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Two Kinds of Smart

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We’ve talked about 2 kinds of reading – fluency and comprehension – and 2 kinds of math – computation and concepts. Now I’d like to talk about 2 kinds of smart—high IQs and high achievement. None of them are mutually exclusive. And in a perfect world, all are honed to work together for maximum results.

Johns Hopkins University has done a great deal of research on how people learn, and their findings show that people with super high IQs often have the same discipline and social problems as people with low IQs. They cannot communicate. Most of us don’t understand their thought processes. They are lonely because they haven’t an “equal” to interact with. And generally they are socially inept.

Interestingly, these are the same students who drive teachers and parents crazy because they tend not to do well in school, Einstein being the classic example. The class is boring, the teacher is lousy, the textbook is dull, the relevance is questionable, so our high IQ student doesn’t do what he needs to do to get good grades. From where I’m sitting, that isn’t very smart.

An IQ is a measure of our potential to learn and apply concepts. It is not a guarantee for academic success. So what can we do as parents of these types of kids. First, make sure they understand that this is a gift, but nothing more. They need to learn the habits that allow them to succeed in school. Make sure you are reminding them that good grades are important for future endeavors and help them to consistently complete homework and projects on time and well. Provide enrichment at home. There are tons of resources that have fun projects that kids can do in their own kitchen or back yard. Invest in a microscope, a garden, an atlas. Read good literature. Do not excuse them because “school is too easy” and they are not challenged. Establish the expectation that you want to see good grades and high performance.

All these things will help with intellectual growth. Now you need to work on the social growth. Make sure they are part of a team. It doesn’t have to be sports, although the benefits of physical competition and development are well known. It can be a chess team or a book club. The idea is to work with others to reach some sort of joint goal. Get involved in scouting as a means to setting goals and achieving them. The intellectual and social diversity in a group like Girl Scouts will help your child learn to interact well with everyone, be tolerant of differences, and develop leadership skills, as well as learning to follow a leader less “smart” than he/she. Make sure he is around kids his age in an informal setting – slumber parties, swim lessons, barbeques. Finally, don’t tell him all the time how smart he is. Compliment actions and results.

There is a famous study where 60 students were divided into 2 groups, one with very high IQs, one with low IQs. The teachers of the high IQ class were told that the students were borderline intellectually and the teachers of the low IQ class were told the kids were super smart. The results after a year are stunning, although not surprising. The high IQ kids were unaccomplished, undisciplined, and generally unhappy about learning. Their IQs actually dropped. The other group was high achievers, eager students, hungry to learn. Their IQs actually increased. The message about expectations is another topic for another time. The point for now is that “smart” is certainly a relative term.

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