Developing good study habits before entering college is an essential skill that many gifted and talented children and their parents overlook. Some parents are often surprised to learn that their bright child can ace a schedule of honors or Advanced Placement courses with little studying. They might assume that if their child is receiving top grades in the most advanced classes offered by their school, he will be well-prepared to handle the rigors of university courses. This is an unlikely outcome without good study habits, and waiting until college to learn how to study is much too late when one might already be dealing with living on one’s own for the first time. Here are three tips to help foster this important skill while you still can.
Find a Challenge That Requires Studying
If a talented child attends school in a structured setting, chances are she is already being asked throughout the school day to cover material she already knows or can learn quickly. To ask her to take time at home to study the same material is to double her frustration. You’ll have greater success instilling good habits if you ask your child to study material that actually challenges her.
The experience may take some getting used to by both child and parent because, if done correctly, it will involve:
• A healthy struggle to understand new ideas,
• Getting less than perfect scores,
• Not always being the smartest kid in the room, and
• (Drum roll, please) having to study to do well.
Sometimes subject or grade acceleration can help, but parents should keep in mind that even with acceleration, a gifted child is still being asked to learn material that was designed for the way a typical student’s brain works. A better alternative to getting through standard curricula faster is to find an alternative that will encourage your child to understand subjects more deeply by addressing the “Why?” questions bright children are so naturally inclined to ponder.
Encourage a Growth Mindset
Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, is noted for her ground-breaking research on praise and motivation. She found that children who believed that a person’s intelligence was fixed tended to believe that truly smart people don’t need effort in order to succeed. By contrast, those who believed intelligence could be developed were much more likely to credit hard work as a key factor in achievement. (Going back to our previous point, Dweck also found that children who were praised for their intelligence instead of their effort were more likely to avoid challenges for fear of failing and losing praise.)
Dweck’s later research showed that children can be taught this growth mindset when educated on how the brain gets stronger and smarter through the process of learning. In this later study, students who were taught about brain development in addition to study skills outperformed those who were taught only study skills. The latter group was not motivated to put those skills to use. So parents, make sure your child understands the positive impact he can have on his brain and save your praise for the effort he puts into learning and studying.
Turn the Tables and Have Your Child Quiz You
One way to make studying more fun and give your brain cells a workout at the same time is to have your child test you. Turn the tables by being a student again with your child as the teacher. Have her create, administer and grade an exam that you take. Bright children often enjoy discussing and sharing their knowledge and may be more than happy to “show you up.”
In the process of creating the questions, your child reinforces in her own mind the concepts on which she will be tested. When grading, your child must go through the analytical exercise of determining whether your answers are correct and why incorrect answers are wrong. Even if you know the material well, be sure to throw in some wrong answers and ask for explanations of the right answers.
There is no simple solution for helping a gifted child develop the study habits he will need in the complex world of university life. However, should he find himself facing true intellectual challenges for the first time without this basic learning tool, he may be at a distinct disadvantage relative to his classmates, regardless of the natural ability that used to take him so far. Like most good habits, studying is one best formed at a younger age when behavior and attitude are more malleable.
Give your child the benefits of a true challenge with gifted math and computer science online from IMACS! If you’ve completed elementary school math, explore our Elements of Mathematics: Foundations online courses. Get weekly IMACS logic puzzles on Facebook.
It’s standardized stressing, um, that is, “testing,” season in the US again. Scores will soon be crunched, the debate as to whether they belong in teacher evaluations will rage on, and powerful and connected people will quote the results, no matter what they are, in support of their agenda. But regardless of what the numbers say, will outcomes actually improve for the constituency that this annual exercise claims to be benefiting, that is, the students?
Of course not. Worse yet, for all the dollars and time and energy expended by all involved, US students are worse off by many measures. Whether you ask at the university level or at the K-12 level, teachers lament the declining level of competency that students gain during their school experience.
I Passed the AP Exam and All I Got Was This Worthless Score
In February, American Public Media reported that several universities will no longer give credit to students who passed AP exams. More and more, professors are finding that even these students, who are typically advanced among their high school peers, are arriving unprepared to handle the rigor and complexity of college courses.
