Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?

How Do You Educate a Prodigy? 659

Nethead writes "When he was 8 years old, Gabriel See got a score on the math part of the SAT that would be the envy of most high-school seniors. When he was 10, he worked on T-cell receptor research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He's built a Genomic Lab Liquid Handling System out of Legos. He's studied chaos theory, string theory, quantum mechanics and nuclear science. He's 13 now. How do you fit him into the American school system?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How Do You Educate a Prodigy?

Comments Filter:
  • Why fit in? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:02AM (#37663058)

    He seems to learn enough on his own.

    • by dintech ( 998802 )

      Also, I think trying to fit him in to the regular state school system at least would be detrimental. What are the other options? Is private schooling a possibility?

      • Collage sound like a better option for people in this situation, and I believe that what is usually done with the successful ones.
        • Re:Why fit in? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mulvane ( 692631 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:15AM (#37663362)
          Making an art piece out of him doesn't seem to be the best use of him either. I'm sure some college art students would love to minimize his impact on society though.
        • Re:Why fit in? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by DaphneDiane ( 72889 ) * <> on Monday October 10, 2011 @12:48PM (#37665310)

          Sounds like he's much further along than I was, doing calculus at 8? That's quite impressive. I didn't start getting serious about calculus until about 12.

          College is indeed a good option, and from the linked article sounds like he already doing that. It's what I did when I was a kid, took a mixture of college classes, ( first one was around 5th grade ), did some internships, some R&D contract work, all while going to elementary, middle and high school. There is nothing like being ending up being a TA for a course and having one of your current teachers be a student for it while still also having them be your teacher. My last year of high school was only classes like gym, and at the time I hated going. Looking back though I'm glad I did.

          The one scary thing with this, as others mentioned in their comments, is burn out is a big risk. I know I ended up hating anytime anyone would say something like "Wow. Someday you will do ....". I burned out in grad school. Part of it was probably that I never really had to work at being smart before, "why study -- skimming it once is enough", part of it was that I saw everything else as just trivial details and useless facts in the way of the big pictures, and part of it was the misshapen world view combined with an extra large serving of ego that I had developed.

      • I think most private systems would be just as detrimental. Most private schools seem less tolerant of non-conformists than public schools. As other suggested - that's college level material that people 5-10 years older than him are studying, and usually only one or two of the topics, not all those listed. The kid needs to be in college for eduction.

        For socialization, find local clubs for kids and kids activities. Maybe a sport. Hell, even a church, though caution is needed with that - In my experience, kids

    • YES!... Get him OUT of the American public school system, at all cost...
      • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:21AM (#37663498) Homepage Journal

        There are 50 states, each with their own rules, not to mention Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and other territories and possessions.

        Within most states there are dozens to hundreds of local school systems with varying degrees of autonomy. Then there are private schools.

        In some school systems education quality varies widely from school to school. Even within schools you can get wide teacher-to-teacher variation and even class-to-class variation with the same teacher, same course, and same grade-level.

        • And they all fall into the category of "No child left behind." which includes "no child allowed to succeed".

          He may in a good school, and placed in gifted classes. But he will be expected to do the normal school world as well, so he will be rewarded with twice as much work and the non-gifted students. A few years of doing additional busywork homework, the stuff the other kids do in class to keep the kids quiet, will break his desire to excel in no time.

          Get the kid into a private university ASAP.

    • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:22AM (#37663528) Journal
      I have met and known two 'child prodigies' that were clearly not as intelligent as Gabriel. But before you advocate removing him from the school system, let me relate to you the story of one of my good friend's brothers, Jay. Jay was identified very early on as being very intelligent and as a result, by third grade his mother was homeschooling him to try to make the most of his time. And she did, he graduated from the local college at age 15. And she constantly pushed him and prodded him relentlessly to do better.

