Kids with above average math skills, don’t always meet the national criteria for Talented and Gifted (TAG) programs, but general math classes are often not enough to unleash their learning potential. As educators, we need to find innovative ways to challenge and engage their math abilities.
One thing we’ve learned is that labeling young kids as “smart” in math can actually be harmful. This can be especially true for bright young girls because the label comes with expectations and vulnerabilities that can discourage kids from taking risks in order to hold on to their “smart” labels.
At Seven Peaks School, we have a unique approach to math that challenges all students at all levels, and especially allows high-ability math learners to soar. We encourage kids to explore mathematical concepts, persevere with complex problems, and let their curiosity guide them to interesting questions, discoveries, and connections. And, we celebrate and learn from mistakes, a concept that strays from traditional teaching models where assignments are returned to students with “wrong” or “incorrect” marks.
Based on current best teaching practices for math, we use a problem-solving model that invites students to work in teams to explore concepts through questions, problems and scenarios. This allows gifted students to work within a community of learners which nurtures their social-emotional needs, helps them make mathematical connections that they might otherwise miss, and demonstrates that there are many pathways to a solution. We believe that high-ability students need access to problem-based, open-ended math, which teaches them to be flexible, creative thinkers, and requires them to articulate their thinking to others.
Take a minute to read this great article published in The Atlantic about why it can actually be harmful to label kids as “smart” in math.