“[T]he general problem of college readiness ‘raises questions about whether the courses students took in high school, that might have been labeled AP or dual enrollment, were really providing students the preparation in writing and research that college itself will emphasize.’ ”
— Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities
If you haven’t read the highly-publicized resignation letter from New York public school teacher, Gerald Conti, you really should. That a single teacher’s grievance on the destruction of his profession went viral tells you just how widely and deeply this topic strikes a chord.
“The development of plans, choice of lessons and the materials to be employed are increasingly expected to be common to all teachers in a given subject. This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom.”
— Gerald Conti, Westhill High School
Now comes word that some states are rolling out new tests to meet the Common Core State Standards before the higher-level skills they require can even be taught. Should we expect anything other than a continued decline in US public school education when we are continually met with the same stuff, different decade?
Let’s Start at the Very Beginning — A Very Good Place to Start
What would it take for real reform to happen? First of all, time. You can’t just take older students who have been raised on weak curricula, throw a test requiring critical thinking at them, and expect them to respond well on any level. Critical thinking skills take time and experience to build, and the damage done by years of teaching to the old test cannot be undone in short order. This is especially true when teachers have neither the flexibility nor the training to teach critical thinking properly.
For meaningful and lasting reform to come about, deep changes need to start in the primary grades where minds and attitudes toward learning are most malleable. In US public schools, there has been a tendency for the brightest teachers to accumulate in upper grades where more complex subjects, larger bodies of knowledge and greater numbers of students require stronger teaching skills. These positions tend to pay more as well. On the face of it, this makes sense if you assume that teaching the skills of critical thinking, complex problem solving and abstract reasoning to younger children is less valuable. This is where our mindset as a nation must shift radically because, not only is imparting these essential skills to young children arguably more valuable, it takes incredible teaching talent to do it well.
Learn to Think, then Think to Learn
Why is teaching these skills at a young age so important? Because of all the good that would follow from children starting with a strong foundation. As any secondary school teacher will tell you, when a student arrives in class with these skills in place, teaching more complex ideas and larger amounts of information to that student is a breeze. He or she has a sense of how to gather and assess information, dissect and formulate arguments, and articulate thoughts clearly and effectively. Furthermore, he or she usually wants to learn because past experience hasn’t been one of yearly frustration, grade level after grade level.
Students who first learn to think subsequently use those advanced thinking skills to learn with significantly improved outcomes for the student. They learn more, and they learn more deeply. They feel greater confidence and control. The in-born love of learning is nurtured, which, along with higher-level thinking skills, serves these students well in high school, college and beyond. If you can envision the positive ripple effects through society of teaching this way, then you will understand why having more talented teachers at primary grade levels would be one of the most effective components of undoing the damage of high-stakes testing.
Master critical thinking with gifted math and computer science online from IMACS! Middle school students can explore our Elements of Mathematics: Foundations online courses. Get weekly IMACS logic puzzles on Facebook.
This month, IMACS chats with alumnus Daniel “Danny” Vidaud. Danny started taking IMACS math enrichment classes as an elementary school student and progressed through the introductory computer science class. He went on to earn his B.S.E. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan. Danny is currently in his third year as an engineer with Boeing.
Tell us about your current position at Boeing. What exactly do you do?
I am an aerodynamics engineer working in technology and product development. In a nut shell, I am part of the team of architects for the external shaping of future commercial jet airplanes. We spend our time sketching up new, outside-the-box ideas and bringing them to life!
What were you like as a kid? What kinds of things interested you?
I was a very intuitive child. Very not normal. Constantly absorbing as much as I could about the world around me. I had a tendency to quickly gain a functional understanding of complex ideas. The downside was that this only applied to topics I found interesting. A repetitive spelling assignment, for example, was as interesting to me as watching paint dry in an empty room with no windows. I needed to actively seek ways to challenge my inspiration or I would inevitably fall into a state of no motivation.
