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About Ethan Demme

Ethan Demme is the President and CEO of Demme Learning and is passionate about building lifelong learners. Ethan is an elected member of the board of supervisors in East Lampeter Township, PA. He has never backed down from a challenge, especially if it's outdoors, and is currently into climbing big mountains and other endurance sports. An active member of his local community, Ethan is a well-socialized homeschool graduate who holds a B.A. in Communication Arts from Bryan College.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance [Book Review]

Learn how an attitude of grit, and a willingness to grow, is a better predictor of student success than talent.

In her groundbreaking book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth – a psychology professor and 2013 MacArthur Fellow – introduces us to David. She recounts how while taking a freshman high school algebra course, David’s first math test came back with a D. In her interview with David, she asked him how he dealt with that disappointing result. He said: “I did feel bad – I did – but I didn’t dwell on it. I knew it was done. I knew I had to focus on what to do next. So I went to my teacher and asked for help. I basically tried to figure out, you know, what I did wrong. What I needed to do differently.” Duckworth reports that “by senior year, David was taking the harder of Lowell’s two honors calculus courses.”

David’s story might seem rather surprising. Duckworth observes that “conventional wisdom says that math is a subject in which the more talented students are expected to excel, leaving classmates who are simply ‘not math people’ behind.” While we tend to think of riding a bike as something anyone can learn with dedication, effort, and time, we are also used to thinking that math comes naturally to those who are good at it, and that if it doesn’t come naturally, it cannot be learned. But the more Duckworth paid attention to both her teaching and the research she was conducting, the more she realized that talent isn’t a good guide and that instead it was an attitude of grit and a willingness to grow that predicted student success. Duckworth says that initially she too had been “distracted by talent” but she slowly learned that “aptitude did not guarantee achievement.” She further writes that “during the next several years of teaching, I grew less and less convinced that talent was destiny and more and more intrigued by the returns generated by effort.”

Duckworth is quick to stress that “talent – how fast we improve in skill – absolutely matters.” But she also points out that “effort factors into the calculations twice, not once. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive.” Duckworth says talent can be a helpful boost at the beginning of the learning process, but she also notes that the best way to develop any skill is to focus on practicing at the edges of current ability, and that means embracing failure. Duckworth also warns about the danger of overemphasizing talent because it can easily lead to a fixed mindset, the kind of mindset that says “I’m not a math person so I can’t learn this” rather than allowing a growth mindset that says “I don’t know how to do this yet, but I can learn!” (You can read more about the difference between these two mindsets by reading this article.)

It isn’t just in the discipline of mathematics that grit matters. Duckworth reports on her research on competitive spellers, “Measurements of grit taken months before the final competition predicted how well spellers would eventually perform. Put simply, grittier kids went further in competition. How did they do it? By studying many more hours and, also, by competing in more spelling bees.” Duckworth also studied the military students at West Point to answer the question, “what matters for making it through Beast,” the grueling program that separates West Point grads from the dropouts. She found that the answer to that question is “not your SAT scores, not your high school rank, not your leadership experience, not your athletic ability.” Instead, “what matters is grit.”

Parenting for Grit

Duckworth devotes a whole section of her book to providing ideas for parents who want to cultivate grittiness in their children. “First and foremost,” she stresses, “there’s no either/or trade-off between supportive parenting and demanding parenting.” She notes that “it’s a common misunderstanding to think of ‘tough love’ as a carefully struck balance between affection and respect on the one hand, and firmly enforced expectations on the other” and argues that “in actuality, there’s no reason you can’t do both.”

Another piece of advice to parents is to encourage their children to play. She writes, “before those who’ve yet to fix on a passion are ready to spend hours a day diligently honing skills, they must goof around, triggering and retriggering interest.” One way to help children in this process is to encourage them to sign up for extracurriculars and also pushing them to stick with their chosen activity. Duckworth writes, “If I could wave a magic wand, I’d have all the children in the world engage in at least one extracurricular activity of their choice, and as for those in high school, I’d require that they stick with at least one activity for more than a year.” The reason for this this desire is her recognition that “kids thrive when they spend at least some part of their week doing hard things that interest them.”

