About This Blog

In 2011, the art teacher told me that my son was gifted and I should have him tested.   A few months before the test date, I searched for advice and found nothing but snooty parent forums complaining about people trying to cheat into GAT programs and websites for gifted and talented that said the only thing you can do is get a good night sleep.

After an 8 week crash course that I created myself, he got reasonable test scores.  Between the February test and the beginning of the school year, 5 people turned down the last seat in a gifted program due to a variety of reasons. My son had a seat.  We walked into his new first grade classroom two weeks into the school year and I was shocked to see 3rd grade curriculum.  We just finished board books.  What had I done?

We spent about 2 years catching up.

The second child would be different.  I started a research program into cognitive skills, early education, early childhood development, and of course cognitive skills tests.   I wrote software to reverse engineering the tests, chugging away at question permutations until the bell went off (ding) and I had my answer.  It's not about manipulating shapes, it's about thinking skills, academic skills, and grit.  The research pointed in the same direction, although it's not clear from the research that cognitive skills experts have actually met a actual child.  Almost every paper and book points out that intelligence is at least partial genetic.  This is ridiculous.  This stuff is highly teachable.  A parent simply has to do the exact opposite of what school does to produce a gifted child.

When I started this blog, I figured no one would read it, because no one reads blogs.  It would just be a good place to organize my experiments and findings.  Then it became a place to answer questions and point other parents in the right direction.  When I started, I routinely cornered parents at parties and on the street when researching how they created such bright and successful children.  Now parents corner me on the street and ask how to do it. I've been coaching children and their parents ever since.

The curriculum page lists the best books from the shelves of thinking skills books and cognitive skills training  that I accumulated.  I have 4 feet of math books. There critical gaps in this material that I filled myself. The material for Pre-K, which I like to think as pre-test-prep, was missing the two most important steps in the learning process - a phonics book that emphasizes the cores academic skills that will be tested and similar phonics book for math.   I think I invented phonics for math.  These were the keys to a  99% on the test without anxiety for the Pre-K and Kindergarten tests.

My specialty is catching up.  It was far more rewarding to get from slightly above average to GAT at a later age than simply produce a profoundly gifted child who's ready for 3rd grade at age 5. Producing a 99% child at age five is a recipe.  Producing a 99% child at age 10 or later is something else.

There is a big gap for 2nd through 4th grade in both material and guidance for a parent, and very little test prep material.  With a 3rd grader still trying to catch up to his gifted peers, I created the Test Prep Math series.  The questions build in reading, logic, reasoning, grit, and some math into 100 word problems.   These books put the child so far ahead in thinking skills and academic skills that the child can go ahead on his own, which is much more appropriate for older children.

The biggest gap of all is training for the parents.  Gifted and talented preparation, aka thinking and academic skills prep, is mainly focused on the child, but parents like me have to change the approach and the learning environment dramatically.  This is a constant theme in all of my articles.  From the beginning, www.getyourchildintogat.com is not a place for gifted parents to go to feel good about their special children, it's for the rest of us to get our acts together.

In January 2016, I've got two major projects underway.  The first one is the Chicago Project, which I'm going to be writing about extensively.   The second one is the 7th Grade Project which you'll hear about in a couple of years.  The Chicago Project involves the recipe I mentioned above with underprivileged parents and their children.  The 7th grade project doesn't have a recipe yet.


  1. Hi Norwood, I just discovered your under-the-rader link to your blog from cpsobsessed. I appreciate your humor, and share your belief that I my efforts were enough to get my lump of clay into Edison, where he's now in first grade.

    You're dedication to this project is very impressive, especially given that the positive feedback here on your blog is not so frequent. I'll admit I won't be checking back on a regular basis, but I do love the concept and look forward to seeing how far you take it.

    It doesn't seem like you're seeking like minded stories, but I can relate and you've motivated me to spout my tips and experience like a sparkler to your 4th of July extravaganza. Commenting on this post seemed most appropriate...

