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Not Leaving the Gifted and Talented Student Behind

9th Oct '12 | by Bob Collins
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Having discussed the problems faced by gifted and talented students, the obvious question is, “How do you address the crisis in gifted and talented education. There exists an argument between two opposing camps in answering this question. Renzulli points to the advantages of enrichment to address the needs of the gifted and talented student. Others point to accelerating a student’s access to the instructional program – being placed in higher grades in order to access instruction appropriate to their level of gifted identification.

Acceleration or enrichment? Is there a way to not see these concepts as mutually exclusive and instead develop a curriculum to address both as complimentary? What is the curricular architecture that makes this possible and how do you build a program to address specifically the gifted and talented child? Let us try to answer these questions in this blog.

The first step is to develop a highly motivating game-based curriculum that engages the highly gifted and talented student in a unique learning and enrichment experience. The game-based curriculum allows students to make decisions and develop strategies in a time-controlled situation where difficulty is increased based on student progress.

Make use of mobile learning devices that students are familiar with and understand. They are part of the adolescent culture and the culture of gifted and talented students. Students are able to engage the curriculum 24/7 from a wide range of environments – at school, home or on the school bus. For parents with gifted and talented students this is an important step forward, meeting the student where they are academically, and where and when they want to learn.

Design audio-visual tutorials that introduce the topics and provide additional explanations for each topic. The tutorials and games bridge the gaps between two different ways of looking at mathematics. This dialogue directly addresses gifted and talented students and their curiosity, creativity and interest in exploring mathematics.

Gifted and talented students’ education definitely meets the U.S. Common Core Standards. But they have absolutely no exposure to the other International Standards. There exists a significant difference between the two. If you take mathematics for instance, one of the primary reasons for student boredom, gifted and talented students included, is the rote memory, drill and process orientation of U.S. mathematics. The international standards on the contrary focus on the understanding of mathematical concepts, problem solving, attitudes toward learning, metacognition, as well as process and skills. A curriculum should be designed that blends and teaches both methods.

Although having grade levels serves an important bureaucratic function, in reality students don’t fit neatly into grade level boxes and this is particularly true of gifted and talented students. Therefore the solution is to develop vertically aligned programs by subject as opposed to grade level specific. While grade levels are identified for each of the standards, the each subject module extends across several grades levels, allowing a student to accelerate their learning within an enrichment program.

Research has shown that higher level math requires automaticity of basic math facts, where automaticity is defined as the ability to recall basic math facts with speed and accuracy at an unconscious level (Baroody, Bajwa, & Eiland, 2009; Cumming & Elkins, 1999; Poncy, Skinner, & Jaspers, 2006; Verschaffel, Luwel, Torbeyns, & VanDooren, 2009; Woodward, 2006).

Gifted and talented students are continually challenged to apply a wide range of mathematical concepts in gaming environments, requiring higher and higher levels of automaticity. The achievement and application of these levels allows students to address higher and more complex levels of mathematics with ease, accelerating their progress through the curriculum.

Herein lies an important key for gifted and talented students and preparing them to engage in higher level mathematics.
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