The point about sticking with activities is crucial. Duckworth notes that passion has less to do with intensity and more to do with consistency: “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.” In order to foster grit, the Duckworth family created the “The Hard Thing Rule” which has three parts:

1. Everyone – including Mom and Dad – has to do a hard thing, something that “requires daily deliberate practice.”
2. “You can quit. But you can’t quit until the season is over, the tuition payment is up, or some other ‘natural’ stopping point has arrived…In other words, you can’t quit on a day when your teacher yells at you, or you lose a race, or you have to miss a sleepover because of a recital the next morning.”
3. “You get to pick your hard thing. Nobody picks it for you because, after all, it would make no sense to do a hard thing you’re not even vaguely interested in.”

Earlier in the review, I mentioned the problem of fixed mindsets. Duckworth cautions parents that “children develop more of a fixed mindset when their parents react to mistakes as though they’re harmful and problematic.” She instead recommends that parents try to model “emotion-free mistake making.” For example, she shares about a technique where teachers “commit an error on purpose and then lets students see them say, with a smile, ‘Oh, gosh, I thought there were five blocks in this pile! Let me count again! … Great I learned I need to touch each block as I count!” If you’re anything like me, daily life provides plenty of opportunities for me to own up to honest mistakes and model a growth mindset. (For more tips on cultivating a growth mindset in yourself and your children, check out this article.)

While Duckworth believes that grit is essential for success, she thinks there are other traits that need to be cultivated alongside grit. She writes, “In assessing grit along with other virtues, I find three reliable clusters. I refer to them as intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual dimensions of character. You could also call them strengths of will, heart, and mind.”

1. Intrapersonal character: this cluster includes grit as well as “self-control, particularly as it relates to resisting temptations like texting and video games.”
2. Interpersonal character: “includes gratitude, social intelligence, and self-control over emotions like anger. These virtues help you get along with – and provide assistance to – other people.”
3. Intellectual character: “includes virtues like curiosity and zest. These encourage active and open engagement with the world of ideas.”

(As a brief aside, Duckworth’s cluster of virtues is very similar to the skillsets commended by Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University, in his book on robot-proofing education.)

Finally, Duckworth warns that while grit is good, too much effort without enough rest can lead to burnout. She explains that the cardinal feature of burnout is “the feeling of exhaustion” usually accompanied by “depersonalization – the sense that you’re unconnected to the people you’re serving or working with – and also helplessness – the sense that no matter what you do or how hard you try, you’re not making progress.” The concern about burnout is real; we sometimes recommend our customers take a math break. Amanda Capps explains that a math break can be full break and other times it can mean “taking a break from the current curriculum and focusing more on math games, math apps, reading math-related literature, or reviewing concepts.” She notes that a math break “could also include applying math to real-world applications such as cooking, budgeting, or building that occur outside of a workbook!”

To conclude the review, I want to revisit the story of David. Remember that David was the high school freshman who got a “D” on his first math test, and who went on to take advanced math as a senior. As it turns out, David went on to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering and is now working at the Aerospace Corporation. Duckworth writes: “quite literally, the boy who was deemed ‘not ready’ for harder, faster math classes is now a ‘rocket scientist.’”

Learn how an attitude of grit, and a willingness to grow, is a better predictor of student success than talent.

Can Education Make Us Robot-Proof?

In his recent book, Robot-Proof, Joseph E. Aoun addresses the connections between education and work.

Joseph E. Aoun has been president of Northeastern University for twelve years. During his tenure, he has thought deeply about the role of education. In his recent book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in The Age of Intelligence, Aoun asks “How should education be used to help people in the professional and economic spheres?” He notes that “as a university president, this is no small question for me…the university I lead, Northeastern, is explicitly concerned with the connections between education and work.”

Like many of our nation’s thinkers, Aoun is deeply concerned with how automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics will transform economies and displace workers. Thankfully, Aoun’s own rich academic background in linguistics and philosophy as well as his experience as a leader in higher-education have combined to give him a vision for robot-proof education. The education that Aoun recommends is a blend of the liberal arts and STEM, a mix of textbook and experiential learning, a balancing of the contemplative and practical.

Education is its own reward, equipping us with the mental furniture to live a rich, considered existence. However, for most people in an advanced society and economy such as ours, it also is a prerequisite for white-collar employment.

