'He Was Fluent In 7 Languages By Age 8.' Teachers Talk About The Most Gifted Students They've Ever Taught.
What determines a kid to be a genius? what are the signs? In this article, teachers share stories of real genius kids they had in their class and what made them so smart!
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
I teach English to little kids in France. I had a 5 year old (who speaks English, French, and Russian) explain the International Phonetic Alphabet to me — names of symbols, sounds, and why it's useful. I don't know where to draw the genius line, but that kid was definitely something special. Also he was just the coolest little dude out there.
I did my undergraduate in Massachusetts. On the first day of a political science class, the professor noted that there was a 13 year old prodigy in the auditorium. And that he would probably do better than the rest of us.
So we shouldn't complain about having to write a paper every day.
I had a precocious, exceedingly talented music major who learned and memorized piano music prolifically. Other than natural aptitude, what made him stand apart was his positive attitude and receptivity to coaching and correction, as necessary.
Each week, I'd give him more and more challenging pieces to learn, and he'd come back with them under his fingers, close to note-perfect and played stylistically correct.
He recently completed his DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) in performance and is now in demand as a professional musician.
I once had a girl who would understand everything I explained at once every single time, while the rest of the class did obviously not. Her homework was brilliant. It got to a point where she seemed to know the lessons better than some teachers did. Not surprisingly I found out her IQ score was genius high. She moved to a different school so never saw her again. I hope she's making the world a better place. We surely need it.
Taught a kid from Grade 8-12 who invented an early detection HIV chip for third world countries.
She nailed every assessment and her brain just never made mistakes. She already has been on TED. Very proud to have helped her on her first Science Fair.
He wasn't my student but I heard a lot about him. He was in our preschool program about a year before I started.
He was 4. He could already read small books and had started to write some words. But what they say was most incredible was his knowledge about space. He could tell you how far away the sun was, the name of each planet's moons, their location in the sky, etc. If you looked up anything he said he was always 100% accurate.
His parents said they didn't do anything special, he was just really receptive to new information. He is probably in 2nd grade now and I'm sure he is doing well for himself.
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A couples years ago I had a kid in my AP Physics (mostly mechanics) class that taught himself the whole second semester of Physics (E&M mostly) and Calculus. He did this for fun not to get ahead in school or for GPA points. I truly believe he was the smartest person in the school (both students and teachers). Not only was he amazingly intelligent but he was extremely nice. I can't wait to see what he does!
I teach kids programming concepts with scratch. These are elementary students, so they're obviously not going to be doing very advanced stuff. There was one kid, though, I forget his name, who did much better than the others. His games were still very rough around the edges, but he understood balancing and didn't make super easy or super hard games like all the others. He talked to his code, just like I do when programming. I'm guessing he just connects with what he's doing more than your average kid, possibly because of some high-functioning autism.
I teach music and I remember one five year old who came to class the first day knowing how to read and write basic rhythms, something the curriculum didn't expect her to do until third grade. She also could match pitch with her voice and had great singing technique relative to how we want young children to use their voices. I think it had to do mostly with just great authentic exposure to music and really to everything in life. Her parents were extremely intelligent and I think really had a good grasp on how to raise a well rounded child.
A few years ago I taught a kid in elementary school Latin (had her 3rd-5th grades) who was unbelievable. I was pretty sure she had an eidetic memory and she just jumped to the end of every lesson after like 2 minutes (she anticipated where my instruction was going and was instantly there). I kept trying to challenge her, but honestly...it was hard. She just grasped everything at once with little to no explanation.
I was talking about her to the music teacher...who said "I don't know what to do with her. She has perfect pitch. I tried to talk her into studying the piano or violin, but she wants to learn the saxophone."
She's going to Duke University as a freshman this year on a scholarship, and I expect to hear her name in the future. No doubt about it.
I taught an 8 year old Polish boy who was super quiet and never liked to speak in class. His English level was very low as was his maths but in a lesson towards the end of term the kids had an art project and I have never seen drawing skills like them. This kid was drawing to scale detailed pencil drawings of hands, eyes, trees and animals that looked 3d, with shadows, depth, detail and so life like. The quality of his drawing was university art student level, they were beautiful pieces. When I saw his sketch book I was completely floored, all the other children were drawing stick men, the contrast in work quality was insane.
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Music teacher here.
About 7 years ago, one of my middle school students composed an original piece for wind ensemble. He had no formal composition instruction—I just gave him the name of some free notation software (Musescore), and he played around with it over the summer and produced a piece that was well orchestrated, logically organized, and contained elements of fugue as well as theme/variations. I know it's not Mozart composing pieces at age five, but it was still really impressive.
We performed it on the final concert of the year. It was a damn fine piece.
Currently I have met 2.
First was able to do square roots in his head. I mean I would say "What's 25 to the 4th power?" and he would freaking know it. He said it was like there was a little room inside his head where he could go to get the answers. I told him to look more into doing advanced math.
