A major U.S. technology publication claims to have found the next Steve Jobs – and she lives nowhere near Silicon Valley.
Wired magazine believes they have found the world’s next tech genius in a Mexican border town. Paloma Noyola Bueno, 12, lives in Matamoros, attends a school that sits next to a municipal waste dump and is supported by her mother and other family members who get by selling scrap metal and food in the streets.
So what makes this little girl from a border city that for years was embroiled in a turf war between the Zetas and Gulf drug cartels so special? Last year, this tween, the youngest of eight children, scored a maximum of 921 in Mexico’s version of the SATs – making her test score the best in the nation.
While Paloma’s talent, especially given the dire conditions she lives and goes to school in, is almost unheard of, much of the Wired’s article focuses on the teaching methods of her educator.
Sergio Juárez Correa, 32, employs a “minimally invasive education" concept pioneered by Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Britain's Newcastle University. This technique lets students tap into their own curiosity and self-learning to solve problems.
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Under this system, Juárez Correa saw his students’ scores in Spanish and math skyrocket, with nine other students scoring over 900 in the math section of the standardized test.
School officials lamented that the limits of Mexico’s education system, paired with the violence the children have to deal with, may have stunted Paloma’s educational growth. The school lacks basic facilities like running water, drainage or a telephone line and two of her classmates disappeared halfway through the school year without anybody knowing why.
"If Paloma had the same opportunities or open doors as Steve Jobs, she probably would be a genius in this subject," Juárez Correa said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Paloma’s genius, however, has gotten the recognition it deserves. The young girl was recently sent to Mexico City for a mental math competition and she has become a media darling in her home country after the Wired article appeared.
Despite all the press, the miniature mathlete seems happy to just be learning.
“I'm very happy,” she said. “If you want it, you can do it."