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Pushy Mum Or Maths Genius!


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Help please....I have a child you was 4 in October and so is one of my older children, he has always been ahead of his age/stage of development in terms of CLLD and PSRN areas of development and my main aim/individual planning for him has been to provide opportunities to promote his PSED, CD, areas of development (KUW and PD are both fine) - he comes from a very academic/intelligent family who say that at home their child 'wants' to do sums, write and read all the time and so they encourage it....they have assured me they dont force it upon him but do celebrate his interests and try to nurture it appropriately....and so this has meant he writes a lot at nursery, his own initiated activities like writing childrens names etc, I support this as far as I feel appropriate (following his interest) - I have spoken to the reception teacher of the school where he will go and she is not happy that he is doing so much and doesnt want me to encourage too much formal learning...which on the one hand I agree with as his other areas of development could do with some attention - but on the other side of it I have the parents wondering why we are not doing more, he came in on Friday with a whole page of sums, correctly completed independently! Mum said he wanted to do them as his older brother was doing homework (he is 7) and his dad was doing work (he is an accountant and director of 4 companies).

I have got some very early reading books that he is taking home - again the reception teacher is not particularly happy about this.......so my dilemma is I feel divided -

 

I have always felt strongly that formal learning should take place when the child is ready, taking into account individual needs especially PSED and CD development, however I can see that this child has an amazing ability....I dont want to be 'set in my ways' so much that I forget his individual needs... encouraging his strengths and interests will mean promoting his writing, reading and maths although I know in my heart I should be centering my individual planning around his other areas of development....

 

At present I tend to encourage and support his interests with a light hearted approach and plan to get him 'playing' with friends, making relationships, small group games etc, but it is difficult sometimes when I can see he is so eager to learn....and mum is sooooo eager for him to learn.....also of course if I promote it too much when he goes to school in September, will he become disillusioned with what is on offer?

 

I would love to hear from reception teachers - your advice would be appreciated....thank you..

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Speaking from the viewpoint of someone passionate about maths, Id be wanting to look at what his mathematical knowledge is overall. Just because chidlren can do pages of sums, doesn't man they are necessarily good at maths per se, just that that are quick with a particular aspect. Id want to see how he tackles mathematical problems that occur every day in the nursery eg at snack time. Id want to see what his understanding is in areas of shape space and measures, and Id like to observe how he does the sums (with objects, fingers, in his head etc etc). Id want to see how his understanding extends to larger numbers. In short I would want to get to the bottom of what his mathematical knowledge and understanding actually is, and then I could see where I might go next in supporting that developing knowledge (which isn't more of the same...).

 

When I was a reception teacher, I often had one or more chidlren that seemed or were talented in a particular area..often a good reader for example. However when I really unpicked what they could and couldn't do, there were often gaps which I was then able to talk to parents about. Classic example, can decode words and read them fluently but have no idea what they are reading about. And there were often gaps in other areas of their development. And of course as you say you also want to develop those other areas..it may be worth a conversation with the parents about this.. the all roundedness that actually matters later on.

 

The its about mixing his interest with those areas you wish to develop, for example, supporting his imaginative play and story telling which will support his reading and then his writing, whilst bringing out the creativity. This would also support his PSED maybe depending on which areas of that you are trying to develop.

 

It is a challenging one, and its really good that you are reflecting on this, and talking to all parties involved, trying to find that balance for everyone but keeping the child at the heart of it all.

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I'll be interested to hear what other people recommend to you.

We also had a child like this who was with us last year and he wanted to do 'work like his brother did at school'. He was always wanting to write and would copy names from our registration board and wanted to do maths sheets etc I went to our school and asked the reception teacher where to take him particulary with his writing as his letter formation wasn't good (but she could read what he'd wrote so must've been ok) she advised not to do anything, she wasn't happy about us helping in anyway with writing and said to concentrate on letters and sounds and blending ready for him to be able to write words when he was with her.

