Published 2011 Revised 2019
Whatever the size or phase of your school you are likely to meet some highly able mathematicians at some point in your career. If you are a highly competent and confident mathematician yourself, these students will be a challenge and often a delight. If you teach maths but are not particularly confident then meeting the needs of highly able pupils can be quite a challenge. Below are some ideas to prompt your thinking, and links to helpful information and resources.
There are different ways in which teachers can meet the needs of their most able mathematicians. The most prevalent in UK schools is through acceleration - pupils move through the school curriculum faster than others, often taking assessments or examinations early. For some highly able students this is fine, so long as these three conditions can be satisfied:
However here at NRICH we believe that acceleration sends a message that maths is about speed of working through content, and that there are other preferable, (or additional) ways of working with highly able students which are more enriching, enjoyable, challenging and prepare them much more effectively for their future in mathematics.
Mathematics involves both mathematical content and mathematical thinking
At NRICH we strongly believe that the very best way to nurture and grow mathematical talent and interest is to pose challenging, stimulating problems which encourage deep mathematical thinking. This can easily be done with age-appropriate mathematical content within the right problems.
Did you know:
What should highly able mathematicians do in school?
These students come equipped with a wide range of interests, skills and motivations. Such students need, ideally, to do three things:
NRICH can help with all three of these.
1. Mathematical problems:
The activities on NRICH are tagged with one, two, or three stars. For highly able mathematicians, the three star problems will typically be difficult and challenging problems. There are hundreds of three-star problems which are archived and you can search for them according to topic using the search bar at the top right of the page. Your students may be interested in the different ways other pupils have solved the tasks, and they can find examples of these under the 'solutions' tab.
Usually at least one new three-star problem is published each month for each key stage, and we encourage children of all ages to submit their own solutions to our problems. Bear in mind that the extensions to some of these problems might challenge and intrigue many adult mathematicians!
Not used NRICH before?
2. Mathematical reading:
Many of the activities at KS3 and above have linked readings, some of them on NRICH but others on our sister site, PLUS. We have also put together a list and description of recommended books here.
3. Mathematical networks:
There are several of these that meet at different locations around the country. Tap into the UKMT network (for secondary), or the Royal Institution Masterclass series (primary and secondary). New on the scene is Mathsjam, a new adult network that meets (usually in pubs) around the country.
Other linked NRICH pages:
Supporting highly able mathematicians - who are they?
Supporting highly able mathematicians - resources for teachers
Extension, enrichment and/or acceleration?
Working with highly able mathematicians