Nancy M. Robinson
Talent in mathematical reasoning is highly valued in this society, and yet very little is known about its early course. This book is an outgrowth of a two-year study of children discovered during preschool or kindergarten to be advanced in their thinking about math. Among other findings, the study revealed that, as a group, the children remained advanced in math over the two-year period, that their spatial reasoning related more closely to their math reasoning than did their verbal reasoning (although they were ahead in all three domains), and that the math scores of the boys started and remained somewhat higher than those of the girls. The biweekly Saturday Clubs to which half the group were randomly assigned also proved effective in enhancing mathematical reasoning.
The children were identified originally by their parents, and although it was clear that they must already have been nurturing their children’s development in effective ways, the parents had many questions about how they might further enhance mathematical development at home. The ideas presented in this book grew out of our Saturday Club experiences as they might translate to family activities. The book describes characteristics of math-advanced young children; ways to “tune into” children’s ideas and questions through informal play without becoming didactic or turning off their curiosity by drilling number facts and procedures; and the power of “big ideas” like infinity, zero, reversibility, equivalence, representing the numeration system in different ways, measuring, estimating, gathering data, and understanding probability. A wide assortment of real-life contexts, such as gardening, cooking, planning parties, dealing with money, going out to eat, caring for pets, making collections, and car tips, are also described as the occasions for mathematical explorations. A final chapter presents a variety of alternatives by which schools and parents, working in partnership, can create optimal ways to support the development of highly capable children.
Parents Nurturing Math-Talented Children
Nancy M. Robinson
- Mathematically talented children are a diverse group. Some think with words; others think in a more visual-spatial manner. Some have a very specialized mathematical reasoning skill; others’ advanced math reasoning is a small part of a bigger picture of high ability in many areas.
- Parents can effectively identify advanced math reasoning in their young children.
- Positive and collaborative partnerships should be formed among adults involved with nurturing students—parents, teachers, administrators, etc.
- Parents should help children to accept their “differences” by valuing and celebrating differences among people in general.
- Parents should try to resist the temptation to teach facts or procedures to mathematically talented children; instead watch, observe, and play with children and with mathematical ideas.
- Advocate children’s use of “mental math” (no pencil and paper). This forces children to solve problems in different ways without using traditional algorithms they may not understand (e.g., “borrowing in subtraction”).
- Parents should let children know that they are interested in how they think, as well as in their answers.
- Encourage mathematical thinking by helping children find mathematical possibilities all around them and by exploring the world through lenses of patterns, systems, connections, relationships, shapes, and numbers.
- Parents should encourage exploration and discussion of “big ideas” in mathematics with their children, such as infinity, zero, number systems, reversibility, equivalence, measurement, negative numbers and fractions, estimating, data, and probability.