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Math Acceleration in Gifted Education

Posted by Categories: Gifted Education, Gifted Students

I was speaking with a mom last weekend who was trying to figure out the best educational scenario for her daughter, who is highly gifted in math. She is currently home schooling her, as the school refuses to accelerate her daughter in math. Without knowing all the details of the school’s decision making processes, in general I find such a position baffling. It seems to me that one of the easiest fields of study to differentiate for a student is in math. It can be done in ways that are individual, minimally disruptive, and low in cost—all the characteristics that should be appealing to school districts serving the broad needs of all students.

Some possible simple options are to place the student with the appropriate level of math in an upper grade math group for that subject only, to pretest, compact, and allow the student to move through the curriculum at her pace while remaining in her age level classroom, or to put her on an individualized online curriculum where she can work independently at her pace and at her level. For those readers who are still skeptical about the benefits of acceleration, please read the wonderful summary of acceleration research in A Nation Deceived. I’m looking forward to the ten-year follow-up to this research coming this spring!

In addition to acceleration strategies, the teacher can enrich the classroom math with authentic applications to real-world problem solving, participate in math contests and competitions, and develop math clubs during lunch or before or after school. These ideas are just a few ways schools can accommodate the learning needs and passions of gifted math minds, allowing them to remain in a school setting while effectively and efficiently modifying the curriculum for them.

If you have experienced a similar situation with your students or with school educators, please share your experiences so that others can benefit on your successes or learn from your challenges. Feel free to email me your thoughts at

All the best,

Dr. Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
Executive Director, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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