I enjoyed music. The piano, I found, was quite versatile at conveying a variety of musical ideas, but I hated studying it. I couldn’t stand the classical books or the structured process. The musical expression was inspiring; the structured training was not. Instead, I decided that mimicking what I heard on the radio was inspiring enough to practice for hours on end. Free improvisation and jazz composition became the new method of study.
Computer games! Fun! Not so fun when they freeze and get choppy, right? So I decided it would be interesting to develop a theory on what made a computer “fast” or “slow” and subsequently exploit that theory to help others in creating new systems or maintaining their old systems to do what they needed them to do.
Physics and all other things I found interesting went along the same lines of thought. The approach was always the same: Take a complicated problem, gain a general intuitive understanding for how it works, then generate as many permutations or original ideas as possible.
Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an engineer?
Always. I didn’t always know it was called engineering though. I just knew that I liked asking the “Why not?” question a lot. “Why can’t we do something like this?” Challenging the normal. Being weird. It just seemed like more fun to not do what everyone else was doing.
Given that, rocket science seemed like a viable candidate. No one was doing it, everyone said it was impossible, and it seemed like it might be a good place to start if I wanted to get involved in something really complicated that may have high demand and low supply. So I turned 15, applied with a pre-declared major of Aerospace Engineering to the University of Michigan, a few years later developed a powerful network of friends, and then came to work for Boeing in the heart of its commercial think-tank.
How did your IMACS classes prepare you for college? Your position at Boeing?
The teaching philosophy for computer programming at IMACS is not the classical piano book approach. You will not become an expert at solving any kind of existing, well-defined problem with one specific and popular language. You’ll spend a lot of time not learning the computer language that you will be taught in your first term in college.
Instead, you will gather an understanding of what you might call “computer linguistics”. The ability to communicate an idea through the assembly of conceptual components. The skill of decomposing a multipart task into a simple abstract algorithm. At which point you are then free to cut code in the language that would be most efficient for communicating that idea. IMACS computer science provides you with a different way of thinking, not just an add-on to your résumé about how you can write code in an industry favorite language.
At Boeing, we spend time studying new functional aerodynamic shapes to solve a variety of complex problems while keeping in mind the multidisciplinary nature of every component. With every new idea, you walk through the development process to show that it’s viable, or even patentable. Some of the skills I learned at IMACS allow me to draft up a few quick and dirty scripts in languages I had never coded in before. This allows me to save a significant amount of time repeating similar analytical tasks on multiple candidate solutions or parsing out test data in a useful way. After IMACS, you become more comfortable interacting with the machine and make the most of the computational power you have available at your disposal.
You also have some experience teaching. What do you think the US has to do as a nation to improve math, science and computer science education?
I was a substitute teacher at a high school and subsequently a graduate teaching assistant in a first-year programming course for future engineers at Purdue University.
Successful college students today are very aware of the concept of perceived economic value. Students today are more likely to seek out business-related, social science or history degrees rather than physical science or engineering degrees. It demonstrates a general sentiment that the technical degrees are no longer worth their perceived cost (years and/or intensity of training, accrued financial burden, etc.). Science is not the “cool” thing to do anymore as it once was when scientists were in the limelight of the 60′s. The perceived benefit of being in a technical field was much higher. Marketing happened by default on the news every time a rocket launched at the NASA Kennedy Space Center. Unfortunately, the need for technical degrees is inherently difficult to quantify and isn’t always obvious at a cultural or global economic level anymore.
Today, we’ve come to take for granted the engineering and scientific leaps that have been made in the recent past, such as leaps in wireless data transfer, functional nanotechnology and intuitive human/machine interfaces. Advances in biotechnology research (e.g. replacement organs, spray on skin) have unlocked a new approach for healing the infirm.
Unless the general culture regains an appreciation for scientific exploration by raising the perceived benefits and reducing the perceived cost (as was once shown in the 60′s during the Space Race, or during WWI and WWII in aircraft and military weaponry development, or personal computer development in the late 80′s), we will see a general stagnation in “technological advancement” as it has been traditionally defined.
