When you’re teaching gifted students in a classroom with many other students, you often cannot tailor a lesson directly to them. If so, what can you do? These math activities for gifted students can help you to challenge and motivate the gifted students in your classroom.
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Often, one of the best activities for teaching gifted students is enabling them to think one step beyond what you’re teaching. When you’re teaching students a simple math concept, challenge your gifted students by asking them to answer the question “Why." Why is the distributive property true? Why do you have to find the lowest common multiple in order to add fractions? Why does 3 X 4 = 12 necessarily mean that 12/4 = 3? Getting students to answer this question, either in small groups of gifted students or on their own can take a lesson to a whole new level. Encourage the gifted students to share what they have discovered, either with you after class, or with the other students at the end of a period.
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Asking, “What If?"
Similarly, asking the question “What if" can help students think beyond the simple concepts they are learning in math class. If you’re teaching about Fibonacci numbers, ask gifted students to think about what would happen if the sequence started with the numbers 1 and 2, instead of 0 and 1. If you’re teaching about what “25% off" means, ask students what they would do differently if the store decided to take an additional 10% off of the sale price. Asking “What if" forces you, as the teacher, to think outside of the box, but it provides a challenging activity for gifted students to think outside the box as well.
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For students who are gifted in language areas in addition to math, consider having them write math stories to demonstrate the concepts that they are learning. Some students will enjoy writing short word problems for other students to solve. Others will want to create an entire story to revolve around the math concept. For example, a student who is learning her multiplication tables may want to create a story in which the character has to use multiplication in order to figure out how many people are coming to her party, how many of each item she will need to serve the company, etc. A student who is learning about distances may write a story about a space traveler who needs to figure out how long it will take to get to various planets. This activity is a great way to teach gifted kids how to think creatively.
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For students who need more than you can provide them in class, math leagues can provide additional activities for gifted students. These contests are only available for students in grades 4 to 12, and they encourage students to think creatively and use problem solving skills. No math league problems require skills above grade level, but they do require students to be able to think deeply about grade level skills. Giving your students sample math league problems to practice for the contests can help you to keep them challenged when the rest of the class needs to review a concept they have already mastered.