Parents are quick to point out that their child, when reading at several grade levels above, is highly gifted. Yet others would assert that a child’s above grade performance in math qualifies them for the label. Indeed, in Montgomery County, Maryland, the public school system, MCPS, has been labeling children performing above their grade level as gifted and talented.
As the number of minorities in the system along with students receiving special services (free lunch, English as a second language) soared and the percentage of enrolled white students has declined, the number of second-grade students performing above grade level reached its current zenith of just above thirty-seven percent. Of this number, 47% are white, 22% are Asian-American, and the rest minorities. Which makes one wonder if working above-grade level translates into being gifted and talented?
According to MCPS, there are many characteristics to consider when identifying mathematically gifted students. MCPS asserts that the highly able mathematics student should independently demonstrate the ability to:
- display mathematical thinking and have a keen awareness for quantitative information in the world around them.
- think logically and symbolically about quantitative, spatial, and abstract relationships.
- perceive, visualize, and generalize numeric and non-numeric patterns and relationships.
- reason analytically, deductively, and inductively.
- reverse reasoning processes and switch methods in a flexible yet systematic manner.
- work, communicate, and justify matheatical concepts in creative and intuitive ways, both verbally and in writing.
- transfer learning to novel situations.
- formulate probing mathematical questions that extend or apply concepts.
- persist in their search for solutions to complex, “messy,” or “ill-defined” tasks.
- organize information and data in a variety of ways and to disregard irrelevant data.
- grasp mathematical concepts and strategies quickly, with good retention, and to relate mathematical concepts within and across content areas and real-life situations.
- solve problems with multiple and/or alternative solutions.
- use mathematics with self-assurance.
- take risks with mathematical concepts and strategies.
- apply a more extensive and in-depth knowledge of a variety of major mathematical topics.
- apply estimation and mental computation strategies.
MCPS also provides guidance on identifying highly able reading/language arts students. According to MCPS,a highly able reader independently:
- Reads avidly at a very early age
- Reads for longer periods of time
- Enjoys a variety of reading materials
- Demonstrates verbal, analytical, persistent, and creative behaviors
- Regularly broaches “adult” issues, asks critical questions, and has a breadth of information in advanced areas
- Displays a strong sense of self and is tenacious in his or her beliefs
- Is intuitive and perceptive
- Can handle abstract concepts and make conceptual leaps
- Possesses a large vocabulary
- Displays curiosity, originality and a sensitivity to beauty
- Is passionately interested in specific topics
- Is capable of using many levels of concentration simultaneously
- Learns at faster rate
- Manipulates abstract ideas and make connections more readily
- Asks penetrating, searching, provocative questions
- May evidence a vast gap between qualitative level of written and oral work
- May offer clever, unusual, or “far-out” responses or solutions to problems; may develop own system for solving problems
- May display poor organizational, planning and sequencing skills
- May be passive or “unmotivated” in school
Simply put, the school system is asserting that children who are gifted and talented in reading and math do show much more than above-grade level performance.