Traditionally defined innovation and scientific exploration is a high-risk, high-expense endeavor. It will only happen when the global market demands it and demonstrates its true value. When the free market price of oil is allowed to inflate beyond the point of affordability without manipulation, the economy will require immediate and immense creativity in alternative energy and fuel technology. The need for scientists and engineers will be made immediately relevant and the market support will demonstrate the true benefit to all who depend on that which they take for granted.
The traditional ambition within transportation advances, for example, in the past century has repeatedly contained the adjectives “faster, farther, higher”. On the ground we went from conventional rail to high-speed rail (e.g. France’s TGV) to magnetically levitated trains (e.g. Japan’s MLX01). In the air we’ve seen US Air Force-funded demonstrators like the Boeing X-51 flying multiple times the speed of sound over the Pacific Ocean.
It seems the general population is now fairly uninterested in the traditional. We are no longer actively pursuing this long-established goal. In a modern culture that is approaching one of perfect information (made possible, in part, by economically accessible, internet-enabled, naturally intuitive smartphones), we have the ability to make more rational purchasing decisions. Now the market tends to instantly reward those who can make a substitute product for a cheaper price. Engineering and science is being redirected to the practical. For example, after you pick your destination, travel websites will automatically sort by price. The name of the game now isn’t “faster, farther, higher” anymore. The commercial business case is just not there for it.
Social awareness is starting to flow into the demand for science and engineering. Privatized venture philanthropy and private humanitarian and community foundation efforts have created a multi-billion dollar industry in the past 10 years. Modern innovation is making commodities such as digitally-based financial services for the poor or basic health services available to the masses that were previously prohibitively expensive.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are here to make the world a better place. How we each define “better” will guide innovation and large private capital into the directions that have highest economical demand and true value. The only thing we can do now is try to show the world what we are capable of accomplishing and what they can do as the culture begins to appreciate, once again, how powerful ideas really are.
Go faster, farther, higher with gifted math and computer science online from IMACS! Middle school students can explore our Elements of Mathematics: Foundations online courses. Get weekly IMACS logic puzzles on Facebook.
This month’s guest blog post comes from Christopher Tiwald. Christopher studied the Elements of Mathematics curriculum from 6th to 9th grade as a student in Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska. He attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he majored in Political Science. After exploring a diverse series of careers, Christopher became a self-taught software engineer and now works at Conductor, Inc. as a Technical Operations Engineer.
(To learn more about the online version of the curriculum that Christopher studied, explore IMACS’ foundational mathematics courses at Elements of Mathematics: Foundations and our mathematical logic courses at eIMACS.)
The most common complaint you hear from students in math class is “We won’t use this in the real world.” I’m ten years out of high school and six years out of college. I’ve made sandwiches professionally, waxed floors full-time, went to grad school, dropped out of grad school, and worked in professional politics. I can honestly report, “We were wrong.”
It turns out the real world doesn’t reward education as much as passion, self-starting, and the ability to solve problems. The Elements of Mathematics curriculum, or “Elements” as we called it in school, taught me how to learn. For four years I studied problems that bent my brain and stretched my imagination. They required every last modicum of creativity I could muster and, in truth, I wasn’t terribly good at them. I didn’t graduate top of my class — nowhere close. When I did graduate I vowed, “Never again”, and studied liberal arts instead of science in college.
But I couldn’t escape the Elements of Mathematics. Freshman Philosophy is a breeze when you’ve tackled deductive number theory. Supply and demand are trivial when you recognize their curves as simultaneous equations. College grades are driven less by raw IQ than they are by pattern recognition. Once you know how to solve one class of problems, it’s easier to solve again and again. It’s like the compound interest of education — compound interest, of course, being a concept I first encountered in Elements.
I thought it would stop when I finished college. Surely the real world, crammed full of unqualified positions, internships, and the entry-level, would not echo the Elements of Mathematics?
