The MCPS Policy on Gifted and Talented Education states that, "In grades prekindergarten–8, accelerated and enriched curricula will be provided to all students who have the capability or motivation to accept the challenge of such a program. This curriculum will be rigorous and challenging and matched to the abilities, achievement levels, and interests of high ability students. There will be opportunities and expectations for students to learn at an accelerated pace, to learn in depth, and to learn integrated themes and connections between disciplines…"
In order to discuss ways to identify and program for gifted and promising mathematics students, mathematical promise must be defined. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Task Force on the Mathematically Promising defined mathematical promise as a function of--
These variables are not fixed and need to be developed so that success for these promising students can be maximized. This definition includes the students who have been traditionally identified as gifted, talented, precocious, and so on, and it adds students who have been traditionally excluded from previous definitions of gifted and talented and therefore excluded from rich mathematical opportunities. This definition acknowledges that students who are mathematically promising, have a large range of abilities and a continuum of needs that should be met." (Richard Wertheimer)
There are many characteristics to consider when identifying which students are mathematically gifted. The following descriptors of characteristics of highly able mathematics students should be viewed as examples of indicators of potential. Few students will exhibit all characteristics and these characteristics can emerge at different times as the child develops cognitively, socio-emotionally, and physically.
The highly able mathematics student should independently demonstrate the ability to:
It is important to realize that these variables are not fixed and need to be continually developed.
Unfortunately, there is no single method for identifying gifted and talented students nor for assessing their performance. Ways of identifying mathematically promising students include:
Observation—while the students are working, particularly in problem solving situations of increasing difficulty or those designed to elicit the characteristics listed above.
Portfolios—students need access to exemplars from other students and the scoring rubric should include:
Questioning—individually, in small group, or whole class:
When planning instruction for gifted and mathematically promising students, there are questions that need to be asked:
As is stated in the Gifted and Talented Policy, "Children with special abilities and talents are part of the human mosaic in our schools and communities. They typically learn at a pace and depth that set them apart from the majority of their same-age peers. Because they have the potential to perform at high levels of accomplishment and have unique affective and learning style need when compared to others of their age, they require instructional and curricular adjustments that can create a better match between their identified needs and the educational services they typically receive."
Sections excerpted from Developing Mathematically Promising Students, edited by Linda Jensen Sheffield, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Reston, Virginia.