Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
The authors of Developing Mathematical Talent comprehensively address options for developing precocious students' talents. Although it focuses on one academic area, the information is applicable to working with students gifted in various academic domains. In fact, as stated in Chapter 1, in a survey of thousands of gifted students, "the highest percentage of respondents (39 percent) indicated that mathematics interested them the most." (p. 5) Susan Assouline and Ann Lupowski-Shoplik effectively tie together their own extensive experience in developing the talents of mathematically precocious youth, past research, and information obtained from their own studies. Chapters are presented in such a way that they can be read independently. Certain information is reiterated throughout the chapters, which serves to reinforce what the reader has learned and allows the freedom to read chapters out of sequence.
Every chapter is based on the ideal of finding an optimal match for students, "in which the level and pace of the program are correctly matched to the abilities and achievements of the student." (p. xxi) Chapter 1 identifies and refutes 12 common myths about mathematically precocious youth. Parents will find this especially helpful in working with schools that may cite these unfounded concerns as reasons for not meeting their child's needs. The authors consistently cite research findings to support their statements, reinforcing the validity of their refutations. Chapter 2 continues the thread by addressing advocacy - strategies for working with school administration, case examples, roadblocks to effective advocacy and responses to such situations. It is stressed that parents should work to create cooperative and positive relationships with teachers and school administrators, and the authors acknowledge how challenging this process can be.
An educational assessment is key to effective advocacy and the focus of Chapter 3. An extremely useful and informative discussion of common tests is presented and broken down into three types of tests: ability, aptitude and achievement. This information regarding common tests utilized in assessing gifted students is extremely valuable and difficult to find elsewhere. It familiarizes the reader with constructs measured, ages appropriate for the specific test, and the utility of the certain test for gifted learners. Additionally, the authors describe what an appropriate test report consists of and what questions to ask when searching for a tester.
One of the highlights of this book is the detailed description of the Diagnostic Testing → Prescriptive Instruction model developed by Julian Stanley, founder of the first talent search and Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth. The DT → PI model allows students to work on curriculum matched to their abilities, while filling in "gaps" or holes in their knowledge and skills. Although developed for use with students talented in math, the model can serve as an option for students demonstrating exceptional talent in other areas as well. Chapter 4, which is focused on this model, goes into sufficient depth in explaining the details as to allow the reader to be able to implement it in real life.
Following Chapter 4 on the DT → PI model, Chapter 5 details the benefits and workings of Talent Searches. Although this is yet another excellent and informative chapter, I found myself confused by the alternating conversation between specific talent searches and the talent search concept in general. With that one drawback, it offers a historical look at talent searches and their development as an option for nurturing exceptionally bright students, as well as how students can take advantage of these opportunities.
A common struggle among those working with and parenting precocious youth is establishing a balance in appropriately challenging the child. This is specifically addressed in "Programming," Chapter 6. For many of these students, acceleration is needed, and the authors present a brief, yet informative and research-based argument for considering this as an option. The authors artfully present a multitude of other options for in and out of the classroom without overwhelming the reader in this chapter, as well as in Chapters 7 and 8, "Curricula and Materials" and "Teaching Mathematically Talented Students," respectively. Throughout these chapters, I was impressed by the authors' thorough description of options and specific resources. They described in detail a handful of resources; enough to present the reader with an idea of how they could be used and why they might serve as a good option for mathematically talented students. Again, much of the information can be extended for use with students talented in other academic subjects. These three chapters are another highlight of the book because of their practicality.
The last chapter ties together everything the reader has learned throughout the book and provides a picture of how advocacy, assessment, and various options can be applied to particular situations through several case examples. The close of the book includes a list of resources, glossary, and Appendix with Mathematical Olympiad Problems.
This book serves as a practical and informative guide in meeting the needs of mathematically talented students. Tables throughout the book efficiently summarize points, which are then expanded upon in the text of the book. Because this book addresses practical ways in which to implement the ideas, provides research-based information, and is written by highly regarded experts in the field of gifted education. I highly recommend this book as a resource for both parents and educators.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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