Monday, April 20, 2015

He's Really Gifted In Math?!?

My son’s Math teacher looked at me through a web cam and smiled, “He’s gifted in Math!”

“He is?” My jaw dropped. I simply did not believe it. “He’s really gifted in… MATH???”

“YES! YES! YES!” he beamed.

Of all the subjects we do everyday, I would NOT consider my son gifted in Math. NOT AT ALL. My son was never bad at Math. In fact, he was always at least a year ahead of his own grade level, but his effortless command of words and language far exceed his grasp of numbers. It seemed to me that learning Math required more effort on his part and he somehow learned to HATE the process. Math was the cause of any tension in our homeschool. Although on some days the work seemed easy for him, on other days he would suddenly forget how to do it. While he breezed through Kindergarten to Second Grade, Third Grade Math took over a year to complete. Two months into Fourth Grade Math and we were going nowhere. I did not know who between us was developing Math Anxiety

I decided to approach Barry Gelston of Mr. Gelston's One Room Schoolhouse. He specializes in teaching Math to Gifted Kids and is highly recommended by my Gifted Homeschoolers Forum colleagues. During their handful of lessons, Barry coached my son in several areas, such as a math content, math mindset, problem solving, and some executive functioning

Here are examples of their preliminary Math Tinkering sessions:

Notice, my son wrote "COOL!"

My son typed "YAYYYY!!!!

With Barry, my son learned to tinker and perhaps even appreciate the process of struggling through a challenging problem. On days they didn't meet via computer, my son would practice Math via Khan Academy. At first he was obsessed with the Scratchpad colours. I honestly doubted he would do any work.

But then, I saw his progress percentages increase everyday. Thank goodness for badges and avatars!

A month after starting Khan Academy's Fourth Grade Math, my son's mission was complete. 

Six days into Fifth Grade and he has already mastered 53% of the curriculum.

Third Grade Math took over a year. But now he is just flying through the material!

What is happening? 

Is this what asynchronous learning looks like?

His advancing pace amazes me. Most surprisingly, my son does not get as frustrated or hate Math with the same intensity anymore. He actually CHOOSES to do it. The other night, he told me, “Mama, some day, I may be a Mathematician.” 

What I have learned:

I have learned that just because he hates a subject doesn't mean he needs a break from it. Delving deeper into the cause of his feelings is more important in gaining understanding and solving the root of the problem.

I have learned there is great potential in gamifying education. In fact, we are now trying out Class Craft for our homeschool.

I have learned the importance of being part of a gifted community. My network of colleagues at Gifted Homeschoolers Forum know what they are talking about.

I have learned the importance of gifted resources. Instead of squandering on curriculum that fail to work, spend it wisely instead on tried and true, reliable gifted resources.  Our "Qui Gon" Gelston, as my son calls him, is as patient and understanding about his student's asynchronous challenges and learning style, as he is adept in teaching Math. My son has learned more Math in a month with his coaching and the use of Khan Academy than a whole year with our other Math experiments. (Read about Mr. Gelston's SENG Honor Roll Nominations here. If you are a member of GHF, you get 2 FREE lessons with Mr. Gelston too!)

Finally, I have learned that just because I spend 24 hours, 7 days a week with my child doesn't mean I completely understand his asynchronous development. There is still so much to discover about how he learns and how I need to change as his facilitator, guide, and homeschool Mama.


  1. Love this! I recall being really surprised that my son did so well on math/nonverbal/performance measures during testing because he strikes everyone as such a verbal kid. I love how you tackled this. Math has been a bit slow for us this year. Whenever he battles me, it's on math. We might need to switch it up a bit :)

  2. I totally agree with gamifying learning! My 8 year old is playing Timez Attack to memorize his times tables and while it took a month to get over the timer and boss anxiety, he's now doing it just great by himself! Khan Academy is so great.

  3. I like how this is organized. With the example and then some great "learnings" that others can benefit from. Enjoyed your post!

  4. Great post! It is wonderful to see those moments of exponential acceleration happen when a subject clicks!

  5. Some great resources here! And Mr Gelston really is a gem.