      And he kind of burned out. He lives with his brother (my good friend) now and hasn't ever really had a real job. After he completed college, he decided to independently pursue his own interests and sort of realized that the whole educational path he had taken was really him just quickly absorbing other people's works. Striking out on new ground was far too uncomfortable for him. What was worse was that this totally destroyed his confidence. He's never been unhappy with his life but outside of his mother's reach, he's really just kicked back and played video games. I think the greatest work of the last five years of his life has been editing TVTropes -- a site that he became obsessed with after he discovered he could spend all day watching television with no consequence. Jay has never had peers really aside from his brothers. I'm no child psychologist but I think it has had a devastating effect on his understanding on society and also his work ethic.

      The other person was a coworker, Tom, who was a very talented software developer. I met him when he was 40 and one time he told me at lunchtime about his childhood. Tom had burned out as well but in a more problematic way. Tom also completed college (Physics) at a very young age but upon having difficulty his senior year, he became depressed and had suicidal thoughts. So his parents flipped out and brought him to a psychologist who diagnosed him with Asperger's Syndrome (which he clearly did not have when I met him) and gave him a bunch of drugs. He discovered he was great at programming software and decided to make a career out of it. He still said his mother's disappointment that he didn't "cure cancer" or discover a universal filed theory was probably the most regrettable thing in his life and it was ever present in their interactions.

      "He'll probably find a cure for cancer," Sleight said. "Or something bigger."

      I think a more positive statement would be something along the lines of "He has accomplished so much and already done such great research that even if he stopped studying now he would be an accomplished academic." Not to suggest that he should stop studying but to relieve a bit of the pressure. What if he doesn't cure cancer or something bigger? What will this news do to Gabriel the person then? Haunt him?

      I would advocate trying to keep him involved in school as much as he desires with external stimulation to help his specialties. Why must geniuses be removed from society? Was Einstein removed from interacting with children his age? What exactly is the hurry? Is Gabriel asking for more time to study -- time that regular schooling is interfering with? Does he have a network of friends to rely on? Is he expected to live a short life like Ramanujan?

      My opinion is to let him excel at school and take a more normal path than complete removal and its unavoidable isolation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kral_Blbec ( 1201285 )
        Here's another anecdote for you. I was what many considered to be a child prodigy and genius. My parents living in a small farming community there was nowhere for me to go and nothing for me to do. My parents intentionally avoided teaching me to read before starting pre-school because they didn't want me to be "different" from the other kids. I didn't know anybody who could get me into prestigious colleges and programs at an early age, although I could have understood it. Instead I was put in public schools
      • ...I think the greatest work of the last five years of his life has been editing TVTropes -- a site that he became obsessed with after he discovered he could spend all day watching television with no consequence...

        This is the _real_ culprit! Beware of this site - it's horribly addictive :)

        My opinion is to let him excel at school and take a more normal path than complete removal and its unavoidable isolation.

        More seriously, yes ; totally agree. If you are going to 'cure' cancer (or its equivalent) at 25, you don't need to graduate at 15. Perhaps only pure mathematicians do their greatest work when they are young (like Srinivasa Ramanujan, or Évariste Galois) and even then, there are notable exceptions (Carl Friedrich Gauss or Leonhard Euler) who produce work throughout their lives.

      • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:48AM (#37664116)

        Burn out is really the problem, that a lot of folks don't consider when it comes to prodigies. At some point they all hit a point where the abilities they had aren't sufficient to keep moving on to bigger challenges, if they haven't been provided with the same tools that the rest use to organize and get things done, that's where it sits.

        A normal school is perfectly fine, provided that the school is teaching the organizational skills necessary to manage work, and that the student isn't required to do everything super slow just because the rest of the class is.

        I was personally, fortunate enough not to get that fast tracked, but I was in college by 16 and even with time off and screwing around graduated by 22. Which isn't bad considering that I was deliberately dragging it out and didn't know what I wanted and took time off in the middle to do other things.

        The other bit there, is that just because they're intellectually advanced doesn't mean that they should be permitted to completely waste their childhoods without a bit of screwing around and goofing off. In the long run they'll need to have something that isn't related to their primary work, otherwise there's much less opportunity to cope with the inevitable burn out that comes later on.

