A Must Read If You Want to Understand How Your Gifted Math Students Think:
A Review of Scott Chamberlin, Ph.D.’s book, Serving the Needs of Intellectually Advanced Mathematics Students k-6.
By Kenneth J. Smith, Ph.D.
I was not a math whiz growing up, yet I have the responsibility to train those who are. Therefore, I want to know how these special students think when solving problems AND how to best develop their full, rare potential. No book or article that I have ever read on this topic has explained it better than does Scott Chamberlin’s new book, Serving the Needs of Intellectually Advanced Mathematics Students K-6. I was recently teaching a 4th grade student how to use Pythagoras’s theory to calculate the placement of the tee, the bumper, and the cup on a miniature golf course he was designing. Before I had reached the end of the steps, he not only was able to apply the calculations but was able to connect the formula to the construction of girders in a building he had seen being constructed. It is an immense responsibility to teach him—to develop the right program in which his great promise can be challenged, in which he can grow. Finally I now have a single resource for understanding what is going on in his head, for understanding how to nurture his gift. And that resource is Scott’s Chamberlin’s book.
Throughout the book, Chamberlin explained how mathematical giftedness is a compendium of potential talents--some or all of which may define a student’s strengths. This reminded me of groups of mathematically advanced students that I taught in which some students were obviously thinking spatially or geometrically while others were thinking more verbally or in terms of formulas. Regardless of which profile my students illustrated, Chamberlin offered me understandable explanations of how they might use their different talents to grasp underlying mathematical principles to solve the same problems. He further explained how I could recognize and nurture their strengths.
In a writing style that I found surprisingly readable (especially for a numbers person) Chamberlin began his book with a very readable literature review for the teacher or parent of these children. He went on to discuss how to identify these students, the need to provide for creative mathematical problem solving (as gifted adults in STEM fields will need to face), and the kinds of groupings that challenge these students to face “the rigors of what they will ultimately be expected to do in a mathematical setting (e.g., as an engineer…p. 76.)” In short, it details what we might do in the classroom to maximize their instruction and their strengths.
For teachers and parents, this book unravels the multifaceted thinking in which different mathematically advanced students might engage. It is an intriguing must read for anyone concerned about how these special students think and what schools and families can do to nurture them.