Child Genius

A child prodigy or Wunderkind is a person who at an early age, develops one or more skills that are far beyond the norm for their age. A child prodigy needs to be a minor (i.e. less than 18 years of age) who is able to perform at the level of a highly trained adult in a very demanding field of endeavour.

The above definition, taken from Wikipedia, is interesting as it brings us back to the concept of intelligence and to the calculation of the Intellectual Quotient (IQ) in particular. As seen in previous posts, Frenchman Alfred Binet first coined IQ as representing the ratio of that person’s Mental Age (MA) to their Calendar Age (CA). Binet’s formula for IQ was simple and elegant:

IQ = (MA/CA) x100

Which means that a person will Mental Age which exceeded their Calendar Age would have an IQ greater than 100, while someone who performed at a level lower than their age would have an IQ lower than 100.

So if a 10 year old (CA = 10), was found to have a Mental Age of 20, then that child’s IQ would be:

(20 / 10) x 100 = 200

Clearly, an IQ of 200 would be exceptional most likely correspond to a child genius (assuming the other real accomplishments were to match). Although Binet’s quotient method would eventually be replaced by standard scores, the old equation is helpful in considering what IQ is really all about, and where one might want to start looking for potential child prodigies and child geniuses.

Coming back to the definition of child prodigy, it is clear that IQ alone is not enough to warrant calling a child a genius. One must look for accompanying accomplishments which would justify the Child Genius label being employed.

Mozart (IQ estimate of 160), was a child prodigy and child genius, having written concertos by the tender age of eight. James Sidis, on the other hand, set a record as the youngest person to ever enroll at Harvard College by the age of 11. So real life accomplishments, not just being good at taking IQ tests, remain critical to the designation of a child genius.

Child Genius: the search for Britain’s biggest brainbox

In the UK, television station Channel 4 has recently launched its fifth series of “Child Genius”, which is the hunt for Britain’s brightest child – in collaboration with Mensa. Many of the children who appear on the show as clearly bright, but few are exceptional talents that would warrant inclusion into a list of child prodigies.

This program is highly entertaining, although the entertainment does not just emanate from the impressive intellectual ability of some of the children, but also due to the total unreasonable parents that appear on the show.

A child genius needs to be encouraged and be given the opportunity maximize their talents, but many parents on the show push their children so hard that some look pale and awkward, and are only likely to struggle to fit in socially in their teens.

Parents should focus on raising well rounded children instead of book worm nerds, that end up becoming dorks. Other parents let some of these children walk all over them, creating a perfect breeding ground for some of them to become arrogant teenagers.

The Child Genius is a good program, but the show should accord points to children who have real talents (e.g. music, or otherwise) as opposed to being book worms. Parents of child geniuses need to remember that “All work and no play makes Jack (and Jill) a dull boy (girl”)

Do you think you might be a genius? If so, you can test your hand at our fluid intelligence IQ test here.

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