Did you know that if you have five ingredients to make a sandwich, the number of sandwiches you can make with two ingredients is exactly equal to the number you can make with three? Have you ever canvassed door-to-door for a campaign? The most efficient way to knock doors is often an Euler circuit — a route that takes you down every street exactly once. Here’s a fun one from the economist Thomas Schelling: Ski resorts are a closed mathematical system. The amount of time it takes to sit on the lift and wait in its line are inversely dependent. If you make the lift faster, you make its lines longer, because the time people take to ski down the mountain or warm up in the lodge won’t change.
You don’t need to know these things to run a sub shop, win an election, or enjoy a winter vacation, but knowing them gives you a more thorough, practical understanding of the world, one that is immediately useful to employers and in daily life. You learn new concepts quickly because you learned how to learn. You solve problems more efficiently because you’ve solved thousands of similar problems before. The Elements of Mathematics is a competitive edge without qualification. Bosses love it as much as professors.
As for me, I wouldn’t be who I am without the program. Elements changed the way I interact with the world. After wandering from career to career, I landed comfortably in software engineering, something I taught myself. That says less about me than it does my education. All jobs are strings of solvable problems. Once you’ve learned how to think, the rest is easy.
Learn to think at IMACS! Explore our Elements of Mathematics: Foundations online courses for middle school students. Learn about our courses in gifted math and computer science online. Get weekly IMACS logic puzzles on Facebook.
“The obsession with arithmetic skills that characterizes so many elementary curricula is indeed curious. Consider an analogous situation: No one would ever suggest that the be-all and end-all of the school English curriculum is proficiency in spelling. … It would not occur to anyone to argue that a child who has not first mastered spelling should be denied the right to read and write. … Of course, we must also be concerned with spelling, but we are not obsessed by it. The spelling will come, and surely come more easily, if children enjoy and appreciate the uses of language.”
From “Mathematics Education: A Humanist Viewpoint”, Braunfeld, Peter, Burt A. Kaufman, and Vincent Haag, Education Technology, November 1973.
If you read the guest blog post by IMACS alumnus, Steve Krouse, the following sentence may have resonated with you, either as a memory from childhood or as a more recent parenting experience: “The summer after 8th grade I took Algebra II to catch up in math (a subject I despised only a few years prior because of my failure to perform in arithmetic timed tests).” Thankfully, Steve found his way and is doing well in college today.
But why do some mathematically talented children, who perform exceptionally well in untimed situations, have difficulty with timed arithmetic tests? More importantly, how can we help these kids?
A good first step may be to let these children know that their intelligence is not in doubt because such tests are hardly good indicators of mathematical ability. Rather their primary aim is to measure how many facts a student can recall correctly within a finite period. After all, a student who can memorize and regurgitate math facts is not necessarily able to understand the reasoning behind those facts. Further exacerbating the issue of speed is the fact that in answering an individual problem a student begins by reading the problem and ends by writing the answer.
Just looking at the structure of the tests themselves points to three possible reasons why some bright children perform poorly on them. One might be the repetitive nature of timed tests—you have to do many of the same kind of problems, over and over. When gifted children are asked to do a repetitive task their minds often wander to more interesting thoughts. (And for a child, there are so many fascinating ones from which to choose!) Any resulting score or grade will seem low and out of sync with the child’s natural abilities.
When this happens, why don’t people think “That’s a natural outcome” instead of “That child needs to focus”? Surely you have been obligated to attend a function (e.g., industry conference, religious service, etc.) that was of little or no interest to you. It’s very likely that your mind, gifted or not, “strayed” to more engaging thoughts. Was this a definite sign that you are unable to focus? No. And the same is true for a bright child whose mind wanders away from a bunch of monotonous arithmetic problems.
Another explanation may be the speed at which the child reads, comprehends, and solves each question. Contrary to popular misconception gifted children can, in fact, be slow processors. Others may be perfectionists who go over each problem multiple times to avoid getting wrong answers. Some may be visual-spatial learners who would do better with shapes instead of numerals. Besides, we all know high-functioning adults who are slower at some things and faster at others. How does the slow-processing child grow into the successful adult? Chances are, someone along the way helped that child redefine slowness as carefulness and focus on a career field where carefulness is highly valued.
