Show your work

Once, I met a ten-year-old boy with an IQ of 145. A score that high means that 99.83% of all other humans have lower IQ’s than he does. His number one complaint about school was having to show his work on his math homework. He said he was really good at mental math and could figure out the answers faster in his head than when writing it out on paper, but his teacher insisted that he write out the entire process. Keep in mind, the boy was in 4th grade at the time.

I asked him what his teacher’s reason was, and he had no clue. Being a teacher myself, I understand how frustrating it can be to have one kid finish the assignments given in class significantly faster than the others, especially if that kid is prone to talk and fidget around in their seat. Maybe his teacher was giving him a reason to take his time so she could manage the entire class more effectively. Or, perhaps she thought it was unfair to allow him to not show his work while the rest of the class was obligated to do so.

Whatever her reasoning was, the only thing that remains clear in this situation is that this highly intelligent boy was being forced to work below his capacity simply because everyone else was doing it. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I have a serious problem with this logic. Could you imagine an Olympic athlete being obligated to play on a middle school baseball team? Maybe the coach would take him aside and say, “Now, don’t hit the ball too hard. You don’t want to make the other kids feel inferior.” How about a NASCAR race with an enforced speed limit of 55 mph?

If school is not the place where this particular 4th grader can develop his academic potential, then what is?

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Matt Tiller

I am a high school teacher and licensed school counselor. When I'm not at school, I enjoy spending time with my children, lifting weights, and brushing up on the latest in theoretical quantum physics.

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