This section provides information to support gifted and talented maths students in reaching their potential. For more information on gifted and talented students see Gifted and Talented Online.
What is a gifted student?
A gifted student is more than just a student whose scores on tests are higher than others. Consistently high test scores are certainly an indication of exceptional ability, but there are other aspects to giftedness that must also be taken into account. These include creativity, adaptability, persistence, curiosity, and motivation as well as communication and leadership skills. While not all gifted students demonstrate all of these characteristics, they are common signs to be aware of.
What is a gifted and talented maths student?
A student who is gifted at maths is likely to score highly on standardised tests such as PAT and e-asTTle, though many gifted maths students underperform on these tests due to a lack of interest or motivation. (read more)
Just as importantly as results from tests, gifted maths students are likely to demonstrate attributes from this list described by Richard Miller (1990):
- An unusually keen awareness of and intense curiosity about numeric information.
- An unusual quickness in learning, understanding, and applying mathematical ideas.
- A high ability to think and work abstractly and the ability to see mathematical patterns and relationships.
- An unusual ability to think and work with mathematical problems in flexible, creative ways rather than in a stereotypic fashion.
- An unusual ability to transfer learning to new, untaught mathematical situations.
Some mathematics programmes, and many mathematics assessments, place a heavy emphasis on computational or procedural approaches. Gifted students may go unnoticed in this environment, with their flexible reasoning and creative thinking overlooked.
Identifying gifted and talented students
There is no standard procedure required to be used in New Zealand schools for identifying students who are gifted in maths. (read more)
Individual schools develop their own systems to ensure that they identify gifted students, including Māori, students from other cultures/ethnicities, students with learning difficulties or disabilities, underachievers, and those from low socio-economic backgrounds.
Gifted and Talented online provides information on a variety of ideas relating to the identification of gifted students, including guidelines for developing criteria, and available tools to use.
Twice exceptional students are gifted students whose performance is impaired, or high potential is masked, by a specific learning disability, physical impairment, disorder, or condition. They may experience extreme difficulty in developing their giftedness into talent. You can read more about twice exceptional students on Gifted and Talented Online.
The most important consideration in identifying gifted students is ensuring the use of multiple methods to assess students, including both formal and informal tools.
A list of some of the characteristics of highly able maths students is available on this website.
Providing support for gifted and talented students
Because giftedness presents in such a wide variety of ways, there is no single best approach to catering for gifted students. (read more)
Gifted students have a variety of particular needs, and it is important that these are met so that their abilities can best be developed.
Gifted maths students need a programme of learning that allows for:
- open ended tasks linking multiple disciplines
- the application of and development of abstract thinking skills
- in-depth, self-directed exploration of self-selected topics
- the opportunity to explore links between various topics
- the opportunity to understand concepts more quickly and explore them in greater depth than other students.
Two common approaches to providing for gifted students are acceleration and enrichment. Acceleration involves introducing the student to new material at a faster rate than other students, moving them through the content of the curriculum more quickly. Enrichment involves providing material outside of the normal curriculum to offer additional challenges and to ‘broaden’ the student’s knowledge of mathematics. While enrichment is generally the preferred approach in New Zealand schools, a combination of both approaches can be used to best meet the needs of gifted students.
Read more about providing for gifted students on Gifted and Talented Online.
We suggest that one of the best ways teachers can cater to their high achieving maths students is by engaging them in problem solving activities. Click to read about some of the benefits to introducing students to problem solving. Click for a collection of problems and solutions for students.
A collection of interactive problem solving modules have been developed for gifted maths students. Students in New Zealand schools can access them by creating an account for e-ako maths.
A collection of open-ended investigation starters are available. These investigations aim to allow gifted students to explore a problem or idea flexibly. Supporting material for teachers is provided.