Anyway to cut a long story short, we followed her advice and didn't focus at all on the areas he wanted to do tried to concentrate on his 'Creative' side which wasn't at the same level......and basically we 'lost him' he turned from being bright, enthusiastic wanting to learn and do more, to just wandering around and not really focusing on anything.

 

Not much help to you but, I now know that if we ever get into the same position again with a child, I won't take the advice of the school!

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Thank you for that candid reply....I am really worried about how it will affect him if we simply dont follow his interest and enthusiasm...

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Mundia...mum is a reception teacher as well and has a good grip on the ability he has....it does seem, as I reflect on his observations and development records that his understanding is quite exceptional...thank you for your reply...its certainly got me thinking ..

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I have the publication thank you.....might just read it now! I just need to knit me some time.....having family for dinner ...aarrrgghhh - not enough hours in the day...thanks again...

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My word this has brought back memories to the point my heart is racing!!...I can really identify with this little boy and can very much see both sides of the dilemma

 

I had very similar experiences as a child. I LOVED maths and everything associated with it BUT hated 'socialness' so wasn't confident around others, wasn't creative (i'm working my way through the colouring sheet thread with interest, as there is relevance to this there too). Fine physically, k&u, articulate etc HOWEVER, despite not being sociable, I remember being confident, having high well-being etc when I was in my 'zone'

 

I can look back and understand it now as maths are figures and those figures always have the same value whatever is going on in the background and there is comfort and confidence in that whereas, language, creativity, socialising has external factors which affect them greatly and can impose uncertainness and therefore insecurity - moods of people, ambiguity, peoples expectations/vision etc open-endedness (hence quite liking colouring sheets as a child, its a fixed expectation)

 

These took me way out of my comfort zone and I can genuinely say that had I been pushed, cajoled, bribed etc to 'do it' I would have gone inwards. If I was to look back and assess myself as we do children now, I would say I was balanced in all areas but excelled in maths concepts - and my parents embraced it, mum was good with figures, dad was very creative/inventive but they certainly didn't push me, I was made that way. Parents will always share their passions and interests with their children and they will always benefit from this but it doesn't make them pushy (although there are some that are!)

 

Throughout infant school (1 teacher taught all subjects) my cravings were embraced and I have incredibly happy memories. Looking back as a practitioner now and facing these decisions on the other side of the fence I realise how hard it must have been for them. I wish I could go back in time and sincerely thank those teachers who nurtured my needs so well to the point when the formal work was over I remember we had choice of quiet table toys until everyone was finished and I vividly remember asking for more maths sheets - and was allowed!!!!

 

However, on entering juniour school and lesson subjects were split with different teachers I was met with what I can only describe as 'frostiness'. I'd completed all the maths stuff in infant school that we were due to do in the next couple of terms and the teacher didn't seem to like it and I was told it couldn't continue. I remember arriving home in tears and my mum arranged an appointment to discuss it. Bless, my last infant teacher came along too but still they wouldn't budge!! I just remember a spark going out and it made all the other aspects less bearable, though I still have fab memories and loved school - I guess the challenge and problem solving of maths gives you a disposition to work round things.

 

Take away this child's interest and you are in danger of taking away his motivation. My earlier teachers I remember would pair me up (thus encouraging friendships) or find ways of dropping maths into other subjects so I was tackling what they needed me to and developing all round.

 

I genuinely believe that some people have great talents and with those talents are pay offs - I'm making sweeping statements here but academics generally lack some social skills or it doesn't come easy as the nature of their talents requires dedication, usually in quite solitary situations as not everyone understands and can therefore share, an academic friend admits to having no common sense!, creative types may struggle with addictions, mental illness (look at how many great painters maimed themselves etc) or not fit in with society's general model because what makes them so creative makes them different - I hope I'm not offending just trying to explain there is something that makes this child overly unique to the usual 'all rounder' and this may mean he has slightly greater deficits in some areas but it's not our right to remove something or force him into something else just because he'll be a bother to the next teacher - he'll also be a gift