Finally, a timed test taker must write the answer to each and every problem on the page. This requires significant fine motor skills. For younger children, fine motor skills are often still developing. For gifted children of any age, their thoughts sometimes outpace their fingers thereby causing frustration that can interfere with clear thinking. Again, some may be perfectionists who want the numbers to look just so. Why can’t these students be allowed to give answers orally or type them on a keyboard? Sometimes, you wouldn’t know that we live in the 21st century with the way tests like these are still administered in some schools.
There are certainly other reasons why a mathematically talented child may not perform well on timed arithmetic tests. Organizations like the Davidson Institute for Talent Development provide a wealth of information such as this article on the topic. Whatever the reasons, these kids should be helped by the adults around them to understand that low performance on such tests are neither a measure of math ability nor a predictor of future success. We owe it to them to keep unhelpful and sometimes debilitating barriers out of their way on the path to excellence and high achievement.
Explore your mathematical talent at IMACS! Check out our online courses in gifted math and computer science. Visit www.elementsofmathematics.com to learn about our Elements of Mathematics: Foundations online courses for middle school students. Get weekly IMACS logic puzzles on Facebook.
It’s that time of year when we think about changes and improvements for the new year. Here are three that IMACS would be delighted to see on every educator’s list:
Teach computer science. The opportunity for American students to learn this increasingly important subject in school is woefully rare. If we want future generations to continue to have a high standard of living, we must prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. While some of these jobs may not even have been invented yet, we are fairly certain that computational thinking learned through studying computer science will be a highly valued skill needed to succeed at them.
Be a guide, not an answer key. Give students time to puzzle through new concepts and problems and the opportunity to discover answers for themselves. Step in when needed to help avoid frustration. More learning will happen, more knowledge will stick, and more confidence will build for the next challenge.
Give children more unstructured time. This is such a challenging goal in today’s busy and competitive world, but it is well worth the effort. Our culture and history have long emphasized industriousness and productivity (for good reason), but we are now coming to understand that unstructured time is also a highly productive time for our brains. These are the moments when insight and unconstrained creativity lead to new ways of thinking and solving problems. Those are the seeds of progress.
Thank you all for a terrific 2012, and best wishes for a wonderful 2013!
Ring in the New Year with IMACS! Check out our online courses in gifted math and computer science. For talented middle school students, visit www.elementsofmathematics.com to register for our Operational Systems course that is FREE before January 1, 2013. Get weekly IMACS logic puzzles on Facebook.
This month’s IMACS blog post is by guest author and IMACS alumnus, Steve Krouse. Steve recently sent us the following letter via email and kindly agreed to let us share it with our blog readers. If you would like to learn more about the IMACS Computer Science program that was the turning point in Steve’s academic career, click here.
I’ve been meaning to write this letter for a while now. I’d appreciate it if you could forward it on to Ken [Matheis, Senior IMACS Instructor], who especially helped me become the student I am today.
As you may remember, I was a student at Pine Crest School when I started taking computer enrichment classes at IMACS. I was a pretty awful student in 6th grade. Seventh grade was even worse for me. I got a C in science, B’s in math and blamed my teachers for my academic shortcomings. Around 8th grade I started Scheme, and that’s when things started to click for me. It is often said that to really learn something, you need to teach it. I would argue that computer science allows you to learn things incredibly well because you aren’t only teaching something, you are teaching something to a computer. And when “teaching” computers, you have to be specific, organized and precise.
Computer science changed the way I thought about everything. It helped me organize my thoughts, improved my grades in every subject in school and made me a happier person. IMACS not only gave me a better organized thought process, but it gave me the confidence to take on more and more challenging academic endeavors. I remember the two week period I walked around school in a daze, desperately trying to solve the infamous Scheme problem, “Spin Cycle”, as the first time I was proud of an academic achievement.
I received straight A’s in 8th grade and got the award for the best science student in my grade (a far journey from a C in science the prior year). The summer after 8th grade I took Algebra II to catch up in math (a subject I despised only a few years prior because of my failure to perform in arithmetic timed tests). I received a 99% in the class. In high school, I got straight A’s, a 2340 on the SAT, a 35 on the ACT, received the MIT Book Award my junior year and the Math Career Achievement Award my senior year.
