Complex thinking is just one example of a force that can take the attention of gifted children away from their schoolwork. Divergent thinking can exert an equally powerful pull. A divergent thinker, unlikely to listen to the teacher, may fall behind—for the usual reason.
Those thoughts are more compelling than anything else. For example, in grade school math, I was thinking about numbers, but not in any way that helped me pay attention in class.
When we studied division, I heard “one divided by five,” and began speculating on what those words implied. Cut one sheet of paper into five pieces: one divided by five equals five pieces of paper. Cut one sheet of paper five times: one divided by five is six pieces of paper. And so forth. Picturing all the possibilities, I enjoyed my personal inquiry but grew up thinking I was slow in math because I missed so many of the teacher’s useful instructions on how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions.