The Peak in the Middle: Developing Mathematically Gifted Students in the Middle Grades
By Mark Saul, Susan Assouline, Linda Sheffield
Good teaching is responsive to individual differences, tailoring instruction to meet the needs of individual learners. In gifted education, students need a curriculum that is differentiated (by level, complexity, breadth, and depth), developmentally appropriate, and conducted at a more rapid rate. This collection of essays from experts in the field addresses the particular needs educational institutions have in serving their gifted students. Topics include policy and philosophy; specific program models; supplemental materials and programs; knowledge and skills that teachers need in their work; international opportunities and possibilities; and equity.
Many of the points raised are as valid for general education students as for gifted students. Many relate equally well to high school or elementary school. And many apply across the curriculum—not just to mathematics.
Praise for The Peak in the Middle
The Peak in the Middle appears against the backdrop of NCTM’s recent calls for coherence and focus in mathematics education. This new book highlights similarities as well as differences between gifted and other students. All students need opportunities to reason about and make sense of significant mathematics. But as gifted students engage in solving rich problems, their rapid grasp of ideas and processes sets them apart, underscoring their need for special accommodations. The possibilities include differentiated instruction, early exposure to algebra and geometry, and math-focused extracurricular activities. The authors offer many ideas about the advantages and drawbacks of different accommodations, challenges in articulation, issues of equity, and other countries’ approaches—all with an eye to keeping our mathematically talented middle school students engaged and interested in mathematics. We cannot afford to lose these students at a time in their lives when they are developing interests and understanding that will guide their decisions for a lifetime.
—Hank Kepner, President, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Students arrive at middle school with widely varying math experiences, abilities, and interests. With the current emphasis on reaching grade-level standards, how do we accommodate highly able and highly motivated students? How can we adapt instruction so that all students learn to the best of their abilities? The Peak in the Middle provides the rationale for offering advanced mathematical content in the middle grades as well as the practical information that school leaders need to develop procedures for assessing promising math students, selecting program options for their schools, making student placement decisions, and implementing appropriate professional development. In addition, The Peak in the Middle contains valuable information to assist educators in creating a responsive and challenging mathematics experience inside and outside of school. Finally, the authors offer suggestions to promote continuous progress in mathematics without undue repetition or gaps in instruction. To ensure that our most advanced math students have a high-level, creative, and appropriate mathematics education, educators will find practical guidance and much to consider in this well-balanced publication.
—Ann Robinson, President, National Association for Gifted Children / Director, Center for Gifted Education, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
While specifically addressing the needs of academically gifted middle school students, The Peak in the Middle offers insight and practical advice to fully engage the general young adolescent population in learning math. The editors have tapped a wide range of expertise on developmentally responsive approaches to identifying needs, grouping students, appropriate curriculum, teaching approaches, articulation, and a look at the global perspective. This book is a must-read for educators working to implement This We Believe, the position paper of National Middle School Association, in math classrooms. It offers explanations of logical, practical ways to maximize learning by appropriately challenging students who might otherwise fall below the radar by simply meeting routine expectations or “tuning out.” Policy issues, teacher support, and real-world models further provide the foundation for meeting the needs of mathematically able students who thrive on complexity.
—Cathie Thibodeau, President / NMSA Board of Trustees, National Middle School Association