This year is my freshman year at Penn Engineering. I am very happy to inform you that I am the single most advanced freshman in the computer science curriculum at Penn. To illustrate it differently, after next semester, I will have only 2 classes left to complete the core requirements in my computer science major. I guess I’ll get to take a lot of grad school courses and electives. Although I haven’t gotten grades back yet, I can report that I have received all A’s so far in my classes, which are: Data Structures and Algorithms, Introduction to Computer Hardware, Introduction to the Theory of Computation, The Art of Recursion, and Introduction to Legal Studies (for a little break).
I’d like to tell you about The Art of Recursion for a moment. My classmates in this class are juniors, seniors and grad students. They have interned at Microsoft, Facebook, and many other high profile tech companies. Two of them even teach courses in computer science at Penn (iPhone Development and Introduction to Python). And as you can imagine, I am totally rocking this Haskell-based course with my IMACS background. I am happy to report that I just got an A+ on the midterm.
I am so incredibly grateful to all of you at IMACS for helping me get to where I am today. I honestly could not have done it without you guys. Your curriculum for education in math and computer science is a model for every educator to follow.
Calling all IMACS alumni! Do you have a story about how your IMACS background enhanced your pre-college, college and/or professional careers? Email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be an inspiration to the next generation of IMACS scholars!
Our regular blog postings will resume next Thursday, November 29th. In the mean time, here’s a little list of things we are thankful for at IMACS.
• We are thankful for our incredibly talented and passionate instructors who, on a daily basis, inspire so many bright, young people to achieve great things.
• We are thankful for our tireless and dedicated staff who are what holds this institute together and allows us to accomplish so much.
• We are thankful for our ingenious curriculum developers whose boundless creativity and innovation never cease to amaze.
• We are thankful for our partner schools who embrace our vision and invite us to be part of their students’ educational journey.
• We are thankful for our supportive parents, all of whom make varying sacrifices to give their children the opportunity to learn with us and who entrust them into our care.
• Most of all, we are thankful for our amazing students whose pure joy in learning is an endless source of energy and motivation for all of us at IMACS.
To all of our blog readers, IMACS wishes you and your families a warm and happy Thanksgiving!
Don’t be a turkey! Check out our online courses in gifted math and computer science. For talented middle school students, visit www.elementsofmathematics.com to register for our Operational Systems course that is FREE before January 1, 2013. Get weekly IMACS logic puzzles on Facebook.
The Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science (IMACS) is pleased to announce Elements of Mathematics: Foundations, a new series of online courses designed for bright secondary school students. EMF is a self-contained program that allows the talented student to complete all of middle and high school mathematics except calculus before leaving middle school. The curriculum is the result of more than a decade of research and development by an international team of mathematicians and educators and has been in use with gifted and talented students for over 20 years.
Advances in online technology allow IMACS to bring these courses to a global audience. The first course, Operational Systems, is FREE for students who enroll before January 1, 2013. IMACS plans to roll out the remaining 14 modestly-priced courses over the next several years. Visit www.elementsofmathematics.com for detailed information about EMF.
Acceleration vs. The EMF Approach
For mathematically talented schoolchildren, subject acceleration is an oft-advised tool for addressing their need to learn more challenging material. Through subject acceleration, a student works on math curriculum that is normally taught at a higher grade level. While acceleration does help bright students avoid repetition of material in which they are already proficient, by definition it cannot help them avoid the tedium that is the standard US mathematics curriculum.
EMF is not an accelerated version of the standard US mathematics curriculum. Instead it provides a deep and intuitive understanding of foundational concepts. This allows the suitably talented child to progress quickly through material for which others would require significant drill and practice. The curriculum then proceeds to cover concepts in a mathematically consistent way, going well beyond the typical gifted math class offered in schools or online. Topics from the standard curriculum – and much, much more – are taught in an intellectually engaging way.
Six Ways In Which EMF Is Unique
• The EMF curriculum was designed from scratch specifically for gifted and talented children to leverage their advanced capacity for learning and to engage their unique ways of thinking.
