It is well-known and commonly agreed that mathematics is a keystone in developing habits of rigorous scientific thinking in children, as well as in developing other important skills: ability to formalize, to deal with abstract notions, to generalize, and to think flexibly. A gifted child should study math in such a way as to fully develop her potential - to gain solid math knowledge, develop problem solving skills, and acquire habits of creative thinking. The sooner a child masters these skills the sooner she can start applying them toward learning in other subjects.
The very important question arises: how can a child develop these habits and learn these skills? How efficient a regular school math curriculum is in transforming a gifted child into independent math thinker?
A lot of parents believe that speeding a child though school curriculum toward more advanced classes is a way to reach this goal. However, this is not a correct approach. Regular school curricula tend to emphasize collections of mathematical facts, formulas and algorithms, not ideas behind them. Moreover, they are not created with a mathematically talented child in mind. Instead of rushing forward, a gifted child should augment his school math by other math activities. These could be mathematical circles, or deeper study of school-style contest mathematics.
What are mathematical circles? Mathematical circles expose children to the type of mathematics that emphasizes importance of logical reasoning, develops creativity, encourages curiosity and enchants the student’s ability to analyze and solve complex problems. Mathematical circles originate in Eastern Europe, where there exists an established tradition of educating talented children.
During the past decade, mathematical circles, with their question-driven approach and emphasis on creative problem-solving, have been rapidly gaining popularity in the United States as well. Thus, it may be possible that a good-quality math circle is already available in your area. If not – quite a few resources are within reach of parents who want to start at-home math circle or incorporate math-circle component into their child’s education. Below, I’ll list some of these resources:
For more details on each resource and for additional grade-by-grade resources parents should read though the discussions of this seminar.
Another important question was raised during the seminar -- about importance of deeper study of school-style math with the goal of increasing understanding and math proficiency, and widening students’ problem-solving skills. Both the seminar facilitator (Anna Burago) and participating parents offered several sources of problems and lessons that a gifted child can use to deepen her knowledge of school math.
For more details on each resource and for additional grade-by-grade resources please read though the discussions of this seminar.
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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