Should You Test Children to See if They’re “Gifted”?

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In a previous article, I wrote What it Means to Be Gifted in Math. Now the question is, should you test for this?

I heard this story once about testing and learning:

A group of people were given a test and then separated into two rooms. One room of people was told that the test showed they had an aptitude for learning welding. And so they were being taught welding.

The other set was told that their tests reflected a lack of natural ability to weld. But they were being taught welding, anyway.

The group that was told they were gifted at welding, excelled. The group that was told they had no aptitude, did poorly.

Curiously, the tests were never graded and the people were separated arbitrarily!

Perception changes things.

As soon as the people in the “bad at welding” class perceived they couldn’t do the job, they didn’t try as hard. It became part of their internal belief system that they wouldn’t be good at it.

And once the gifted people realized that welding was their “thing,” they believed they would be great, so they tried harder.

If it is part of your and your children’s internal belief system that they’re mathematicians at heart, then they will be. They will excel regardless of the method of teaching you choose. They might still decide to be political scientists or English professors, but they will do well in math.

Do you test your child for Gifted & Talented?

There’s a saying among corporate trainers: “Don’t ask for feedback about something unless you can, and intend to, change it.”

Only test your child if you will act on the results of the test.

Children who are part of a classroom school system will be tested before being allowed into an honors or GT class. If you are a homeschool system, you can teach “GT style” without ever testing.

But you may be interested in “testing just out of curiosity.” Keep the story of the welding students in mind as you make that decision. As soon as you “know” something about your child, you will treat them differently. We’re human; we can’t prevent this.

If you’re curious, and the result of a GT test is, “Nope, your child’s just plain normal,” there’ll be disappointment.

Indeed there are anomalies – prodigies, math intuitives, etc. But unless you’re sure that your child falls into one of these categories, and you intend to act on that knowledge, don’t have them tested.

Treat your child as gifted.

In lieu of testing, just treat them as gifted from the get-go. It’s not about if your child is gifted, it’s about if you believe they are gifted.

Thanks to the great parents at the LivingMathForum for the discussion that inspired this post.

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4 Responses to Should You Test Children to See if They’re “Gifted”?

  1. I read somewhere elseweb last month that kids who are taught under GT guidelines do better than kids in ‘regular’ ed classes, whether they ‘qualify’ for GT or not. There are real differences between these kids, but as far as curriculum goes, wide open skies seem to get kids to soar, regardless!

    • Hey Siggi, get Evernote so you can clip these things and share them later. I would LOVE to read that article.

      Or maybe I should just stinkin’ google it, huh? 😀

      Thanks for the info, and glad to have you back! Hope the roof’s doing better.

  2. As the mom of a highly gifted child who is emphatically NOT currently receiving the education she requires to even function reasonably happily, this is a highly emotive topic for me. I only got her tested to get her into a gifted program, because it was clear to me that mainstream schooling was not going to work for her.

    One of the biggest reasons I can see to test is to make sure that your child can get the appropriate type of education that matches his / her needs. If you’re homeschooling, you have the freedom to try different styles, paces, levels of abstraction and complexity with your child without needing to test the child first.

    I would guess that many G&T programs attract creative and committed teachers, who will do their best with any child in their program, so that the actual quality of the teachers, rather than a particular methodology, could explain the results Siggi mentioned.

    • I completely get it, Stacey. I’m not at that stage, yet, as Daughter is only two. But my sister’s child ran into something similar. Luckily there was a private school that worked with her on tuition price (she’s a single mom) that is wonderful for him and his learning style.

      Interesting that it could be the quality of the teachers – after I read that, it seemed so obvious!

      Thanks for sharing, Stacey!

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