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Gifted Education is Good Education
"A programme that helps students develop their mathematical
abilities to the fullest may allow them to move faster than others
in the class to avoid deadly repetition of material that they have
already mastered. Such a programme may also introduce them to
topics that others might not study but, most important, it
introduces pupils to the joys and frustrations of thinking deeply
about a range of original, open-ended, pr complex problems that
encourage them to respond creatively in ways that are original,
fluent, flexible and elegant."
L. J. Sheffield, (Developing Mathematically
Promising Students, 1999)
The aim of
this short article is to encourage you to consider your own, your
subject team's and your school's attitiude to, and approach to,
enrichment, extension and acceleration.
questions below to help you discuss how you can most effectively
support the needs of learners with mathematical potential in your
classroom and in your school. The questions are here to stimulate
your thoughts and discussions and act as support for a professional
development session .
The environment in which mathematics is offered is central to a
learner's experience of, and view of, the subject. What sort of
environment do you foster in your classroom? Which of the following
describe what you offer, or would like to offer, to your learners?
An environment which:
- is learner-centred rather than teacher- or
- emphasises learner independence,
- opens opportunities for innovation and exploration,
- focuses on acceptance rather than judgement,
- allows for complexity not just simplicity,
- allows for varied groupings,
- encourages flexibility rather than too rigid a structure,
- encourages students to be mentally agile,
- focuses on concepts rather than procedures,
- uses rich tasks that enable higher order thinking skills (HOTS)
rather than more of the same (MOTS),
- fosters creativity,
- develops and values productive communication.
What sorts of things can be identified and prepared in order to
support the sort of classroom culture described above? Do
- find, prepare and offer open problems and rich tasks?
- ensure access to a wide range of resources (online and paper
- share your ideas with colleagues?
- consider how you might use your able pupils to support other
- plan for your learners to work independently and/or in small
- give opportunities for, and encourage, self assessment and
selection of materials?
- make use of online communities?
- enjoy the unpredictable?
There are many other ways in which you can support your able
learners. Here are some other points for you to consider and
- Acceleration. What are the benefits and drawbacks of using an
acceleration model such as entering learners early for high stake
tests? How might your approach be affecting learners' uptake of the
- Do you offer a condensed Key Stage 3 programme? If so, why? Are
your learners practised in working mathematically and being
functional in the subject? Are there other models that might be
more effective in terms of learners' attitude to and uptake of the
- Using competitions (for example the UK maths challenge). Can
these motivate and add value to the experiences of your
- Do you encourage pupils to attend local Masterclasses or after
school maths clubs? Do you build on experiences that happen outside
the classroom so that they join up with work in school? Do you
encourage learners to talk about what they have done with the rest
of the class? Do you allow time for other ideas this experience
might stimulate to be pursued?
Remember to share resources with other staff. Think about
using similar problems with learners of different ages and
Why not do some mathematics together in a staff meeting or
development session, so you can share a mathematical expereicne and
talk about its potential for use in the classroom?
Preparing extension activities should be a natural part of lesson
planning. Make use of sites like NRICH for ideas.