    I can't afford private school, and am not moving out of Chicago. Looking backwards from SEHS, I figured out the key was getting the seed in the system at the kindergarten level. I tried hard to figure out what that 15 to 50 minutes of a test was going to be like behind closed doors with an IIT student, to no avail. I paid Christine Whitely for a private consultation to gain any insight. I enrolled my son at Mathletics for two summers, luckily he enjoyed it, but it was quite expensive for a half hour/week.

    In the end, I think it's one main thing that proved most effective: I made sure to read to him every single day for at least half an hour, usually closer to an hour. He ended up not reading on his own until after starting kindergarten, but in preschool I was complimented several times on his 'huge' vocabulary.

    I think being very social and outgoing has got to help a bit in preparation for that life changing one-on-one test.

    Other then that, I relied heavily on the Brainquest flash card questions to prepare him for answering questions, and regretfully, though not detrimentally, didn't get any math flash cards until a month or so before the test.

    I do find it surprising that you are continuing to grill and test your children to keep them up to speed with the others, as you 'cheated' their way into the good school, when the reality is most of them just got the golden ticket in a similar fashion. I'm sure your extra effort will benefit them, even if they may one day be ostracized for curling up into an egg during a tedious test. I must sheepishly admit, now that my son is in 'the system', I'm just letting the school do the work, and cracking down with the severance of video game privileges to make sure he gets all the homework done.

    Anyway, my two cents. Cheers and good luck to you and your kids!

    1. I've got tears in my eyes and feel like I just met my long lost twin.

      If I could figure out how to highlight your paragraph on "Read To" I would.

      I don't really grill so much as I continue to find really great advanced skills out there, and since they are all learnable, we learn them.

      Thanks for your comment, and good luck to you too!

  2. I agree with your previous poster about your dedication to this project as the amount of time spent planning, teaching then documenting is incredible. Thank you for being so generous in sharing all of your information as well as mistakes along the way. I have a 3 1/2 year old and I am daunted by the entire process. But I will be taking many of your strategies/suggestions and will start implementing them ASAP. Yikes -2 years until kindergarten!

    Best wishes to you.

  3. Hi,
    Can you talk about your y Supplemental Home Schooling Program ? Which exact books do you use? Thank You.

    1. Good question- this will require its own post.

  4. I am blown away by this blog. I live in a city with horrible public schools. I oscillate between thinking about how to live in poverty so my son can attend a private school and wondering if he could get into the GAT program in my neighborhood. I am going to comb through your blog and start collecting workbooks.

  5. Count me in as another grateful reader/follower of this blog. I too live in a large urban school district with unaffordable private schools, and although my first kid is only 2, I am hopeful that the tools you provide here will help us at least have a real chance at getting her into the GT ("Vanguard") program. Many kudos to you for all the hard work and dedication (and willingness to share with the rest of us) -- there is nothing else like this on the internet.

    1. It is my understanding that Vanguard is in Houston. While it may not be as competitive as NY or Chicago, the entrance process is much worse. Good luck. Talk a lot. A LOT. Throw away your cell phone. If you talk nonstop, you child will gain 3,957 IQ points. Then you can start pre-reading at 3.

  6. Thank you, thank you for your blog. I wonder if you can recommend a site/book for a 7th grader takint the Cogat in a month. I read you don't find testingmom.com worthwhile, but would it work for a 7th grader taking a test in a month using Cogat? What books do you recommend? It seems that there is not much out there for 7th grade. I found BrightMinds Publishing and Mercer Publishing, but don't know how effective these are. Thank you for any help you can provide.

    1. You need to get a practice test and go through it carefully. That's the most important activity for the last month. This exercise is good for about 4 to 5 points, not to mention preventing disaster. The only other thing I would recommend at this point is to buy the SAT test prep book from the SAT's publisher (for about $10 or so) and do the reading comprehension exercises. Good luck.

  7. I am think of having my son tested for the Chicago selective enrollment gifted/classical schools. He is going to the 3rd grade this fall. He received all A's in second grade but I don't believe he'd test very well. Any recommendation on how to help him prepare?