 

I can't remember the name but there is a true story of a incredibly famous and gifted ballet dancer who was taken was being labelled ADHD because she could not sit still in class. A very astute professional saw something unique, disagreed, switched on some music and left the room with her mum...on looking back in to the room it was obvious she had a need to move - this was nurtured and the rest is history - but she could have very easily been institutionalized (it was a long time ago)

 

I have to say that my childhood experiences have stayed with me and really do affect how I respond to the children - I always make sure staff get into 'the children's world, their background etc' and understand what this means for them - but I equally understand the difficulty in striking a balance to protect his future interest in later schooling

 

Mundia makes some fantastic points about assessing the whole area of interest and making sure there is balance around numbers etc - rather than making the other areas of learning come up to speed with his maths

 

Some research on left and right brain dominance may be of interest as it will affect the types of items you offer in say the creative area - match sticks rather than feathers etc

 

Sorry for the long reply but this may have a lasting memory for him!!

 

 

Quick edit to say - I am totally unrecogniseable to the child I was (its def use it or lose it I'm afraid!!) and my thinking is way more creative and inventive now - dad's genes kicking in now!! (though still analytical) but I have had to grow into it

 

I've also worked with very creative types - fantastic experience in some respects, but had a real problem conforming - not great in early years when we have so many necessary procedures and policies!!

Edited by gingerbreadman
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Lots of interesting posts.

 

If it were me in our preschool, I think I would be thinking along the lines of introducing some really 'focused' role play experiences that hopefully might encompass his interests- such as an airport/travel agent, which could have loads of maths opportunities whilst at the same time fostering social skills and creativity. Making passports(drawing faces), writing names, boarding passes- how many needed? how many seats left etc. Baggage allowance- weighting. etc.

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I'm coming at this from the point of view of a parent and it could almost be my little (not so little now) by you are describing. I worry that some teachers sometimes see so many "pushed" children that they all get tarred with the same brush, so to speak, and the genuinely bright are overlooked. Not that all teachers do this but I have had experience of both this and more supportive teachers with my son.

 

For this case I think it might be useful for you to share with the parents the idea that you are working on his less developed skills, gathering evidence of his evident skills and observing for evidence that his understanding is complete on these too, (as suggested above by mundia). And I really liked louby loo's plans for activities in preschool. If our preschool or even the reception teacher had gone the way of not embracing my son's interests he would also have been turned off everything, and this we did encounter in Yr 1 and 2. It has been a long slow road but now I feel we have reached the point where my son realises he can direct his own learning more and link it to his interests himself.

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Thanks, longwayround - what a great diversion for a Sunday afternoon.

 

The particular talk that Sir Ken talks about the dancer and later to be choreographer Gillian Lynne, is the second of those links - the one about creativity. Quite literally mind blowing!

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Something else to consider is that a child who is gifted/talented (in the true sense, top 2% of the population, not just one who is pushed at home) has an identifiable 'special need' in relation to his learning.

 

Have you thought about coming at it from this angle and perhaps drawing up an IEP that shows how you are catering for his exceptional talents in this area?

 

Also google 'gifted and talented', there is loads of stuff out there to help support you in dealing with an able child.

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I think that you have to harness his interest to expose him to activities he doesn't normally choose.

 

CD is about music and dance too - and there are huge overlaps with maths and music in terms of ryythms and patterns (and just basic counting the beat).

 

And does he enjoy turn taking games involving his maths skills? that may be a way in for him to work in small groups.

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I taught Year One not Reception but I always found the best way to recognise my really talented mathematicians was to look at their application. How you apply maths in a practical sense really shows full understanding. Recorded maths shows logical thinking and the ability to remember a pattern. Yet it is the ability to use this in a real life situation that is key. So if the child was at my Pre-school I'd be looking at lots of work with bricks, cooking etc so the child can apply addition, subtraction, even multiplication and also the child can decide on the type of sum to use to work out the problem.

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