Aoun thinks there are two kinds of thinking that are uniquely human and that need to be emphasized in education. The first is critical thinking – something often talked about but not always well defined or understood. He defines critical thinking as “analyzing ideas in a skillful way and then applying them in a useful one.” Moreover, “to do this well, a person needs to be able to observe, reflect, synthesize, and imagine concepts and information and to communicate the results of the process.” Critical thinking goes hand-in-hand with the second model of thinking, systems thinking. This approach “involves seeing across areas that machines might be able to comprehend individually but that they cannot analyze in an integrated way, as a whole.” For example, even a well-coded algorithm can’t tell us “why certain hashtags on Twitter are trending, why the global commodities markets are rising and falling, why the Antarctic ice shelf is melting.” Aoun gives a concrete example of how humans and computers can work together: “…in the case of wind blow-over derailment, computers can help a team of engineers predict when it is likely to occur, but they cannot marshal the different talents needed for the project, give them direction, interpret the wider ramifications of the findings, and decide how to implement change.”

3 New Literacies

In order to develop the kind of thinking that will prepare us for careers in the digital age, Aoun proposes three new literacies. Just as today’s students are guided into mastering basic reading, writing, and math, tomorrow’s students will also need basic proficiency in technology, data analysis, and human literacy.

1) Technological Literacy

This means “Knowledge of mathematics, coding, and basic engineering principles.” Aoun explains that, “in much the same way as factory workers a hundred years ago needed to understand the basic structures of engines, we need to understand the elemental principles behind our devices. This empowers us to deploy software and hardware to their fullest utility, maximizing our powers to achieve and create.” In addition, “because coding is the lingua franca of the digital world, everyone should be conversant in it.”

2) Data Literacy

This is about knowing how to read and interpret data, particularly as it is reported in journalism. Aoun notes that “there is little use in accumulating massive amounts of data unless we can arrange it into useful information and thence into understanding. Data analysis allows us to do this by shifting through these giant sets of data to find the correlations in them that yield useful findings.”

3) Human Literacy

Human literacy equips us for the social milieu, giving us the power to communicate, engage with others, and tap into our human capacity for grace and beauty. It encompasses the humanities traditionally found in a liberal arts education but also includes elements of the arts, especially design, which is integral to much of digital communication.

In addition to basic training in ethics, human literacy is about forming human judgment. Aoun observes that “technology lacks the discernment to filter truth from deceit. And although human judgment can be grossly flawed, humans are also adept at sniffing out the truth by using context.”

In each of these literacies, Aoun identifies the same sequence of learning, and one that should be familiar to all of you who use our Math-U-See curriculum: “acquisition [of skills], integration, application” which leads to “high level of mastery,” otherwise known as “expertise.”

We can think of a student’s progress from ignorance to mastery as an advancement through four stages of development within the dimensions of consciousness and competence. In the first stage, students are unconsciously incompetent. They lack the knowledge to realize the extent of what they do not know. In the second stage, as the extent of this begins to dawn on them and they understand they have much to learn, they advance to a state of conscious incompetence. Further advancing, they reach a state of conscious competence in which they can perform well but must do so with deliberation and intent. At the final stage, they achieve the liberating state of unconscious competence, instinctively operating at the highest level of their domain.

Moreover, just as our math curriculum, Math-U-See, is both sequential and conceptual, so is the education model proposed by Aoun. Without conceptual mastery, Aoun warns:

[Students] may find themselves overly dependent on familiar contexts and inflexible to new applications. They also make lack a deep understanding of their domain, knowing the what but not the why. This blinds them from seeing how their knowledge could be utilized in a different setting.

Thus, the goal is to teach conceptual mastery, the “why” of education, not just the how, because that will allow students to “take the components they have integrated and apply them to complex, living contexts.”

Aoun also recommends the exciting work of Carol Dweck who coined the phrase “growth mindset” to describe ways of thinking that point to our potential to grow (“I don’t know how, but I can learn”) rather than to fixed mindsets (“I can’t do it, I’m just not a math person”).

The growth mindset is essential to nurturing the cognitive capacities of critical thinking and systems thinking because both demand that students cast the nets of their minds on wide, and often unexplored, waters. And it is the key to becoming the most robot-proof person of all – the self-directed, lifelong learner.

Aoun also reminds us that life-long learning isn’t just about picking up new skills. He writes, “by experiencing different situations and contexts, we trigger our emotions, challenge our beliefs, and test the fabric of our minds.”

While it may seem like the education model being proposed here is fixated on STEM and ignores the humanities, Aoun is deeply concerned about keeping the humanities front and center as well.

“[We need to] move beyond the canard that students must choose between an economically rewarding career and a fulfilling, elevated inner life. More than ever before, the capacities that equip people to succeed professionally are the same as the virtues espoused by Cardinal Newman in his paeans to ‘liberal knowledge’ – namely an agile mind, refinement of thought, and facility of expression.

Rather than replacing the liberal arts, Aoun thinks we need to add “an experiential component.” He explains that “this means combining the rigor of traditional academics with active participation in workplaces, laboratories, or volunteer opportunities. For example, an English major might intern with a media company, applying ideas encountered in a class on the technology of text to writing in new publishing formats.” Aoun further explains that “an experiential liberal arts model integrates traditional liberal arts skills with technological proficiencies…History students, for example, could compile digital archives of nineteenth-century black intellectuals in their cities or create networks of historical texts and maps.” The bottom line for all of us who love the liberal arts is this: “the humanities are expanding their digital toolbox. As we expand the scope of what they can do, we have to expand the scope of what we must teach.”

Aoun ends his book by saying: “I believe that when people are given education, they may still be astonished by the changes and mysteries that the future holds, but they will see these as opportunities rather than threats.” While the future is always an unknown, Robot-Proof is a great resource for thinking about how we can best prepare for the unknowns of tomorrow.

Further Reading

In his book, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, the acclaimed social theorist, psychologist, and educator Jerome Bruner explores the power of literature as a pathway to this important ability to imagine new possibilities. Bruner asks us to recognize that the artist, whether the painter or novelist, “creates possible worlds” that we, the viewer or reader, can inhabit. Bruner says that the purpose of the humanities is to cultivate hypotheses about our world which can lead to new ideas, whether a new scientific theory or new business or even a new political order as seen in the founding of America.

Read my review of his book here.

In his recent book, Robot-Proof, Joseph E. Aoun addresses the connections between education and work.

The Connected Child [Book Review]

My wife Anna are going through the required training to become adoptive parents. One of the most helpful books we read was The Connected Child.

My wife Anna and I have spent this past year going through the required training to become adoptive parents. One of the most helpful books we were assigned to read is The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Drs. Karyn Purvis and David Cross. I wanted to share some of the exciting insights from this book.

The fundamental principle of the book is that we can only love children with troubled backgrounds when we are able to see them holistically.

Too often, parents and experts look at behavioral disorders as if they existed separate from sensory impairments; separate from attention difficulties; separate from early childhood deprivation, neurological damage, attachment disorders, posttraumatic stress; and so on. We take a more holistic approach, because we know from a wealth of scientific research that…neurological, physical, behavioral, and relational skills all develop and emerge together.

To fully see a child (the prerequisite condition for genuine love) requires that we cultivate a disposition of compassion.

With compassion, you can look inside your child’s heart and recognize the impairments and deep fear that drive maladaptive behavior – fears of abandonment, hunger, being in an unfamiliar environment, losing control, and being hurt.

This loving gaze sees past the exterior behaviors of a hurting child and seeks to know and love the interior heart of the hurting child. For example, the authors note the complex ways that interior grief can manifest itself in external behavior: “a child’s grief can take many shapes. It might look like opposition, agitation, aggression, withdrawal, or obvious sorrow. Unless adopted children can authentically express their losses, sadness, and emotions, they will never be able to connect to you or others in meaningful ways.”

Our intent is to see beyond maladaptive behaviors to the real child who has been holed up inside a fortress of fear. We use the term ‘real child’ to refer to the core of highest potential inside a young person. It’s always our goal to free up and reveal this magnificent inner core and to enable the child to experience his or her full potential as a loving, connected, and competent individual.

In other to help us as parents to see the real child, the book provides insights on how to achieve the following parenting goals:

• Disarm your child’s fear response.
• Establish clear and sensitive parental authority.
• Provide a sensory-rich environment.
• Teach appropriate social skills.
• Support healthy brain chemistry.
• Help your child connect with his or her own feelings.
• Forge a strong emotional bond between you and your child.

As an example of the practicality of the book, here’s a technique called matching that can help foster bonds:

Matching is about becoming attuned to another human being and it is a very nurturing activity…For example, by kneeling down to a child’s level when you look her in the eye, or by sitting on the floor in the same position she has chosen to play a game, you send an important, unspoken message that you’re responsive to her, that you ‘see’ and value your child.

The authors do add one caution: “make sure your child sees your touch coming, understands your loving intention, and doesn’t feel trapped.” The authors also note “if your child has a history of harm, sensory processing issues, or an intense fear response, sustained eye contact may be more than he or she can accept in the beginning.” Thankfully, love can heal many wounds: “work to earn her trust over time, and eventually you and your child will be able to share warm, gentle, and emotionally connected eye contact.”

