Why GT students often miss “simple” questions

Extremely smart children often do poorly in school. It may be easy to dismiss this as cliche, but the reason it became a cliche is because it is so often true. How this happens can be illustrated with a math story problem:

download“If there are 3 apples and you take away 2, how many do you have?”

Unfortunately, standardized tests and worksheets often contain this sort of grammatical ambiguity. A student who is behind in math might put a wrong answer, or no answer, because they have difficulty translating the story into numbers. The “normal” student will likely convert this into “3-2=1” and be counted as correct. The gifted student, however, may put “2” . . . because the question asks how many apples you have, not how many are left; if you take two apples then you have at least two apples, maybe more if you already had some, until you eat some or give some away or lose some . . . The gifted student often doesn’t see the “obvious” answer, or may see so many possible answers that they get lost in the options. Depending on the student’s situation, you may need to to explain to him or her that test writers aren’t looking for the right answer; they want the simple answer.