are younger?

This is partly rooted in a misunderstanding of what mathematicians do. Almost nobody I work with has “found a solution set” in years. Mathematicians derive logical inferences from a collection of hypotheses to a collection of conclusions. We derive the Pythagorean theorem, and leave calculating the length of the hypotenuse (applying the formula) to other people.

That said, since the product is a logical chain of reasoning, the truth is apparent on review by a competent mathematician. It’s a lot easier to verify a proof than to construct it. Any student coming up with anything interesting would certainly be submitting it somewhere for publication (say, to a poster session at a meeting of the Mathematical Association of America), and those places are generally peer-reviewed.

Mathematicians may be misguided or even less than sane in our work; we are rarely, if ever, out-and-out wrong. Trust me that the kids wouldn’t be acclaimed in error.