        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @12:34PM (#37665044)

          Is that just because you are smarter than everyone else, doesn't mean you are better. That is an important lesson I learned at public school. I was no prodigy, not even a genius, but I was a bright child, smarter than most of my peers (about 98% of them if the standardized tests were to be believed). Well part of the problem with that is it lead me to be, well, a smartass. Much like a bigger kids feels he can push others around because he's bigger, I felt that being smart made me better. I got picked on a lot in no small part because of that attitude.

          In time, I learned that just because I was smart, didn't mean I was better, and that just because someone isn't as smart doesn't mean they don't have plenty to offer. I learned, well, to be a functioning member of society.

          That was pretty valuable, and is a large part of why I have my job, which I love, today. It requires interaction with people all the time. If I was a self-superior asshole, there's no way I would have got it.

          Also as you note, everyone will hit a wall with their abilities. Everyone hits a point where things aren't easy anymore. It is important to develop some skills for how to deal with that, including working with others, or you are in a world of hurt when it happens.

      • by suomynonAyletamitlU ( 1618513 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @12:42PM (#37665218)

        And he kind of burned out. He lives with his brother (my good friend) now and hasn't ever really had a real job. After he completed college, he decided to independently pursue his own interests and sort of realized that the whole educational path he had taken was really him just quickly absorbing other people's works. Striking out on new ground was far too uncomfortable for him. What was worse was that this totally destroyed his confidence.

        As someone in a similar situation (You don't have to consider me a prodigy; I don't. But I got through school and college with minimal studying, by listening and learning), with similar problems (low confidence, burned out, etc), let me offer this for consideration: I have a lot of projects in the back of my mind--many, from tabletop games to video games to other software to computer hardware, fountains, architecture, writing, animation, and probably others I can't immediately think of. However, I don't know how to get anywhere, and critically, nobody is interested in helping me get where I want to go.

        Education is a path to becoming an academic. The school system is NOT set up to help you with any particular project you may have in mind; it is set up to give you a solid foundation. For a great, great many people, education replaces inspiration, which is to say that you don't need to say, "You know what I want to learn? Arithmetic. That would help me solve this problem!" You don't have to go out of your way to learn math like a farm boy of the first century, who quite reasonably may never have needed it. You don't have to gain these skills by grit and willpower. However, when these skills are no longer an accomplishment, you DO need grit and willpower to take the next step.

        More importantly, what you need to take the next step are people who know what you're capable of, know what you'd like to do, and are willing to help. Imagine if someone took one of my projects and said, "You know what? Let's run with this. I bet if you took classes to learn this, and I went over here to talk to these people, and I know some people over here that can help... maybe within a couple years we might have something to show to investors, and we can make a business out of it." That sort of confidence can't come from me. I'll work, I'll offer inspiration, I'll do all sorts of things, but everything I want to do is a project, and all of those projects are going to NEED other people. Before I can even ask for their help, I have to believe others will want the end result; I can't just look at them and say, "Yup. They'll want this. Come on everyone, trust me, we'll do it." That seems sleazy to me, or corrupt, or... I don't even know what.

        How do you educate a prodigy? Find out where their sights are set, and help them along that road. If they have their sights on many things, help with that. Don't ever, ever tell them that when they reach maturity (ie leave college) and are on their own, their job is done. That's a stalling point, and I would imagine that a lot of people get stuck there.

      • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @12:44PM (#37665240)

        I think there is the real problem when the child has a genius level talent, people put him on this high horse to succeed at everything. But because he expects everything to be easy in life he doesn't learn about working hard, or even putting in any effort. So when they grow up they will not keep a job because they either expect place of employment to treat him like a god (not realizing once you reach 18 you are no longer a child prodigy), or perhaps due to his intelligence get very board with the job and causes more problems then what he is worth.

        A real life Dr. House wouldn't have so many people begging him back to stay after all the crap he deals out. They would fire him, and not let him back, even if he can save those extra 20 people a year. Because the cost of the legal suites against the hospital probably creating a situation where hundreds of people probably died because the correct departments didn't get the full funding they could have gotten.

        Being a genius doesn't make you a good person, or a useful person. A person with above average intelligence but a strong work ethic can probably be more useful then a genius who never was taught to work hard, and tough it out threw the boring parts.

