The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Singapore's IQ distribution and giftedness

I have just re-read my post on Ainan going to Raffles Institution, yesterday and, on doing so, I realized that I had made an error in my analysis. I have underestimated the number of gifted students who would be at Raffles.

How have I done this? Well, I realize, now, that I had made the assumption, in my statement that 1 in 44 people will be moderately gifted (IQ 130 or more), that the distribution was a normal one about an IQ of 100: as is the standard model of IQ. So, this is right, right? Wrong.

You see, the mean IQ in Singapore is, according to IQ and the Wealth of Nations (2002), 104, NOT 100. This means that the distribution of IQs in Singapore is significantly skewed towards the gifted range. Quite simply, there will be more gifted students in the Singaporean population, for its size, than there would be in many other populations of the same size. That is the number of gifted students, per head of population should be higher in Singapore, than many other countries. For instance, the mean IQ of the United Kingdom is 100; that of the United States is 98. Singapore will have notably more gifted students per head of population than these two nations - because a few IQ points shift - amounting to almost half a standard deviation, in relation to the US, will push many more students into the gifted range. This analysis assumes that the shape of the distribution is the same - a normal curve (though in fact it should be trimodal - but normal is the usual model) - about an IQ mean of 104.

(Of course, although Singapore will have more gifted students per head of population than many other nations - including the US and the UK - these nations will have many more gifted students in terms of actual numbers - because they are much larger populations.)

Applying this to Raffles Institution, without detailed analysis, gives me the sense that it is probable that ALL their students are gifted - for they are the top 3% of a population with mean IQ 104, not the top 3% of a population of mean IQ 100, as I had inadvertently assumed.

Not all nations have lower IQs than Singapore. Hong Kong, for instance, has a mean IQ of 107 - indicating that China may become real competition for the West in the future - but that is another story.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:16 AM 


Blogger Howard said...

I am againr referring to the Euler
's Identity x^i(pi) + 1 = 0 .
It is indeed a extraodinary equation . I would just like to say that being interested in such kind of equations are perfectly shows of curiosty that many math people have . It is not something "unique" or anything .

2:59 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Howard, I never said it was unique. I just said he came to me excited about it. I find it interesting that you feel a need to point out something that was never actually stated...

An interest in maths in Ainan, in this way, is a new development for him and so it is worthy of being pointed out. Just by doing so does not in any way imply that the world does not have many others similarly interested - and why should it?

I would say Ainan was a physical sciences person, anyway. We will see how far his maths interest takes him.

Best wishes to you.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Err...Howard. Ainan is seven years and four months old. Now, I don't know about you, but when I was that age no-one was interested in that equation at all, at my school - not the eight year olds, either, nor the nine, nor the ten...nor the fact, probably not most of the teenagers either. In fact, in my maths education, such as it was, we never came across it at all.

That would be a more normal perspective on the situation, than the one you have adopted.

It is always wise and human to give credit where it is due - instead of try to take it away.

The equation he liked was e to the i times pi, plus 1 equals 0, not x to the i times pi plus 1 equals 0. (unless x equalled e, of course.)

Have a good day.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Howard said...

Yes , I meant x = e .
All I can say that I am also a mathematical person .
I won't give more about me , probably tomorow but not today .
Ainan's interest in math is indeedsomething worth considering . Could you tell me more aout Ainan's mathematical development so far ?

8:16 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Ainan's interest in maths is really quite new: I am just watching it awaken at present. I think it is too early to comment much other than to note that he has decided to look at it for himself, which in his case is always a good sign that something worthwhile is going to happen. Maths at school is very simplistic at his age: they have got as far as addition and subtraction - and no further. Needless to say this is boring for Ainan who needs more conceptual meat. Luckily, he has begun to find that on his own.

Best wishes

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm. This is the first time Ive heard of average IQ scores being relative to countries.

It may depend on which test you're looking at. Some tests have been designed for specific countries. Maybe there is now a test that is worldwide.

- Kathy

8:08 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, different countries have different IQ scores. Generally the highest scores are found in parts of Asia - the middle scores in Europe and America...and the lowest scores in Africa. These are unfortunate truths. IQ and the Wealth of Nations correlated these scores with the economic success of nations and found a definite correlation. Very interesting - but controversial, was published in 2002. You might find it worth a look, Kathy.

Best wishes

9:50 PM  
Blogger Joanne said...

I hope you don't mind, but I thought I'd share some comments that might better reflect the reality of the RI student cohort.
The majority of students in RI are very bright, with some gifted. However, definitely not all students in RI are gifted.

In order to consider the competency level of students in a school, it might help to better understand the admission requirements and avenues.

There are 2 main avenues for entry at Sec 1 in RI: a 'high' PSLE aggregate (usually in the mid-260s) and granting of a place via DSA (Direct School Admissions).

With the former, the PSLE actually suffers from a ceiling effect as, if you have a look at the papers, you would realise that the PSLE standard is not remarkably high for the age of testing.

With the latter, students with talents in areas other than academia (e.g. in sports) are granted direct admission. Officially, there is still a stipulated minimum PSLE aggregate they have to attain, but in truth, this 'rule' is often not strictly adhered to.

Having said that, I applaud your dedication to providing your gifted son with the best (i.e. appropriate) oppportunities possible. Growing up as a gifted child in Malaysia, I can't begin to describe the anguish I felt all those years as my neurons slowly committed suicide because they didn't want to make friends with their neighbours anymore.

Gifted children belong to a special needs category, and it's about time more educators realise that. This has been highlighted a number of times on Hoagies' Gifted Education website which I find of much use.[]

I wish Ainan all the best!

4:42 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for clarifying who RI admits. I didn't realise that they took in non-academic students the simplistic description given to me: "The top 3%" did not encompass the idea that they might top in something else than academia!

If they were genuinely the top 3 % intellectually across the board, then they would all be gifted, statistically - or thereabouts.

Yes, gifted children are a special needs category...and one usually overlooked.

Best wishes

8:54 AM  
Blogger Boggy said...

Goddamn right they are overlooked. I was bored in school, I never studied as much as other kids and got better grades than most of them. I felt socially aloof in my teens (20 now) not because I had no friends, but because I felt I always had to modify my words in order to not be misunderstood or be deemed pretentious by my friends. I always knew I was reasonably smart, but it never occurred to me that that might have been a barrier. Took the Mensa test a month ago and as it turns out my IQ is >156 on the Cattell scale.

If I had been enrolled in a special needs program, or if one even existed at the high schools I attended, I would have become more socially skilled, and would have had a good work ethic by now. As it turns out, finding out that I only needed to study 2 days before every exam to get a good grade made me a lazy bastard over the years. So yes, if your kid is "gifted", then please give him the resources to keep him occupied.

4:48 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for writing, Boggy. It is good that you took that test, for now you know something important which is worth considering in the years ahead: you have the mental capacity to do anything you want - you have only to decide what that is, and work towards it. As a child, you may have felt apart, but that apartness actually is a sign of something special.

I wish you luck in deciding what you wish to do.

As for my son: yes, I am doing my best to keep him stimulated. He gets bored by the mundane, too, as you did. Fortunately, we managed to get him into a University where he is happy now.

Best wishes to you.

10:08 AM  

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