Mathematical Thinking

Since our gifted education program began, one of the most difficult areas of need to address has been math. When I ask students to set goals, one of the top requests revolves around wanting to move ahead in math. When I talk to teachers about these requests the conversation generally leads to the need for understanding and mathematical thinking versus acceleration. As I was told earlier this week when speaking to a math consultant, a fast processing speed does not necessarily equate to true mathematical giftedness. When I consult the literature I am told that higher levels of engagement come when the appropriate level is found.

Another factor seems to be whether the student and/or the teacher are mathematical thinkers and truly engaged and interested in math theory and the perplexing problems that math has yet to unravel. Several students have indicated that even though they want to experience acceleration in math, it is not an area of passion. But can you develop a passion about something when you don’t take the time to really “dig in”? I have also encountered teachers who have told me that while they feel comfortable teaching the math at their grade level, they don’t feel comfortable when a student asks to move beyond that level. Can we expect all teachers to be expert mathematicians?

And so I am constantly on the look for good resources. I came across an article at Prufrock Press this week where math teacher Thomas Tretter talks about the four ways to modify math for gifted students: acceleration, enrichment, sophistication and novelty. In this article, he focuses on how developed a math program for students based on sophistication, with lots of great examples and discussions.

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