Second is a girl who is 17 and draws like a professional. I asked her what she did with her art and she said commissions. I went on her Instagram account and she had 35 thousand followers. We are currently planning on working on a comic book together. Hoping to get it on KickStarter next year!
I taught a polyglot once who even made his own language. This was at an international school in Japan. He could speak Japanese (native) English, French, Spanish, German Mandarin fairly fluently and was learning Russia at the time. He was a wasted talent at our school.
Very quiet, didn't have many friends, just studied languages. Sometimes he'd come into the teachers office and sit and talk with some of the foreign teachers. He also did several study abroad programs too.
He went to the US for college last I heard.
Last year I had an Irish student, 8 years old. He was not only brilliant but a serious geek, which made me love him. He was also very sensitive and cried at moving parts in films. I mean he lost it because he would "get" the emotional impact and it would harrow his soul. His parents actually had him tested that year and he was diagnosed "on the spectrum" but incredibly high functioning. He was a walking compendium of trivia about a number of topics. I miss the little guy and I worry that the world will not be kind... a soul can only take so much harrowing.
I taught kindergarten for one year in a Taiwanese private school. I'm a much better high school teacher, hence why I only lasted a year in kindergarten. I had a student with severe Aspergers, and at the time I had no training in handling such students. His name was Kaka. I resigned myself to him running wildly around the classroom, chased by my co-teacher, while I taught the rest of the class. He never seemed to even notice I existed. One day, I taught the kids how to draw perfect shapes by tracing blocks, and make geometric patterns with those shapes. Later, right before lunch, Kaka was in a corner by himself, completely silent. I walked over to him, and saw he was drawing with shapes. To my utter amazement, he had created a geometrically and symmetrically perfect and incredibly intricate kaleidoscope of shape and color using every kind of block in the basket. It was beautiful, and light years ahead of anything his peers made. He was 4 years old.
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Taught a class for high level students (top 150 students in the district of like 4K per grade). Lots of smart kids, but mostly hard workers whose parents had been coaching them on how to learn since forever.
But one year people started warning me about a kid that was coming in. He was supposed to be off the charts smart. Teaching these classes, the "genius" term gets thrown around for the top 5-10 kids every year, so I mostly roll my eyes and don't think too much about it.
Met the kid and he seemed normal. I gave him a hard time about being smart, and he said it was only math ("I just started early. I'm not smarter than anyone else.") Then I found out he was taking advanced college maths in middle school. Oh, sure. Just started early.
But he was clearly on a different level in English as well. Never any errors in his essays, and always wonderful analysis of complex ideas explained in simple and clear terms. When discussing novels his analysis was stuff I remember my professors pointing out to me when I was in college. A lot of the time it was stuff I missed or only got my third or fourth year teaching it.
It felt like he had some cheat code enabled or something. He remembered nearly everything, and synthesized information really fast and in great depth.
Wonderful kid too. Very humble, and if you didn't know him, you'd think he was normal. I hope he does great things with his gifts.
I had a student about 8 years ago (I teach martial arts, by the way) . She was maybe 8 years old. She picked up every movement so easily. She executed and applied each technique exactly how it was shown to her. Her memory was astounding. One day, I decided to experiment and taught her a challenging form that would usually take maybe a month or so to teach properly. I taught her for about 10 minutes. By the following week, she was performing it better than I or any other instructor had. At tournaments, she always took 1st in both events. When she fought, we had to make sure she used extreme control because her speed, timing, and accuracy could seriously hurt a partner.
When her parents took her out, because of scheduling difficulties, I told her dad what a mistake he was making. She could have been one of the best.
She was a genius.
I have a several students this year who are very smart and in the gifted program. I teach Math so of course all the 'smart' kids ask me for extra work etc. This year I have an actual genius in my class only he has completely flown under the radar until this year. His father went to jail this year and he is an ESL student. I think because of his lack of knowledge in English it was never assumed he was so smart. I discovered it about two weeks ago and I'm in the process of getting him services. We had to give tests to see where the kids were in relation to grade level. I gave a test that spanned from first to twelfth grade math questions. (I teach 5th). The kid aced the test. I'm talking geometry and algebraic equations for seniors in high school. I was floored.
I then gave him some 'extra homework' with some college level problems and he passed. This is a kid with a broken home life his parents don't speak English, he barely speaks English and he is killing it in Math. I brought it to the attention of my SAT team and they said his reading and writing scores are not at grade level so that is why he doesn't receive gifted services. I'm trying to change that because he needs to be challenged. In the meantime I'm brushing up on my advanced mathematics to help him.
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I once taught a girl who was a genius, she showed it in many ways but one always stuck out.
This was an A-level physics class (UK so 17/18 year olds) and for a piece of homework there was one question that should take them about half a page of working to solve. It was a proof so they knew what the answer was, but they had to figure it out themselves using the input data, selecting the right equations and then showing all the work.
She turned in her homework and said "Sir, I've got the right answer but I'm not quite certain how I got there."
What she meant was, she knew what she'd done was right but it didn't match the solution she was supposed to have.
I take a look and it's about 4 pages of working which ends up with the right numbers. I tell her: "<name>, I'm going to have to look into this overnight and get back to you." So I took it home and had a good read.
Turns out that instead of using the given equations, she'd re-figured out the same equations from first principles, i.e. She'd started with the basics fundamental principles and figured out the same equations that the original scientists did. But she did it overnight.
I explained what she'd done the next day and she responded with "Again?! Oh I don't get all the marks that way!" And she was right, she wouldn't usually get the marks because it wasn't what was in the mark scheme. I awarded her full marks.
I teach at a school for gifted kids, but even among a smart population, there are a couple of students who stand out.
The one that stands out the most is 7. He takes Calculus as his math class, but also spends time with a "mathemagician" where they invent new types of numbers and number theory. He is developing a their known as Possible Loop Numbers. He is also very hyperactive and takes breaks outside of the classroom to calm himself. One day when he was taking a break he asked for a piece of paper, then proceeded to write out the entire periodic table (chemical symbol, name, atomic weight, electron valances, everything) then stood up and went back to class. He also has a fantastic sense of humor and loves any sort of math joke. (What's tunafish + tunafish? Fournafish!)
It's not just the things he knows that makes him a genius though. He perceives the world differently than other people. He can become so engrossed in topic that he's basically running up a funnel reaching more higher and higher understanding. He lives very intensely and can be overwhelmed easily.
Last year I was teaching his class cell biology and in day I told them that was an awesome organelle with a cool name - the endoplasmic reticulum. He raised his hand to ask "Yeah, but are we talking about smooth or rough endoplasmic reticulum?" That sums up most of my interactions with him.
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I teach Algebra 2 Advanced at a rural public school- usually Sophomores.
Well, one year I got a freshman girl in my class. Whatever, there have been freshman in my class before, so I wasn't too thrown off.
A week went by and I went online to check the progress of my students on ALEKS. On ALEKS, you assign a number of topics and the kids have due dates for a certain amount of topics. Well, I assigned Chapter 1, 95 topics, to be done by the end of the first month.
The freshman girl had finished Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4. In a week. I was floored. That was around 250 topics. That put her about 70% of the way done with the course.
I asked her about it. "I was going to do more, but I decided that was enough." What?!?!?
She ended up finishing Algebra 2 in like 3 weeks and then moved on to an online self-paced Pre-Calculus course. She finished that before the end of the first semester. She decided to take half of the Calculus course during the second semester and finished it over the summer. The girl ended up finishing through like Linear Algebra or Differential Equations (can't remember which) by the end of her high school career and ended up going to Cornell. Apparently she was also incredibly gifted in every other class and was taking college English and science courses as an upperclassmen. I assume she's doing well at Cornell.
I'm a professor and I teach an anthropology class that is essentially required to graduate, so I get students from all majors. I had a biology student one semester. When he came in, I pegged him as my usual country boy student who would probably just fade into the background and do average level work. Instead, he always had thoughtful questions that made me stop and question everything I was teaching; he would add comments or further biological explanations to things that were beyond what I had researched. The class requires a research paper and most students just do some exploratory research and provide a basic explanation of some topic, but this guy did actual original research to examine whether language families follow the distribution of mitochondrial DNA families and y chromosome distribution. It was amazing. Just about everything he did awed me, though I also found some of his comments frustrating.
I'm quite a young and new professor, so I whined about him to my parents and friends like, "This guy corrects me in class and makes me go over time on my lectures." However, the further into the semester we got, the more I found him interesting. So, I wrote him a note with my number and gave it to him when he handed back his final test. He did the ethical thing and waited to text me until I had finished grading everything. And now we've been dating for a few months and I've never met anyone like him.
Math teacher here. A few years ago, I had a student in my class who was a genius at languages. At age 16, he could speak and write 8 languages fluently (two of them being modern Arabic and Mandarin Chinese), and basically could pick up a new language and after a few weeks be at a level that would take most people years to attain.
He got good grades in math because he was so good at pattern recognition, but it was weird hearing him explain his reasoning. He just did what "felt natural" to him and it just turned out that he was almost always right. And in the rare cases he wasn't, he furrowed his brow and fell into a kind of trance, then suddenly his eyes lit up and he went "of course!" but he couldn't easily explain what he had just understood. But he never made the same mistake again.
I've had a few naturally talented students in my career, and several of them became actual mathematicians, but he is the closest thing I saw to other-worldly genius. Last I heard, he was pursuing graduate studies in linguistics.
Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.