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Creativity and Giftedness: Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Mathematics and Beyond

Roza Leikin and Bharath Sriraman, editors
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Advances in Mathematics Education
[Reviewed by
Annie Selden
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This edited volume considers recent research on creativity and giftedness in mathematics education and how these two concepts might be related. It has chapters written by a variety of authors from such places as Poland, the U.S., Iceland, Romania, Singapore, Israel, Australia, and Cyprus. It is divided into two parts: the first with nine chapters devoted to perspectives on creativity and the second with five chapters giving perspectives on giftedness and its relation to creativity.

Creativity is not a personal trait of individuals that can be easily recognized, and a number of operational definitions are given by researchers in this volume. For example, Chapter 2 discusses a model of creativity which consists of three interrelated components: creative abilities (mainly creative imagination and divergent thinking), openness to experiences, and independence. Chapter 3 considers creativity in terms of fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. Fluency refers to the number of ideas generated in response to a prompt. Flexibility is the ability to shift approaches when the current approach is unproductive. Originality is the ability to create a unique production or unusual thought. Elaboration refers to the ability to produce detailed plans or generalize ideas. Chapter 4 views modeling as a creative activity. Chapter 5 examines the role of affect, in addition to fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration, in discussing a model of creativity for mathematical problem solving.

Giftedness has also been variously defined. Chapter 11 points out that general giftedness has sometimes been defined as an unusually high ability or unusually high intelligence that exceeds a certain cut-off IQ score. Chapter 12 considers the relationship between creativity and giftedness, noting that some people have considered giftedness in terms of above-average ability, task commitment, and creativity. Chapter 13 points out that the identification of gifted students has long been an issue for researchers with little agreement being reached. Indeed, sometimes creativity is considered part of giftedness. Also, because general giftedness is often seen as multi-dimensional, a number of criteria have been used to place students in special school programs for the gifted. These include results from intelligence tests, achievement tests, creativity tests, school grades, rating scales, past accomplishments, portfolios, interviews, teacher nominations, parent nominations, peer nominations and self-reports. To determine mathematical giftedness, tests of mathematical ability are also used. Chapter 15 discusses links between mathematical creativity, excellence in school mathematics and general giftedness using results from an empirical study of Israeli high school students, using Multiple Solutions Tasks.

I was especially intrigued by Chapter 11, which describes a neuroscience study that attempted to distinguish between super mathematically gifted students, generally gifted students who excel in school mathematics, and students who excel in school mathematics but have not been identified as generally gifted. Insight-based and learning-based problems were used with the brain activation measure, Event Related Potentials (ERPs). Three types of neuro-efficiency effects were detected in the electrical activity of the super mathematically gifted students. The findings were consistent with the neuro-efficiency hypothesis that states that brighter individuals show more efficient brain functioning than less intelligent individuals on tasks with the same cognitive demands. Technical details and topographical brain maps of electrical potentials are included in the chapter.

Of particular interest to college mathematics teachers may be Chapter 2, presenting a Creativity-in-Progress Rubric (CPR) on Proving. The goal is to have students use the CPR to reflect on their own proving processes. The rubric takes into account making connections between definitions and theorems, between representations, and between examples, as well as considering risk-taking behaviors such as flexibility, perseverance, posing questions, and explanation of proof attempts. Data on the CPR’s use with students in an inquiry-based transition-to-proof courses are included.

The final chapter raises political questions associated with giftedness, but offers no easy solutions. Examples are: What is the relationship between education for all and mathematically gifted education? Is the term “mathematically gifted” used to cover up segregation, whether by race or gender?

Much can be learned from the chapters in this book, although as the researchers admit, much more research on creativity, giftedness, and their relationship needs to be done.

Annie Selden is Adjunct Professor of Mathematics at New Mexico State University and Professor Emerita of Mathematics from Tennessee Technological University. She regularly teaches graduate courses in mathematics and mathematics education. In 2002, she was recipient of the Association for Women in Mathematics 12th Annual Louise Hay Award for Contributions to Mathematics Education. She remains active in mathematics education research and curriculum development. 

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.