Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gifted Children and Learning

Wow, how easily time can get away from you; it seems like just last week that we wrote our last blog, but that was actually back in October. Suddenly our weekends got busy, we even had a wedding in the family (Chuck's brother Dan), and voila! we're in the holidays!

Well, the fifth and final blog in our series of telling gifted children from bright children considers how gifted children learn. Unlike some of the other qualities of gifted children we've blogged about, a cliché about gifted children is fairly true here: gifted children seem to just "get it" more easily than other children. A bright child will master a task in 6 to 8 repetitions, but a gifted child will master the same repetition in 1 to 3 repetitions.

Think of learning multiplication tables. Bright children study their tables, review them with their parents and peers, and cite repetitions with their teacher; a table might be mastered in a few weeks through memorization driven by that repetition. The gifted child might only need to be exposed to a table, from which they recognize and infer patterns, and only after a minimal number of repetitions, they haven’t just memorized the table, they “know” it.

Repetition, in fact, tends to frustrate a gifted child, or instill boredom at the least. We saw this frequently with our own children. After all, few of us would want to read the same paragraph of text over and over, even once we’ve memorized it. These frustrations and boredom may come out as behavioral problems or with the child being regularly distracted and disconnected with their coursework.

We said a moment ago that gifted children don’t just memorize concepts, they “know” them. This is an important distinction, as it allows the gifted child to extrapolate concepts beyond what’s been exposed to them. Using the multiplication tables example again, once a gifted child has mastered up to the 3’s, they may not even require exposure to the 4’s and later. They have learned not only the table but also the underlying concepts of multiplication and they can infer tables that haven’t been exposed to them yet. They can manipulate and apply their newly acquired knowledge much more easily and cohesively than other children.

This ability to infer and extrapolate results in gifted children being able to produce material of an innovative and original nature. This isn’t true only of analytical topics such as multiplication tables; creatively gifted children will produce creative material of an original nature. Other children (and adults) who don’t understand might perceive that material as “weird” or “out there”, and it’s no doubt that gifted children—particularly creatively gifted—can march to the beat of a different drummer.

We hope that this series has been useful to you, and we hope that it helps a gifted child that you know. We’d like to hear from you about your experiences with your gifted child; you can post a comment here or you can email us at We’d love suggestions for topics, but we’d most like to hear about your gifted child!

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