Paula is a happy successful student, popular with her classmates and appreciated by her teachers. Her teachers readily acknowledge her abilities, even if they find it difficult to respond with appropriate curriculum interventions. Paula learned to read before her 5th birthday. Now at age 9, she has the reading abilities of a 12-year-old and shows a definite talent for math problem solving. Although she prefers the companionship of children two or three years older, she is not “different” enough to be rejected by her classmates. Aware that Paula is highly able, the school arranged for her to be tested in 1st grade, and her IQ was assessed at 133. Children of IQ 133 appear in the population at a ratio of approximately 1:40. (Gross, p.5) .
Alex taught himself to read, write, and count before age 3. By age 3 he had read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and was entranced by the world of Narnia, the relationships between the characters, and the battle between good and evil. “By the time he entered school, he was capable of 4th grade math and was reading The Hobbit, which his teacher promptly took from him, stating that he should not be looking at his older brother’s books as they would give him nightmares. Alex has no older brother, but he was so bemused by the teacher’s comment that he lost the opportunity to tell her this. The most important lesson Alex learned in his first few weeks at school was that it would teach him nothing that he did not already know. His teacher insisted that he work through the reading readiness program with the rest of the class and placed him on a math program which involved recognizing the numbers 1 through 10. He was so astonished that he complied without protest.
The compliance did not last long, however. In 2nd and 3rd grades he was angry, frustrated, and rebellious and made life difficult for himself, his teachers, and his classmates. Finally, to the relief of his teacher, his protests ceased. Alex is now in 6th grade. Most of the time he is apathetic and withdrawn. He refuses to complete the simplistic and repetitive work that is presented to him, and because of this, nothing in the way of enrichment or extension is offered to him. His teachers are quite unaware that he has developed an expertise in Nordic mythology, which underpins the “middle earth” works of Tolkien. A professor of literature at the local university has called this expertise “astounding.” Alex relates happily to the undergraduate students his professor friend has introduced to him, but at school he is a social outcast. The other children reject him because his speech, his interests, and the way he thinks are so different from theirs that there is virtually no point of contact between them. In 2nd grade Alex’s parents had him tested by a private psychologist who assessed his IQ at 169. Alex attends the same school as Paula, but ironically, because he does not display “gifted behavior” in class, he was not selected for the math pullout program. Indeed, his teacher refused to accept the psychologist’s report, saying that she “did not believe in IQ tests and that there were several students in Alex’s class who were much brighter. Children of IQ 169 appear in the population at a ratio of less than 1:100,000 (Gross, p. 6) .