Maths300 & Gifted Student Research

Karlstad Kommun
Elisabet Mellroth Specialist in Gifted Education
Department of Educational Studies, Karlstad University

During a visit to Sweden we had the opportunity to meet with Elisabet to better understand her research project and why she had chosen to arrange a membership of Maths300 to support it. We found a teacher passionate about doing 'something for gifted pupils'. So passionate that she is not only completing her own Ph.D. but has applied for and received funding to run a professional development course within Karlstad municipality. The aim is to help teachers better recognise and cater for gifted students. In this article Elisabet describes the project background and achievements to date.

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In Sweden there are no Gifted and Talented programs and therefore, of course no G&T coordinators. Also we do not have any compulsory school (grade 1-9, age 7-16) with select entry. Giftedness has not been an issue and therefore of course not gifted education. Professor Roland S. Persson showed, in a quantitative study where he asked almost 300 Swedish grown ups about how they experienced school, that 92% have had psycho emotional suffering (including suicide thoughts) partly as a result of not being met with a suitable pedagogic.

Giftedness has not been involved in teacher education at all earlier; now (since approximately 5 years) some student teachers get 2 - 4 hours on giftedness. Of course this also means that active teachers don't have knowledge on giftedness.

My goal is not to create G&T programs for the gifted pupils; it is very far from the Swedish culture. In Sweden the goal is to have all pupils in the same classroom no matter of physical or psychological differences. To do something for the gifted pupils in Sweden we have to start within the regular mixed-ability classroom and try to make their existence at least okay in that situation. To have a small possibility to succeed I believe I have to work with and through the teachers.

I have got money to run a school development project. I run it for three years and the teachers are involved for two years.

I have 17 experienced teachers involved in my projects. They teach from grade 1 - 9, half of them for grade 1-3 and the others evenly distributed. The first year (which soon is over) the teachers get deep down in theories on giftedness and mathematical giftedness. As base material we use the Australian on-line material from GERRIC. For theories on mathematical giftedness I collect theory from Krutetskii (1976), Linda Sheffield (from USA), and from my German colleagues (Marianne Nolte, Friedhelm Käpnick and Ralf Benölken).

During the first year we have also worked a lot on the question What is a good task?.

One of the Maths300 lessons used in the project is Chess Queens (Schackdrottningar). This investigation guide is based on material in the lesson and organised as a sequence of challenges of increasing complexity according to Bloom's Taxonomy.
In our project a good task should be able to work for all pupils in the classroom, but it should offer challenges to the mathematically gifted pupils. Through the literature, we've decided to combine three aspects to try to find or reconstruct tasks that should fulfil a good task for our aim. The tasks we choose, should therefore fulfil:
  • The criteria of a rich learning task (Linda Sheffield, supported by Nolte and Benölken)
  • Give opportunity for the pupil to, during the work with the task, show up mathematical abilities according to Krutetskii (1976)
  • Give opportunity to challenge (or practice, or develop) higher order thinking according to Bloom's Taxonomy (this idea comes from the GERRIC material - the differentiation module)

If tasks that we have chosen don't fulfil everything, the teachers try to reconstruct or extend the tasks so that it will fulfil them. Maths300 tasks so far seems to relatively well fulfil all criteria directly, therefore we choose them. But we also work with ordinary textbook tasks and will explore if it is possible to redo them.

In the second year (August 2016 - June 2017) of the project the teachers will implement each task in their classrooms. Each task will be tested twice by two teachers in two different classrooms. In between the tests the teachers meet and look over the tasks - maybe they need to be adjusted.

During the implementation the teachers will hold an extra eye on those pupils they suspect are gifted. They will fill in an evaluation form after each implementation and separate their experience of the works of the gifted from the other pupils. I do research on this project. Here I have only presented the school development project, not my research.

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Follow this link to Task Centre Home page.