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'TALENT Act' could assist best US students in math

An act before Congress, designed to help gifted students, could help when it comes to learning math.

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Linda Sheffield has a unique perspective on how the United States compares with other nations in helping top math students reach their full potential. She's worked with students and educators in 20 countries during the past 30 years. A retired university professor of math education, she's vice president of the International Group for Mathematical Creativity and Giftedness, a professional society.

The neglect of gifted math students, she says, "has gotten worse in the United States [while] other countries are increasing their support ... to develop students' talents and creativity."

In Eastern Europe, there's a tradition of after-school and weekend Math Circles where kids work with professors. "It's a much more culturally cool thing to do," Ms. Sheffield says. In Bulgaria, for example, winning International Mathematical Olympiad teams are celebrated the way sports teams are celebrated in the US.

And Singapore, which does well on international tests, identifies the top fraction of children tested at age 10, and sends them to special schools, largely based on their math skills. Teachers are specially chosen to work with the top 1 percent of students.


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