One final insight was deeply meaningful for my wife and me. While American culture prizes individualism and independence, attachment theory suggests that we have a genuine human need for relationship and dependency. I’ve written before about how deeply children need their parents to function as a secure base, but The Connected Child has helped me realize that this need is even more pronounced for kids from troubled backgrounds.

Parents sometimes have the mistaken assumption that they’re teaching independence by keeping their distance. However, many adopted and foster children have already endured too much distance and were required to be prematurely independent, to their detriment. Your child can only reach a healthy level of independence after he has become fully bonded and knows he has a safe base with you, his parents.

Further Reading

Cultivate A Healthy Parent-Child Attachment [4 Tips]

My wife Anna are going through the required training to become adoptive parents. One of the most helpful books we read was The Connected Child.

Theater Matters Because Democracy Matters

Oskar Eustis, in his 2918 TED Talk, sees three features that emerge from the interplay of democracy and theater in Greek culture.

Oskar Eustis begins his 2018 TED Talk with this statement:

Theater matters because democracy matters. Theater is the essential art form of democracy, and we know this because they were born in the same city.

Oskar sees three features that emerge from the interplay of democracy and theater in Greek culture.

1) Conflicting Voices Can Leads Us to Truth

Dialogue, whether on the stage or in the public square, shows us that the “other person has an opinion too, and it’s drama, remember, conflict — they disagree with me.” Oskar suggests that the principle that emerges is that “truth can only emerge in the conflict of different points of view. It’s not the possession of any one person.”

2) Empathy is a Necessary Tool for Democratic Citizenship

Oskar explains that with theater as with democracy, “I’m not asking you to sit back and listen to me. I’m asking you to lean forward and imagine my point of view — what this looks like and feels like to me as a character. And then I’m asking you to switch your mind and imagine what it feels like to the other person talking.” In short, both democracy and theater are built on our ability to empathize.

3) Community is Central to Our Experience of Theater and Democracy

You may have walked into that theater as an individual consumer, but if the theater does its job, you’ve walked out with a sense of yourself as part of a whole, as part of a community. That’s built into the DNA of my art form.

Oskar leads the team that produces Shakespeare in The Park, which allows New Yorkers to see high quality Shakespeare productions during the summer – for free. A more recent initiative is their Public Works program wherein “Tony Award-winning actors and musicians are side by side with nannies and domestic workers and military veterans and recently incarcerated prisoners, amateurs and professionals, performing together on the same stage.” Oskar notes that “it’s not just a great social program, it’s the best art that we do.” And behind this program is the belief that “artistry is not something that is the possession of a few. Artistry is inherent in being a human being. Some of us just get to spend a lot more of our lives practicing it.”

At the end of his talk, Oskar restates the essential role of theater in democratic life.

Our job is to try to hold up a vision to America that shows not only who all of us are individually, but that welds us back into the commonality that we need to be, the sense of unity, the sense of whole, the sense of who we are as a country. That’s what the theater is supposed to do, and that’s what we need to try to do as well as we can.

Further Reading

Oskar’s insight that theater and the arts build empathy and strengthen our imagination and reasoning skills is supported by the research of cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner. To dig into that research, check out my review of Bruner’s classic book Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. You can also read my series on engaging in arts and culture with your kids.

Oskar Eustis, in his 2018 TED Talk, sees three features that emerge from the interplay of democracy and theater in Greek culture.

Actual Minds, Possible Worlds [Book Review]

In "Actual Minds, Possible Worlds", Jerome Bruner explores the power of literature as a pathway to this important ability to imagine new possibilities.

The German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein famously declared: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Wittgenstein’s insight is that thinking is dependent on language.

Think about how an infant’s world expands as she learns to communicate, and how the young child’s world expands even more as her vocabulary rapidly expands. (Notice that I just used words to help you imagine a situation that helped clarify a thought.) As another illustration: try to remember a time when you said “I never thought about it like that before” – chances are that it was the words someone else used that helped you to reimagine a situation.

