So is your child gifted in math? The question is difficult to answer because all students are smart in their own ways. Moreover so many “average” math students have the potential to be more advance in math but never get into the “gifted” category for various reasons.
So I will leave it up to you, the parent, on how you want to classify your child, “gifted, main stream, average, below average, etc.” However, for the purpose of this article, I will define “gifted” as “accelerated”. I like the term accelerated because it’s a comparison to where most of a child’s peers are at in math. Also I think it’s easier to classify a child as accelerated rather than gifted because you can use more concrete metrics to evaluate your child’s standing in math. To help you classify if your child is “gifted/accelerated” I put together a list of 4 indicators that almost all gifted math students show.
Indicator 1- Track Record
How has your child done in math over the past several years? Past performance in math is a pretty good indicator of future performance. If your child has been super exceptional in mathematics for years it’s a good sign they may be accelerated.
Of course if your child is very young like 5 or 6 you won’t have a long track record to evaluate so it’s much harder to gauge math aptitude. Keep in mind that a strong math track record does not always mean the child needs to be moved up to the next grade level so you need to be careful. Nevertheless if your child seems bored or not challenged at their current math level then it’s very likely your child is indeed accelerated and should jump into another level.
Indicator 2- Two Grade Levels Ahead
Any child that is two or more grade levels ahead is by definition accelerated/gifted. For example if your child is 10 years old and taking algebra 1- they are accelerated (big time). I do believe age is an important consideration for course placement, so if your child is far ahead where most children their age are at then you have concluded they are gifted. I’m not saying a parent should not jump their child into high grade levels. However parents need to fully understand that once they do this they take on new responsibilities to evaluate if in fact it was the right decision. Listen if your child is overwhelmed at a new higher grade level then don’t be afraid to adjust course placement. You never want to be too rigid that your child must stay at a new level because the move was made.
Indicator 3- Study Habits and Test Taking Skills
If your child has excellent math habits (neat, organized, etc.) and they perform great on tests they very well maybe accelerated. Maturity level has a lot to do with how much a student can learn so if your child is an excellent student and finding their current material easy to “ace” then you may want to consider a jump to another level. Sometimes you need to take a risk with a great student and put them into uncomfortable and challenging learning environments. From my experience mature excellent students can learn far more than we are comfortable giving them.
Indicator 4- Desire To Learn
The last indicator that I want to talk about is the desire to learn. Does your child love math? Do they want to know about Calculus at age 8? If so and they demonstrate the above traits you very well may have a gifted child in math. When a child has passion for a subject they will work hard to understand and enjoy the process. Likewise if your child does show the above traits and DOES NOT have passion for math I would not be too aggressive to put them on an above average math track. Children that are gifted/accelerated need to be excited that they are far ahead and learning more – it’s the fuel they need to work hard. So if your child is great at math but does not enjoy the subject think twice about pushing them into an accelerated track as they may “burn out” and under perform at new levels.
If your child has most of the above traits then it’s likely they are gifted/accelerated in math. However despite your first impressions a gifted child can actually be more difficult to teach math as you are constantly trying to determine how far to push them. Also from a curriculum stand point a gifted child can finish a year course within 6 months meaning that you have to be always looking for the next curriculum for your child to study. Parents need to be aware that things can change with their child’s comfort level. Many children have started out as math super stars at the elementary level only to slow down and be on a normal mainstream track in high school. You need to know that it is ok if your child was accelerated then and now for whatever reason is now doing work appropriate for their age level. My biggest advice for parents is stay flexible and evaluate year by year. Last thought: as long as your child is maximizing their potential their classification does not matter. The only thing that matters is that they are doing their personal best and not quitting that’s the real sign of a math super star!