    • Yes. So wouldn't the answer to the TFS be "as a professor"

  • You don't. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Errol backfiring ( 1280012 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:04AM (#37663092) Journal
    You could possibly fit the entire American school system into him.
    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:14AM (#37663332)

      You could possibly fit the entire American school system into him.

      Except that he's highly focused on sciences. How about some history, art, music, or languages for a few years? Heaven forbid the kid learn something besides science.

      Speaking as someone who works with a lot of very smart people focused in very narrow fields: the kid's going to be a lot happier if he has at least some general background.

      Didn't any of you read Ender's Game? Remember how, among other things, Ender often longs to just be a kid?

      • Didn't any of you read Ender's Game? Remember how, among other things, Ender often longs to just be a kid?

        I wish I had mod points. This is something a lot of the above average kids I hung around with didn't learn until later in life. Go run around outside. :D

      • When he's worn out science, he may well turn to the arts. Or, perhaps, he will work science in a way that will benefit the arts.

        Either way, it seems you don't give much respect to people who focus narrowly to great efffect. So Monet would have benefited greatly from a diversion into, say, science?

        I for one don't find Monet to have been diminished one bit for having focused on painting. This kid seems to be doing well. In 5-6 years he'll be able to make his own decisions. Assuming he will be to narrowly

      • But Ender had this foisted upon him. The question is - what if this kid does not want what Ender wants. Foisting "just being a kid" on him, is just as bad as foisting "not just being a kid" on him.

      • Fiction (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sjbe ( 173966 )

        Didn't any of you read Ender's Game? Remember how, among other things, Ender often longs to just be a kid?

        You are using a fictional story about a prodigy written by someone who was not a prodigy and likely has no special insights into raising one as a guide? Should we next consult the Fellowship of the Ring for advice on raising an adopted nephew?

        Seriously, your point about exposing him to other things is fine but using Ender's Game as a parenting guide is beyond ridiculous.

      • You discover that child prodigies often as not do not go on to become the great people in their field. For every one you can name there are tons more that didn't and tons of just "regular" genius adults that did. Like take Wolfgang Pauli. A brilliant physicist and a child prodigy. Worked with people like Feynman, Einstein, Bohr, and Oppenheimer. Fair enough but notice that among those names, he's not the greatest, and none of the rest were prodigies.

        Also take a look at one of the current greats in science:

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nrozema ( 317031 )

      Truth. Any extra resources in the public school system - which let's face it, there are no "extra" resources in our current public school system - are devoted to bringing those on the opposite end of the spectrum up to grade level. There are very few programs and opportunities to advance a gifted child within the system.

      Public schooling in the US is not for gifted children. Your only viable options are home or private schooling. The child's opportunities for learning and enrichment are only going to be as g

    • You let him pick his teachers and classes. You let him complete the coursework at his own pace, and you don't require him to do homework (he'll do however much homework he needs to understand and remember the material without any externally imposed requirements). When he completes the required coursework, you let him pick another topic and continue studying and learning.

      And you do exactly what his parents and school have been doing, keep him involved with other kids his age, sports, arts, music, etc. And yo

  • Not trying to fit a square peg in a round hole?

    Anyway from what I've read, the guy is a pretentious little git who can't stand working with mere mortals anyway and ends up finishing projects on his own. Maybe one day he'll grow up and realize that even he has very real limitations.

    • an obnoxious 13 year old!? OMG WTF!? Never would have seen that coming.

      Really though, I'd vote for a combination of computer aided math and science education with as much exposure to college seminars on history, philosophy and the social sciences as he can stand to sit through. IMHO, the trick to producing a keen intellect is to marry knowledge (i.e. theorems) with the ability to think both vertically (apply knowledge in the expected manner) and laterally (take what you know about A to reconsider what we
    • Or another Billy Sidis. Gave mathematics lectures at Harvard at the age of 12. Lived his adult life in seclusion.

    • Maybe one day he'll grow up and realize that even he has very real limitations.