• EMF provides a deep, intuitive, and lasting understanding of mathematics as a cohesive body of knowledge that opens the door to scientific discovery and technological advancement.
• EMF focuses on the powerful and elegant ideas of mathematics, the kind that gifted and talented children find deeply satisfying and inspiring.
• The EMF curriculum exposes students to subject areas not found in the standard curriculum such as operational systems, set theory, number theory, abstract algebra, and probability and statistics.
• EMF maintains a level of mathematical rigor found typically at the university level while making advanced concepts accessible and fun for a younger audience.
• EMF gives students a true sense of what it takes to excel in college math courses, which is not the same as the skills needed to do well in standard math classes or at math competitions. EMF students do not have to “unlearn” certain habits before they can move forward with more rigorous math courses.
Is EMF Right For Your Child?
EMF courses are self-study and require a certain level of intellectual maturity. Talented students who have completed all of elementary school math but have not yet completed algebra and geometry would gain the most from EMF. However, students who already have some experience of algebra and/or geometry may still find benefit because EMF introduces concepts that are not covered in standard high school mathematics classes.
Parents who register their child at www.elementsofmathematics.com will be offered the option of having their child take a free online aptitude test to help determine their child’s level of readiness.
Elements of Mathematics: Foundations, the most advanced mathematics curriculum ever devised for talented secondary school students, is now available online. The first course is FREE for students who enroll before January 1st, 2013. Register at www.elementsofmathematics.com. Get weekly IMACS logic puzzles on Facebook.
Whatever your political leanings, it’s clear that the anti-1% movement in the US continues to take its toll on Mitt Romney’s chances of becoming president. Are there similar negative feelings toward the intellectual 1% in our country? Chester Finn, Jr.’s recent op-ed in The New York Times entitled “Young, Gifted and Neglected” echoed a sentiment widely felt in the gifted and talented community for a long time now. Support, both financial and non-financial, for publicly funded gifted schools and programs has always been woefully inadequate. The struggle to keep such programs going is one with which we at IMACS are deeply familiar. (Read about our history in the public sector here.)
As Mr. Finn points out, one of the most common but inaccurate criticisms of gifted programs is that they are “elitist.” In math and science, related obstacles to greater support are (1) a lack of understanding of how important these fields are to sustaining and improving the quality of life for us and generations to come and (2) unrealistic expectations about how and when the payoff from supporting talented children comes. Some of this is rooted in the sad state of math and science literacy in the US, and some is influenced by our always-on media culture.
At IMACS, we’re the first to celebrate advances in technology, but one undeniable consequence of our “insta-world” is that people want to see the results of their actions right away. The same may be true of the tax-paying public. By definition, the large majority of parents do not have gifted children. Human nature is such that people are inclined to advocate for what benefits themselves or their own. So how do you convince them that it’s worth supporting someone else’s kid because five or ten or 20 years from now, he or she may discover the cure for a disease that someone they care about might suffer from one day? This is a mighty challenge, but that’s what the gifted and talented community specializes in, whether it’s the amazing work our kids do or the tireless advocacy of their parents on their behalf.
As one “science guy” recently put it, “We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.” While raising math and science literacy over time is the best long-term solution for everyone, gifted or not, that doesn’t help today’s bright kids whose growth years are ticking away. It certainly would help if media outlets gave as much exposure to Taylor Wilson’s nuclear research as they do to Taylor Swift’s love life. Let’s get out there as parents and educators unabashedly shining a positive light on our best and brightest students. After all, they’re not here to ruin the curve but to improve people’s lives by solving the toughest problems. There shouldn’t be any doubt that this 1% will give back to society many times over.
Editor’s note: Going forward, The IMACS Blog will be published every four weeks with our next post appearing on October 25, 2012. Thanks to all our readers for your continued support!
At IMACS, the young and gifted are nurtured and celebrated. Check out our courses in gifted math and online computer science. Register for our free aptitude test. Get weekly IMACS logic puzzles on Facebook.
Older Posts »