Actual Minds, Possible Worlds by Jerome Bruner

In his book Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, the acclaimed social theorist, psychologist, and educator Jerome Bruner explores the power of literature as a pathway to this important ability to imagine new possibilities. Bruner asks us to recognize that the artist, whether the painter or novelist, “creates possible worlds” that we, the viewer or reader, can inhabit.” (49). Bruner says that the purpose of the humanities is to cultivate hypotheses about our world which can lead to new ideas, whether a new scientific theory or new business or even a new political order as seen in the founding of America.

One reason it is so important to read fiction and engage with art is because doing so helps us “sense the alternativeness of human possibility” (53). Bruner points out that we “account for our own actions and for the human events that occur around us principally in terms of narrative, story, drama” (69). Given that story is so engrained to our we make sense of our lives and our world, learning how to be good readers of good stories is central to our ability to unlocking meaningful ways of envisioning ourselves in our world. Bruner reflects on reading Shakespeare’s Othello. He writes that reading the play “joined me to the possible worlds that provide the landscape for thinking about the human condition as it exists in the culture in which I live” (128). In other words, the play is “an invitation to reflection” that allows us to deepen our sense of “the complexities that can occur in narratives of human action” (128).

Toward the end of Bruner’s book he writes: “The language of education is the language of culture creating, not of knowledge consuming or knowledge acquisition alone” (133). If there is one takeaway that Bruner wants us to have from his book, I think it’s this: fiction is an essential aspect of education because it helps us creatively tackle the complex situations of life and gives us the ability to harness language in powerful ways. As the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley once argued, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

Further Reading

To read more about the importance of reading in education, check out my series on parental engagement and reading.

In "Actual Minds, Possible Worlds", Jerome Bruner explores the power of literature as a pathway to this important ability to imagine new possibilities.

Twice Exceptional Learners [New Research]

Twice exceptional, or 2e, is a relatively new term in the world of education. 2e students are gifted learners who face one or more learning difficulties.

Scott Barry Kaufman grew up with an auditory processing disorder and high anxiety which made him struggle as a student. Kaufman was also a gifted student. Educators are accustomed to using mutually exclusive labels like “struggling learner” and “gifted learner” and mutually exclusive programs like “special education” and “gifted education.”

Kaufman’s story helps us recognize the problems with this kind of thinking. In an article for Scientific American, Kaufman writes of his experiences with a special education teacher who “saw beyond my label to some hidden strengths that were bursting to come out from deep within me.” His teacher encouraged him to sign up for more challenging questions and to participate in extracurricular activities. Kaufman continued to flourish as a student and today he has a Yale PhD in cognitive psychology; his research is designed to broaden our understanding of intelligence and to advocate for other twice-exceptional students.

What Does Twice Exceptional Mean?

Twice exceptional, or 2e, is a relatively new term in the world of education. 2e students are gifted learners who face one or more learning difficulties. Kaufman explains that 2e students “demonstrate exceptional levels of capacity, competence, commitment, or creativity in one or more domains coupled with one or more learning difficulties.” These students can often fly under the radar because the interplay of ability and disability can be complex. Kaufman writes:

Their exceptional potentialities may dominate, hiding their disability; their disability may dominate, hiding their exceptional potentialities; each may mask the other so that neither is recognized or addressed.

New Research About Twice Exceptional Learners

Kaufman’s new book, Twice Exceptional: Supporting and Educating Bright and Creative Students with Learning Difficulties, is designed to help educators identify 2e students and support them in their education. Kaufman writes:

Viewing the 2e student as neither exclusively disabled nor exclusively gifted, but, rather, as a dynamic interaction of both, leading experts offer holistic insight into identification, social-emotional development, advocacy, and support for 2e students.

Kaufman’s research on intelligence highlights the importance of personalized education. He explains that we need to shift from “an educational model that compares children to each other on a single dimension (e.g., IQ, academic performance) to an appreciation of the whole child, which includes a unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses, but also recognizes the importance of ability, engagement, and personal goals working together and changing over time.” In other words, rather than forcing students into preexisting boxes, we need to customize education to meet the needs of the student.

Demme Learning believes in the power of individualized education. That’s why our products are designed to support every kind of student at each stage in their learning. And we’ve heard countless stories of all kinds of students excelling with our math and spelling programs. For example, here’s an in-depth article about how Math-U-See can benefit dyslexic learners.

And here’s the story of William, who used Math-U-See, and credits the curriculum with preparing him to flourish as a math major in college who plans on pursuing his doctorate.

Twice exceptional, or 2e, is a relatively new term in the world of education. 2e students are gifted learners who face one or more learning difficulties.