      Well, I don't mean to be too flippant, but he is 13. He can quite literally grow up. He's a child prodigy, not a victim of a Disney-movie style body swap freaky friday kind of thing.

    • Which is why he should be sent to the Australian Outback with a canteen and a sleeping bag and instructed to survive a couple of weeks without the aid of modern conveniences or the help of anyone. Confidence is a great attribute. Believing you are better than everyone else because you excel at certain things others struggle with can get you killed or worse. I grew up with a high IQ and non-existent social skills. Teaching this kid how to feign social integration will go a long way to getting the grant money
  • Seriously, you don't. You just treat him like a sponge. Leave books around and let him absorb them.

  • And make him show them what he's got. I'm pretty sure he would be accepted for a degree, as long as this is what HE wants to do...
  • It'll only slow him down. He's destined for great things, and will carve his own way in life to whatever destination he wishes.

    Don't dare subject him to the state brainwashing the rest of us proles have to endure.
    • Do you purposefully miss out the important parts of linked stories just to pad it out with science buzzwords like quantum, chaos, and string theory?

      The actual part of the story which is important:

      "That kind of off-the-charts intelligence comes with a conundrum, though: Because he's only 13, Gabriel is not emotionally ready to handle programs designed for older students. His intellectual abilities raise the question: How do you map out an education for a boy at the extreme end of the gifted population?"
      • You give him as much freedom as practical. Keep him busy.

        When I was 13, I was absorbed with all thing space. NASA, Mercury/Gemini/Apollo, Soyuz, KH satellites, Pioneer, Ranger, if it left the atmosphere I was engrossed in it. But I wasn't nearly intelligent enough to get personally involved, so I scrapbooked and watched, and learned all I could. Let him.

  • you put him in charge of it.
  • You don't; and neither does most children in the US. Our school system its horribly broken.
  • Lego (Score:4, Informative)

    by oldmac31310 ( 1845668 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:09AM (#37663230) Homepage
    The plural of Lego is 'Lego' damn it!
  • Send him to college. []

  • The school system is not designed for people at either end of the spectrum.

    He could go to college, and he'd learn something. However, he'd need to be in a phd program before he got to "interesting" studies. Is he willing to wait 6 yeas to start learning? Is he mature enough to sit through a "health" class in college where they tell you to wash your hands after using the bathroom (that really pissed me off)?

    The real question - is he ready for the American school system?

  • Despite the kid's obvious mastery of academics, social skills are something that are learned by experience and interaction with peers - something that I'm sure this kid surely lacks. His education should focus not on academics, but on social interaction - get the kid into sports or summer camps, teach him how to be a kid and what it means to have fun. Too many books are a double edged sword in this case.
  • I dunno the answer, but I sure could use it.

    I can't afford to home-school or that would be the obvious solution.

  • They seem to be thinking about emotional adjustments and age appropriateness and social skills too. The parents seem to be sensible, so I am sure this boy will make some lasting contribution to science and math, unlike other child prodigies and idiot savants who burn out or end up as curiosities.
  • You don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cjcela ( 1539859 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:14AM (#37663330)
    You do not 'fit' a kid like that, but rather do your best to understand what his needs are, even if these are unconventional. In terms of learning, he will do well on his own, you just need to support him with the appropriate resources. What he will likely need help with is with developing healthy social interactions and integrating to society. It you focus just on his intellect, he will suffer later on.
    • by 1s44c ( 552956 )

      You do not 'fit' a kid like that, but rather do your best to understand what his needs are, even if these are unconventional. In terms of learning, he will do well on his own, you just need to support him with the appropriate resources. What he will likely need help with is with developing healthy social interactions and integrating to society. It you focus just on his intellect, he will suffer later on.

      Where were my 'appropriate resources'? All I got at school was to sit in a room full of retarded monkies, teachers who didn't teach, and threats of being suspended should I ever complain.

      This world needs a radical rethink on education, it's just not working for anyone with above average IQ. This kid is just an extreme example.

  • Home schooling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:14AM (#37663336)

    This kid is a prime candidate for home schooling. In many communities, the public school system, or other social organizations for kids are available to the home schooled to keep them engaged in activities with their peers.

