A couple more quick takes, as I dig through the backlog.

Think Your Kid's Gifted?  You're Probably Wrong, from Geek Dad.  An unfortunate title, as is the similar title of the article on which he is commenting; I would have said instead, "You're Probably Right."  At long last parents are beginning to realize that children are not mindless lumps of clay, but are nearly all born brilliant.  (You doubt that?  Plunk yourself down in the middle of a foreign country and see how long it takes you to become fluent in the language.)  Finally people are realizing that what they do, or don't do, with their young chldren makes a difference, and that they need better opportunities than most of them get.  Why do some people feel it necessary to debunk the idea?  Probably because, being fallen humans, we tend to focus not on "my child is brilliant" but "my child is brighter than someone else's child."  Geek Dad catches the real issue, however.

It doesn't matter if my son (or my daughter, in a few years) is officially deemed "gifted."  All that matters is that my kids get the best education we can provide for them.  Based on his experience in kindergarten and first grade, I'm certain my son will do better in the G/T classes, and that is really the only reason that matters for my wife and me to push hard to get him into the program.

Whether or not your kids get fitted with the label "gifted" doesn't matter.  All that matters is that you do what you need to do to get your kids the very best education possible for your kids and for their specific needs.  That may or may not be the same education all the other kids are getting, or your next-door neighbor's kids are getting, and that's all right.  If you do what needs to be done to get your kids the best education possible, you've done your job well.

Easier said than done, especially when "best education" must cover social, spiritual, emotional, and physical issues as well as intellectual ones.  Although I have an obvious prejudice in favor of home education on all fronts, what really matters is awareness, flexibility, and freedom.  What is best now might not be best in three years.  Above all, make sure that the person making (and evaluating) educational decisions for your children is you (that is, you, your spouse, and your children together).  Not the state, not your friends, not habit and custom, and not even your well-meaning mother-in-law.  :)

And speaking of the genius of babies, here are three worthwhile discussions of young children and mathematics.  The initial question was "My two-year-old can verbalize the answer to almost any other factual question, and and clearly knows the answers to arithmetic problems I must check with a calculator.  But he can't verbalize the math answers.  Why not?"  From Doman Inspired Parenting: Math (Dots) and the follow-up, Math Dots; and from Life with a Preschooler: The Math Mystery.

"If you ask a fluent reader to explain how they read they would simple state that they can. It is possible that the mental manipulation of quantity develops to the stage where the entire process takes place at a subconscious level."

If math was simply about memorizing a set of facts—What is the capital of France? Who was the fifth President? What sound does the letter A make?—it would simply be a matter of recalling the correct answer, the corresponding fact. But math, in the way that babies can do it, is not about memorizing facts: it is a way of thinking and reasoning.

This brought to mind the stage Janet went through several years later, in which she balked at being asked to show her work on math assignments.  She knew the answer, period—and was right 99% of the time—but could no more put the workings of her brain on paper than she could fly.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 16, 2009 at 6:57 am | Edit
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I never had trouble showing my work - I suppose I'm a more ordinary person than my brilliant wife... :-)



Posted by Stephan on Friday, January 16, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I doubt that. I think it's that she had what Richard Feynman called a different bag of tricks. He taught himself calculus and thus ended up thinking about the subject differently from those who were taught in the conventional manner. This gave him both advantages and disadvantages; some problems that were hard for them were easy for him, and vice versa. I never had trouble showing my work, either -- I think because I was working the way I was taught, and of course the teacher had spelled out the methods step by step. Janet, from a very young age, not only taught herself but also internalized math much more than I ever did, so it's not surprising to me that her ability to do it outstripped her ability to explain it.



Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, January 16, 2009 at 9:57 pm
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