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 +

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A new meaning of obvious

A few days ago, Ainan, seven, made the kind of remark that has become characteristic of him.

"One of the biggest calculations I have done..." he began, speaking, implicitly, one felt, of a mental calculation. Incidentally there was no calculator in sight. " the fourth root of 12,117,361." He paused briefly. "Now, obviously it is 59," he stated this without a hint of humour in his voice: clearly he meant it to be obvious (!), "because 59 to the power 4 is 12,117,361."

If there is an error in these numbers it is one of my own remembrance, because, at the time, I checked his statement with a calculator and found it to be true.

This kind of statement is the product of Ainan's growing familiarity with numbers. Now, I would not say that Ainan has become a mental calculator like his uncle Josh, but, perhaps with greater familiarity with numbers he may develop a good facility in that area. It is clear to me that is not his purpose, but it may be a side effect, one day, of his growing interest in all things mathematical and numerical.

We will see. Meanwhile, I have noted his new meaning of the word, "obvious" - as being absolutely inscrutable.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:53 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats really really cool that he can do that, Valentine.

I think though that what he meant by obvious may have been... that he really thinks the answer is easy for most people to arrive at, its possible that he doesn't realize that not everyone else can do these things. I think it is human nature to assume that if I can do something, everyone else can do it too - after all, we are the same animal - and this instinct seems to apply to gifted people as well. But for the gifted, it often results in funny or unhappy consequences.

I have a friend who can read at double or tripple the average reading speed. When I told her what the average speed is, she did not believe me. Then when we looked it up, she was shocked. I thought this was ironic and funny.

But if the situation were different, if she had reacted to a normal ability as if it were inferior, that would be quite insulting. If she had reacted to an excellent reader who reads at an above average speed but still does not come close to how fast she can read, as if they were going slowly, it might seem very arrogant or snobbish.

I think it is very important for gifted people to have an idea of what normal skills and aptitudes are like. Without it, they cannot be tactful. Perhaps Ainan already has a very clear idea of exactly what is considered normal - you'd think that this would just happen naturally. But perhaps not. If so many other gifted people can make it to adulthood without a clear idea of what is normal and what about them is advanced, I think it is very possible that Ainan may be subject to the same difficulty.

Even you might be surprised at what you find out, if you were to investigate the subject. ;)

- Kathy

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

I agree with what Kathy said, and I would like to share a story that I have that I find similar to this.

I have a photographic memory (I know that this is a controversial subject however the truth of the matter is that I can recall everything I see.)
Well because of this, I have never taken a note in my life, I have merely memorized the chalk board. I am now in grade 11, I just discovered last year that this was not normal. I imagine your son will have several experiences like this.

P.S I am aware this is an old post, I was just reading the archives and felt the need to comment on this one

2:57 AM  

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