6-Year-Old Studies Science at UNT With High School Students

Boy who loves chemistry learns from advanced students in early-college-entry program

A Denton 6-year-old is learning about math and science from advanced high school students studying at the University of North Texas.

Malachi Lewis is participating in once-per-week classes that cover chemistry, biology and computer science in the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science program at the University of North Texas.

TAMS is a two-year, early-college-entry program for high-achieving high school students interested in math, science, engineering and related fields.

Malachi's parents were referred to the program by a friend after it became clear at a young age that their son was advanced.

"He's unique," said Melanie Lewis, his mother. "He just really, really loves to learn. At first, it just seemed like he's ahead -- he's reading, really cool -- but then he started asking for chemistry books and periodic tables."

Lewis said Malachi read through science books made for kids within a matter of hours and began working on advanced materials far beyond his age level. The most amazing part was that he understood everything he learned and enjoyed learning more, she said.

When Malachi came to TAMS, leaders set him up with three high school members to see what they could teach him.

"I was like, 'Wow, he's smart," said Brandon Truong, who teaches the 6-year-old computer science.

"When we were first planning our first meeting with Malachi, we were like, 'Oh, we'll just hit the basic stuff,' and he hit that in like 10 minutes," chemistry tutor Tiffany Oh said.

His biology tutor, Kavya Arvind, said Malachi was quickly at high school-level material where the group used full experiments to help him learn the inner workings of science, his favorite topic.

Richard Sinclair, TAMS dean, said he has been stunned to see how quickly Malachi absorbs material. He said he can't remember another case like Malachi in the program.

"No, we've never had a 6 (year old)," he said. "We've had some 13-year-olds, but I think by the time Malachi is 13, he'll be the dean here."

TAMS participants take university classes and graduate with an advanced high school diploma and 57 or more transferable college credits.

During one of his Wednesday night classes, Malachi took over the white board at the front of the classroom. He stood on a chair to complete his diagrams of molecules and flawlessly convert a diagram of RNA into DNA without missing a beat. Later in the class, he was wowed to learn how a computer can instantly order random numbers into a sequence and entered the commands to do so on his own.

Outside the classroom, passing students stopped to look through the window, saying, 'Oh cool, it's Malachi."

Sinclair said the 6-year-old has become a well-known and very popular member of the program, saying his students are very excited to have him on board.

Malachi said his favorite subject is chemistry -- specifically, a lesson a few weeks earlier on his sixth birthday during which they designed a working volcano from scratch to celebrate.

"We had ice cream," he said excitedly, adding that it was an extra special type. "We also made it before we ate it."

Lewis said her son attends a special, advanced school but oftentimes still ends up ahead of the curve in the work.

But, at the end of the day, he's just Malachi.

"We love him," she said. He's our kid."

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