    The biggest problem with integrating kids like this into "The School System" is that the system doesn't deal very well [] with those whose performance lies outside the social norms (particularly on the high side). You have to have the option of putting him into activities where he will fit and pulling him out if he's a mismatch for their culture.

    • I second the homeschool option. It sounds like the kid can handle academics so continue that through independent study, college courses, or online study. But convince him to try fun classes and adventures that will remind him that it is great to be young: rock climbing, ballroom dancing, metal working, and wilderness skills.

  • by mrquagmire ( 2326560 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:17AM (#37663418)
    I remember graduating with a couple VERY smart individuals, at least according to school measurements. However, once they entered the "real world" they got quite a shock learning that their high IQ and 4.0 GPAs meant almost nothing because they had very little street smarts. They spent all of their time trying to please their parents and teachers but they had not learned what it takes to actually survive.

    My point is, we need to make sure kids like this learn how to do things that translate into a means to not only make a good living for themselves, but also contribute to society in general.
  • by raph ( 3148 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:19AM (#37663466) Homepage

    I took college classes from 9 to 13, then my parents pulled me out entirely. There were good and bad aspects to my path. At 13, actual graduate math classes were a bit over my head, and I felt a lot of pressure and feelings of failure because I couldn't quite hack them. Also, being isolated was hard, and it wasn't until I came back to grad school at 22 that I felt I developed my social skills properly. But being allowed to focus on intellectual pursuits was really nice in a way, and I actually look back on that fondly. Now I have my PhD and work for Google, and I do geeky things for fun. As one example, I'm noodling on keyboards, and, being me, I'm writing a DX7 synthesizer emulator. Most people consider the math of it to be impenetrably difficult, but, I'm like, "oh, _Bessel_ functions, I can dig that shit!"

    I hope he does well and finds a path that makes him happy. One thing my parents did was keep me out of the newspapers (and off the front page of Slashdot, although we didn't have that then). I'm not sure whether that was entirely good or bad - publicity is valuable coin in today's society :)

  • At this point he has no place in a normal classroom... *BUT* there is an example you can eliminate.

    When I was in highschool at West Anchorage High School they had an alternative high school called Stellar. They were too small for any sort of afterschool extra like band, choir, theater or sports so many of the students their would participate in West's programs.

    Have him participate in a nearby school in the programs he wants but bypass the normal class room curriculum. Kinda like a playdate if you will but

    • by moorley ( 69393 )


      At this point he has no place in a normal classroom... *BUT* there is an example you can emulate. (Not eliminate...)

      If I ever win the lottery the first thing I will do is hire a full time editor to review anything I write to be read by someone other than me...

  • always brings to mind the iron bed of Procrustes. [] So, to make this "prodigy" "fit", we'd have to cut his intellect down to size. A task, I believe, public education is well-suited for.
  • How do you fit him into the American school system?

    You don't. You build a new school system around him.

    Maybe that new school system will also be useful for those students that are too intelligent to fit into the current school system.

  • How do you fit him into the American school system?

    Please don't try... You're neither doing him nor the school system any favor. The best you can do for people who don't fit the system, is to allow them living productively outside of it.

    A good system is capable of exception handling....

  • Why should he fit into the system? Or more importantly, why should the system be made to be a fit for him?

  • After his frontal lobotomy, he should fit in just fine!

  • While I'm sure that a lot of us have heard of prodigy horror/early burnout stories, it doesn't always end up that way.

    My best friend entered Harvard at the age of 15 as a Sophomore. He took some of the hardest courses available; Math 55, Physics 55, Organic Chem (by the way, I believe Bill Gates took Math 55 which is one reason why I don't think he's a dummy) and did extremely well on them. He had a great girlfriend and was an excellent foosball player. (I didn't have a girlfriend, barely got through Mat

  • put him in a great, capitalistically driven private school, what could be more American besides public school?
  • Clearly the technical stuff he will educate himself on, and ask for the things he needs in order to do so. The only thing you have to be concerned about is social skills, and having some semblance of normality in childhood.