    1. School curriculum is mainly about knowing and the test is looking for figuring out. See the curriculum page. Also see some of the other articles. I discuss working with grade level +1 or +2 a lot. This is not a prerequisite for the test, but there isn't a lot of test prep material for 3rd grade and making your child do next year's math on his own is a proxy for 'figuring out'.

  8. Recently discovered your blog and it's wealth of information! My son was previously identified as GT in his current school district in Kinder. He is entering 2nd grade this year. We will be moving out of district this spring, and he will need to retest for GT services in the new district. He will test either this spring or next fall (spring of 2nd grade or fall of 3rd grade).

    I spoke with GT coordinator on which tests he will be taking: NNAT and ITBS (reading and math). When he took the GT test in kinder, he took the NNAT and CogAT. He tested in GT range for NNAT but average in the CogAT nonverbal, verbal and quantitative sections. He only needed to have one test he scored in the GT range to qualify. In the new district, he will need to qualify on the NNAT AND 98% on the ITBS. I'm worried he won't do as well on the ITBS, since he was clearly GT on the NNAT but average on the CogAT previously.

    Any recommendations? I'm also considering signing up for giftedandtalented.com to supplement his learning in the meantime. Thank you for all of the time you put towards this super helpful blog!

    1. First of all, thanks for confirming my suspicion about the NNAT. I concluded that it was easier than the COGAT from a reverse engineering project and this is another data item to confirm. 98% on the ITBS is 1/3 cognitive skills based (like the cogat), 1/3 at least a year ahead in school, and 1/3 really diligent about careful work and checking answers. We've spent the last few years concentrating on 99%'s on the MAP, which is way harder than the ITBS and requires 2+ years ahead instead of just 1.

      Here's your main focus for now until test time:
      1. Reading all the time, which you already do. The entire harry potter series would be great right now but you have to pick your battles. With one kid, anything I suggest he rejects, and with the other I had to read about 1/3 of harry potter to keep him going.
      2. Reading comp, Continental Press, Level C.
      3. 3rd grade math, maybe Every Day Math or a rigorous program.
      4. The Smart Cookie 3/4 grade NNAT book.

      For core skills, the kind needed to get into a GAT program and be the top student, I would recommend Test Prep Math Level 2, at least sections 1 and 2. This would remove any issues with core skills and working memory. Depending on how you feel about #1 and #2 on my list above, this would be your highest priority or further down on the list. If you said 'COGAT' I would recommend this first. If your child is not a strong reader or makes a lot of mistakes or hurries through his work, I would put this first. If your biggest problem is that your child isn't a year or more ahead in school, and you have to catch up immediately than I wouldn't start with this book.

      I've got to think about giftedandtalented.com. I generally have not been happy with online experiences but working mom's find these useful for lack of time.

    2. I forgot to mention this. How you go about your work is the single most important thing you do. I'll have a video out this weekend specifically talking about figure matrices, but the high level approach applies to everything on the list above.

  9. I have twins just starting 3rd grade. In 2nd grade, they were given the COGAT screening test and both just barely squeaked by to qualify for taking the full test. I wish I'd found your site sooner so we could have been working on the necessary skills all summer. But now the test has been tentatively scheduled for "sometime in October, or sooner". I have started them on Test Prep Math 3 and they are doing surprisingly well. On the first 6 questions, they have gotten them fairly quickly with only a few mistakes and they have been able to explain their answers with no help from me. Since we are on such a tight schedule (I think), should I skip forward to some harder questions or is it less effective that way? I'm also considered adding in some Section 2 and Section 3 problems to round it all out. Is there any benefit to doing the sections simultaneously?

    Also, do you have any suggestions for a creative kid that can justify just about any answer? I love that she does this but it's not so great for test taking where there is only one right answer. Telling her to pick the most likely answer doesn't work when, in her mind, there are at least two that are equally likely.

    1. This is 4 cases in one. Fortunately, I have an answer.

      If your children can explain and justify their answer to section 1 you are in the minority. Section 1 leaves a lot of room for creativity and argument on purpose, although you can apply some graduate level logical philosophical math to demonstrate there is a single best answer, and I do this whenever kids are feeling too happy about being correct, which is not allowed (nor is feeling bad about being incorrect). Most kids need about 65 questions from this section to meet my goals, but I'm not sure if its the first 65 or the last 65 or something in between. Depends on the kid.

      Your more immediate need, it sounds like, is to jump into section 2 and 3 alternating problems. Each problem has a single correct answer. Post comments on Test Prep Math Errata link in the upper right when you are unsure or can't win an argument with your braniacs and I'll help.

      I tried my best to start out the book with easy problems so as not to scare anyone off. But I have witnessed kids in the upper 90's struggling on almost all the problems after a certain point, and I changed quite a few questions because I live in fear of them being easy, so the only conclusion I can draw is that you are doing something wrong. I'm not saying this facetiously; my fear is that working memory growth is going to suffer. Send a note to getyourchildintogat@gmail.com so we can set up a facetime test, your kids against the author, and I'll let them pick the question. There's a whole layer in these questions that they might be missing. Or maybe they just have to jump ahead 20 questions.

  10. Hello, I need some help and I think you are the right person to ask this question too as you have scanned a LOT of maths book.

    My daughter's first grade had the following maths problem in her test

    "Matt has 2 more cookies than John. John has 1 more cookie than Sam. Sam has 5 cookies. How many cookies does each boy have".

    Would you know which book would have these kind of word problems?

    Most of the maths books that I have looked at have straightforward problems like Sam has 5 cookies and he gave 1 to Matt and another to John . How many cookies does he have?

    Thank you in advance.

    1. This is the single biggest gap in math education. There will be a book available in a few months that goes beyond. I've found and assigned pretty good books from Kumon and Singapore math but they're really hard to find. I had to sit down in an unusual bookstore in a suburb of Chicago and read through about 30 books to find a good one. The only one I can find on Amazon is from Kumon and parents of Kindergartners love the 1st grade one. For $8, try the second grade version. Contact me with any questions. I'll keep you posted on developments.

    2. Thank you for your reply and the amazing research you are doing ! Really appreciate your effort. Thank you. Will wait for the new book too.

  11. I've read your blog. Thanks for writing it. I have a 10-year old 4th grader, "twice exceptional", and we have accidentally done a few things right, but not enough to build his cognitive, learning, self-teaching skills and grit, nor enough to put him across the testing line into GAT programs. His current CogAT scores are 99th %ile Quantitative, 95th %ile Verbal, 60th %ile Nonverbal; ITBS rates him ~80th %ile across the board; classwork results put him in the Advanced group for Math and Science, Proficient in Language Arts, but he's lagging in writing. Locally, these scores qualify him for a GAT pull-out class but not for full-day GAT programs. I've arranged a decent school for the next 4 years, so the tests are not critical now. They will matter in 4 and then 8 years. More important are the cognitive skills you focus on, including self-teaching and perseverating during difficult learning, along with the 99th %ile academic mastery that depends on them.

    Right now he and I need materials that can be used to reach that point. Should I simply plow into the grade 6-7 math and reading curriculum? Would SAT or similar tests be more efficient? Are there books, curricula, testing materials you have used and would recommend for this situation?

    Thanks for making your thoughts available!


  12. Hello! My daughter will start 3rd grade in the fall and took the Cogat at the end of her 2nd grade year. We did a small amount of prep work, mostly going through practice tests. She scored a 131 and needed a 132 to get into her gifted program :(. Her quantitative score was quite high, 137, but her verbal and nonverbal were 119 and 118 respectively. We've asked to have her retested and we have about 6 weeks to prepare.

    I believe she has the same problem with grit that you mentioned. Grade level math has come so easy for her that she gives up and whines/cries as soon as she approaches a question that is difficult. I was suprprised at how low the verbal and non-verbal scores were because she got 90% of those questions right on her practice exams. I think as you mentioned in your blog that the practice exams were way easier than the actual test.

    What would you recommend? Since it's summer, we have more time, though she is very resistant to much work.

    Thanks in advance for your help!