Smart Math: Is the Glass Half Full?

Over a four-year period, high-achieving students – defined as those who score at the 95th percentile or higher on a grade-level achievement test – responded to questions about their curriculum as part of the Belin-Blank Center’s annual talent search.  A talent search is a program of above-level testing made available to high-achieving students. Below, we share preliminary results.  Over the next month, we will continue to blog about this topic.

Gifted students’ reports of the level of challenge in math, science, and language arts support concerns noted in national reports and by parents.  But before deciding if the glass is ½ full or ½ empty, you’ll need a bit of context.

From 2005-2009, nearly 6000 high-achieving 4th, 5th, and 6th graders responded as follows* about the way they study math:

  • 69% are in the regular classroom learning the same mathematics as everyone else.
  • 16% work in a small group with other students who are good in math within the regular math classroom.
  • 28% work at a higher grade level for mathematics.
  • 28% have math in a special class with other gifted math students.
  • 7% work individually with a teacher or other adult to study math that is advanced (more challenging) for their age and/or take advanced math through a distance learning program.

Although about 2 out of 3 talent search participants (69%) study math in the regular class, 63% indicated that they work at a higher grade level, are in a special class, or work on advanced math individually!  So, the glass is filling up with differentiated learning opportunities.

Those numbers are more favorable than the percentages of the same students responding about language arts: 79% are in the regular class and  39% work at a higher grade level, are in a special class, or complete advanced work individually.  In science, 87% are in the regular class and 27% work at a higher grade level, are in a special class, or complete advanced science individually.

Next, we’ll share the results when boys and girls are looked at separately.

*Percentages will not total one hundred percent because students were permitted to respond to all that applied.

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