  • For god's sake, don't cripple the poor kid by subjecting him to our conveyor belt of education; he needs someone or someones who can keep challenging him... and, beyond that, the opportunities to teach himself using application. (Learn by doing.) Maybe he'll need a social and sociological curriculum on the side to make sure he can interact with the rest of humanity... but, all that said, our educational system is designed to create automatons who subject themselves to the whims of the few; opportunity is
  • You don't educate him. You provide the tools and let him educate himself. Require some basic stuff, but anything beyond highschool level, he should be allowed to explore at his pace.

    As for the social aspect... I don't buy it. I certainly didn't learn to be social in school, and he won't either. He will simply be bullied until he withdraws and avoids everyone. He won't learn to get along with them.

    On the other hand, clubs and meetups would be very good for him. The people there don't have to put up wi

  • Specialized schools (Score:4, Informative)

    by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:40AM (#37663932) Journal
    There are actually a few schools in the country that might be a good fit for a math genius, and would give him the critical socialization he'll need to be a normal adult someday. For example, A.R. Johnson Health Sciences and Engineering school in Augusta, GA, is a school that teaches pre-med and engineering classes in high school, omitting other activities such as art and PE (students who want those classes need to go to its rival school, Davidson Fine Arts.) I'm sure they'd love to have him on the Math Decathalon team.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:43AM (#37664006)

    1. I was a prodigy...not quite of the same level. College classes at 9, but nothing more impressive than that. Went through the normal system.
    2. I have taken over the education of a prodigy. Quite Elementary school to homeschool after 4th grade. I was the homeschool tutor (Like Aristotle for Alexander). A year later, he went to college.
    3. I've been in education at almost all levels, almost all subjects since.

    Fundamentally, there is no system that will handle all the kids. Allow them to escape.

  • From experience: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:47AM (#37664102)

    In 5th grade, at the request of my teacher, I took my SAT's. I scored higher than 88% of college bound high-school students. I was put into an "accelerated program" that took myself and all the children like me (the smartest 0.005% of children age 7-11 from the entire school district) by bus into a single classroom 3 days a week. We were issued a "class project" which was to promote recycling. We gave speeches at places like MIT to push the agenda, and ultimately our class project worked. Prior to us there was no recycling in schools. Now, you can't visit a school now without seeing blue recycle bins.
    At one point, at age 12, I was offered a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University when I finished high-school provided I maintained my grades. That was the positive aspect...

    Now the negative...
    The extra work they forced us to do frustrated and stressed us. They talked down to us when we didn't understand things. It took away our childhoods, as we spent long hours doing extra homework with no pay-off other than to assess our individual limitations. In the end, most of the kids burned out by the time we were halfway through high-school. I kept in touch with most of them for years and none of them did any better in society after school than our contemporary classmates. What it did do, however, is make all of us, and I mean ALL, social outcasts and misfits.

    Personally, prior to the program I was in, I had a handful of good friends and was on little league basketball and baseball teams. Dare I say, I was actually popular. After going into the program, it was school work only. While my friends would meet up after school to hang out and play, I was inside doing extra homework. The trend continued for a couple years and by the time middle school came around, when all the schools in the district dumped into one, I was the loner in a much larger crowd. A year or two later high-school rolled around, and I was jumped (group assaulted) repeatedly before, during, and after school at least 3 days a week. Why? Because I scored higher on the tests, because I turned in my homework on time, and because I knew the answers to questions asked in class. I moved schools, but it just continued. I was just a loner nerd, and let's be honest, teens can sniff that stuff out. My parents had long talks with school administrators on all levels, but none helped or even seemed to care. I eventually started skipping classes to avoid beatings, no joke. Ultimately, I dropped out of school in my junior year and got my G.E.D. and started community college while my classmates were still starting their senior year.

    I wish someone would've stepped in and told my parents that just because I had more aptitude than the vast majority didn't mean I had to use it immediately. Let the child live his life. With the way that life expectancy is rising, and retirement age is increasing he'll have to work for 80 years. He gets about 10 years to actually enjoy life, let him while he still can.

