An Effective Mathematics and Science Curriculum Option for Secondary Gifted Education

Article excerpt

In recent years, many research studies have attempted to determine an appropriate method for educating gifted high school students in the areas of mathematics and science. Early college enrollment and dual enrollment are successful options for many gifted students (Stanley, 1991. However, there is a clear need for appropriate mathematics and science curricula for gifted students who remain in high school for four years. This study seeks to determine if an integrated mathematics and science program can provide effective instruction for secondary gifted students.

Review of the Literature

Gifted secondary students are a diverse population. It is important to consider the needs of the individual student when choosing appropriate curriculum. Charlton (1994) followed the educational and career outcomes of 12 youths who received rapid educational advancement. Several students in the study noted that although advancement was a successful choice for some, rapid educational advancement may not be the optimal path for others. It appears that to meet the needs of gifted students an array of services is necessary. It is important to make certain that gifted students who elect to remain in high school have curriculum which is appropriate.

Recently, mathematics and science curriculum options for advanced high school students have received considerable media attention. The Third International Math and Science Study (TIMMS, 1998) compared a sample of the best science students in the United States to the best students in other countries. U.S. twelfth graders outperformed only two of the 21 participating countries in mathematics and science.

The TIMMS data emphasizes the need to examine how curriculum for advanced students is presented. It has become increasingly important to determine which programs present curriculum in mathematics and science in the most effective manner. In light of the TIMMS data, educators of the gifted should determine the types of programs secondary gifted students need to facilitate their acquisition of higher level mathematics and science curriculum.

Effectively integrating the mathematics and science curriculum for gifted students might offer an opportunity for increased learning. Francis and Underhill (1996) described aspects of an integrated program for math and science that emphasized guidelines from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Advancement of Science, and the National Research Council. The guidelines compiled by the council indicate connections must be made within the curriculum to both promote and extend student learning. Sherman (1986) proposes that effective integration of the curriculum will strengthen and reinforce student understanding in new areas and will connect to life in the real world. Sherman noted that when mathematics and science are integrated students see the utility and beauty of mathematics, as well as the language and structure of science.

Few teachers of the gifted have the time or resources to develop and implement an integrated mathematics and science curriculum at the school level. Noskin (1995) indicates that in order for curriculum integration to be successful, teachers must be treated as professionals, and allowed to form interdisciplinary teams with the power to make curricular decisions. Teachers who have had opportunities to participate in such planning teams to develop integrated curriculum found curriculum presented in meaningful contexts more effective than curriculum presented in isolation and in the format of drill (McFaden, Nelson, & Randall, 1996).

Research Questions

This current study of various curriculum delivery models seeks to answer the following:

* Can a differentiated mathematics and science program housed in the high school environment assist gifted students with their acquisition of higher level mathematics and science curriculum?

* Are the academic needs of gifted students met in heterogeneously grouped classrooms? …