It depends on the population of students and on the gifts of the individual students.

In the prep school that my kids attended, some of the kids were near-geniuses. They came from very privileged families–lots of doctors and CEOs of companies, and had soaked up the atmosphere of learning given generously to them from the day of their birth. They came to kindergarten already doing higher-level math. A 90 minute-test was duck soup for them. They were ready!

My younger daughter started 1st grade at one of the public schools in our city. By January, they were still working on writing their numbers correctly. She was so bored. She would come home from school and do her sister’s math homework (4th grade, multiplication and division) for fun.

I asked the school if they could try to stimulate her a little more, maybe let her move ahead in the math book. But I was told that “tracking” wasn’t allowed in the public schools in our city. The kids had to all stay TOGETHER and work TOGETHER; in other words, the teamwork was more important than the actual learning of the subject. Bah. Ridiculous.

The next year, when we had the opportunity to move our kids to the prep school, the students were all tested, and my daughter was placed in a math group with 2 other students. It was wonderful! They were quite advanced, and I remember how fun it was for her to “beat the boys” on various tests for the next several years! (She’s very competitive.)

In her sophomore year of high school, we moved her into a Christian school at her request. She just wanted to try something different.

At her prep school, she would have been doing Calculus. Well, the new school was very reluctant to allow a lowly sophomore in the Calc class. Occasionally they allowed Juniors in the class, but sophs?!

We pointed out that they really didn’t have much choice, since she had completed all the prerequisites. So they put her in Calculus, predicting disaster.

Within a week, she was helping the Senior boys do their homework. She ended up with a near perfect score average and got an easy A, even though she barely cracked open the book at home.

(She moved back to the prep school to finish out high school.)

Math just came easy for her. There are kids like that. My husband is like that. He reads math journals in bed, for pleasure. He still remembers how to do all that math that we learned in high school! (I don’t remember anything about math except that I hated it!)

OTOH, my daughter never quite got hang of literature. In fact (Shh, don’t tell her teachers), she never in four years of high school read ANY of the books assigned in her English classes. But she still got As, because she listened really hard and remembered what the teacher said. So when it came time to answer those essay questions, she knew just what to write, even though she had never even read the book!

Later on, we found out that she had a slight problem with a very low-level reading disorder. She started reading with a bookmark under each line, and that helped her process what she was reading and make sense of it.

But she still doesn’t understand how someone can say that a character in a book is “sad” or “happy.” She doesn’t get any of that unless the author comes right out and says, “Character A is happy.”

Kids are so fascinating!!