  • by snsh ( 968808 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:48AM (#37664130)

    Get the kid a job as a janitor at MIT. That oughta do it.

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 ( 1400425 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @11:51AM (#37664200)

    "He'll probably find a cure for cancer," Sleight said. "Or something bigger."

    Umm, last I checked cancers were a class of hundreds of diseases. I can't see how you could find something bigger than one method to cure all of them given the multitudes of really smart people that would be happy to come up with a cure for just one. (Like liver, lung or pancreatic cancers. Hey, did I mention each of those organs has multiple cancers that affect it? Hell, they'd probably be happy to add a cure for one cancer of one of those organs to the tool kit of modern medicine.)

    Oh well, guess it's one of my pet peeves when people think cancers are actually one disease.

  • Davidson Institute (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @12:06PM (#37664512)

    Contact this place, they can probably give you better advice than most anyone on slashdot or anywhere really:
    Davidson Institute []

    They're funded by the Davidson family who after making a mint in education software (enough to buy Blizzard in the 90s) moved onto more directly charitable endeavors. The institute runs a school for the gifted in nevada, provide nationwide help for gifted children and also give out a yearly fellowship. Probably other programs as well.

    Basically, they know more about all the options that exist than anyone here and are very friendly people. The last one is key, btw, since some programs are run by bureaucratic cretins who actually consider it a waste of their time to help people. These people aren't like that.

    I could try to summarize the options I know of but, frankly, it'd be an incomplete and a waste of time compared to what people who deal with this full time can tell you.

  • Let him decide. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @12:14PM (#37664672)

    He's obviously the one person best suited to figure it out. He knows more about the range of topics that he has studied than his parents or his teachers. Where he might need help is in getting access to the resources that he chooses to take advantage of, given his young age.

    As for extracurricular activities, the article already states that he participates in other non-academic pursuits. I'm not concerned about the need for balance in that regard.

    The one concern I do have is that for all the academic and extracurricular activities, the one thing he needs to learn to be HAPPY in life is how to relate to others. That's not something you get while doing scientific research, or by doing sports. It's not something you get by overachieving in any sense.

    I didn't learn that lesson until relatively late in my teenage years. I was miserable throughout my childhood and adolescence. I still carry the emotional scars. And the problem is that, for all the compliments that others pay me, calling me "talented" and "intelligent," I feel paralyzed, like everyone is always expecting something great to come out of me, and all I ever do is disappoint when I don't meet those expectations. So I stop trying.

    Granted, I'm not saying this kid is going to end up the same way. All I'm saying is that he needs to be given the permission to NOT do something grandiose with his life. He doesn't owe anything to anyone but himself. I've come to realize that the most successful and well-adjusted people in life are the ones who are not only talented, but also have the drive, discipline, and perseverance to continue despite past failures. It's not enough to simply have one or the other.

  • I see a lot of people talking about intelligence and laziness. I have studied a number of inventors from the 19th and 20th centuries. My favorites are Philo T. Farnsworth and Nikola Tesla. Based on my own investigation of the topic, I found that self-motivation and self-control appear to be much more important factors in success and accomplishment than intelligence. The issue isn't that the educational system fails to accommodate prodigies, the issue is that the educational system isn't very good at teaching students how to motivate themselves. This applies to any student, not just those that are gifted.

    In terms of raw academics, smaller schools provide a better quality education to the overall student body. In terms of social climate, smaller schools tend not to have as many of the large scale social problems experienced by larger institutions.

    As a consequence of No-Child-Left-Behind, some school systems have really been struggling for financial support. Lately they have been using gender-segregation to improve test scores with dramatic results. There appear to be a lot of negative social mores influencing student achievement in mixed-gender situation (junior high/high school level). A lot of students intentional under-perform to avoid certain social stigmas, especially those related to the perception of the opposite gender.

    I agree with a lot of the other posts that demonstrate concerns about the prodigy not being able to handle social and societal interaction beyond their prodigy. Based on my understanding of such matters, I would say that a small same-gender school would be the best way to proceed. It allows them to learn the rules and experiences of social interaction and society while limiting some of the academically detrimental factors.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard