The understanding of the cOl)cept of gifted education in 1970s and 1980s is well reflected by the South Australian Education Departments early social democratic views, which affirms that "It is inappropriate to refer to a discrete, unvarying category or group called "the gifted" since such a presumption would lead to applications that were both 'rigid' and 'divisive'" (South Australian Education Department, 1987, cited in Schulz, 2005).
However since then gifted education has been developed into a prominent educational field
with special programs, competitions, organisations, schools and accelerated pathways being established to provide for the unique needs of gifted children. Gifted education is described as a strategy that caters for individuals and is believed to solve problems related to student underachievement and disengagement. It is also regarded as a necessary intervention for certain children 'at risk' of behavioural and emotional disorder (Rimm, 2003; Silverman, 1997 cited in Schulz, 2005).
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Gifted and talented children have special needs in the educatioo system. For many their needs have not met. As a result they suffer underachievement, boredom, frustration and psychological distress. Many believe that the rigorous curriculum that present to bright students is enough to meet the academic needs of these students. A research conducted by Gallagher et. AI. (1997) reported that in response to a question as to whether the academic subjects offered -were challenging, 20-30% of gifted students answered "no". In fact many have commented that they were bored by- the pace and the nature of the instructions they received (Gallagher et. al., 1997).
Circumstances have often limited the opportunities of the gifted to experience mathematics as a creative diverse discipline. Administrative poliCies, minimal teacher knowledge of mathematics and lack of mathematics test series for the gifted are considered to be contributing factors that inhibit mathematical creativity
Administrative policies require adherence to selected textbooks and standard
mathematics achievements tests. Accountability for student performance in these
standardised tests influences teachers' decisions on what to emphasize in the mathematics
curriculum and when to teach the topic. These constraints limit the teachers attempting to
differentiate the curriculum to cater for gifted students. With all these difficulties some
teachers do attempt to differentiate the curriculum. One common method is to offer more
mathematics practice to the gifted students. This method often leads to students
Another common method is to take the gifted students through the regular curriculum
ich Kersh et al. described as inappropriate for the gifted at a much faster pace (Kersh et
al., 1985). Since most books have yearly overlap of topics and review chapters this method
leads to unnecessary repetition of topics and exercises by gifted children.
!lA principle reason for the rather slavish adherence or an established mathematics
curriculum is that most teachers do not feel competent in the subject" (Kersh et al., 1985).
Despite all this negative factors many programs have been designed and developed
to address the education of gifted children. These programs include selective schools,
accelerated class groups for the talented within the school, streaming, enrichment programs
and differentiated curriculum.
Accelerated programs enable students to complete the curriculum in a shorter period.
Students in an accelerated class group are one or two years ahead of the students at the
same age but follow the same mainstream curriculum. Therefore this method neither
eliminates the unnecessary repetition nor provides challenging curriculum which requires
higher level thinking.
Some schools responds to the needs of the gifted by sorting them into mathematics
class groups according to their mathematics achievement. Often this is based on one single
test at the first year of secondary school. It is difficult to assess student's understanding of
mathematics by a single test. As a result some students may be grouped inappropriately.
study done in the United States found a wide gap in the achievements of the students in the highest
and the lowesf-groups. This is due the difference in teacher expectations and
therefore the goals for the two groups. Consequently rich and more challenging curriculum
was offered to the high achieving group while low achieving group was offered the routine
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curriculum. This denies the lower group the access to a rich and challenging curriculum
thereby strengthening the gap between the groups. This can be disastrousJo the
Enrichment programs often involve one-off activities of withdrawal for a defined
period of time. They can be conducted by the school or mathematics association at the local,
state or the national level. Appropriate tasks for such program include problem solving and
Differentiated curriculum is another way of catering to the gifted children.
Differentiated curriculum provides multiple learning programs, different approaches and activities
for student to meet their particular needs and ability levels (Clausen-May, 2005;
et al., 2005; Tomlinson, 1999,2003 cited in Goos et al., 2007).
There are number of models described in the literature that can be used to develop
differential curriculum. It is the school's and the teachers' responsibility to recognise the
differences and design and create the appropriate learning environments.