Jo Boaler: Math teaching is about
developing positive attitudes towards the subject
Educational Reading Friday 20 April 1980
Holidays are a time to catch your breath and to think about how to make teaching better for both teachers and students. Allan and I are no longer involved in teaching but we hear enough
from teacher friends, and reading comments on Facebook, to know that all is not well.
We both caught an interview on Q&A with Jo Boaler (Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University) someone both of us have long admired. To us, her short interview about maths teaching holds an answer to educations problem in particular with maths.
Maths has always been a difficult area. Many teacher are
themselves not that confident and are easily convinced to take on board any number of math schemes but sadly our position on International Tables has steadily fallen.
It’s thus worth listening to what Boaler has to say.
Boaler says that current approaches leave far too many students with ‘maths anxiety’ and this, in particular, applies to girls. Her video was about ensuring students develop positive
attitudes towards maths – or any learning area. For too long schools have focussed on achievement and one dimensional programmes and this has resulted in an obsessive and exhausting assessment and documentation regime. What has been missing is not paying enough attention to student attitudes towards maths.
When qustioneed about the success of Asian students Boaler made some important points. The key point underpinning Asian success is the belief by parents, teachers and students,
that all everyone can do maths (or any area of learning). In Western cultures, Boaler says, ability is seen as important – some people are just better at maths – and girls not so much! Western teachers also use ability grouping while in Asian classes (as observed by Boaler) children are taught as a class in discussion groups and only cover a few problems a lesson – they do fewer things well. As a result positive attitudes are developed.
Bruce reflected back to his time as a class teacher where he
determined not to use text books, work sheets, or ability grouping – all common practice at the time. He made every attempt to make maths both enjoyable and challenging studying with his class maths patterns, triangular numbers, measuring, counting, tessellation, history of number, number in other cultures, keeping rainfall data, transects in science, magic numbers, math cooking, maths and art …….. The classroom
|Graph number of eed in a pod
displayed a variety of maths activities. And maths was related, where possible, to whatever study area the class was involved in. Bruce wanted his class to appreciate what maths was really all about and for all to have positive attitudes towards the subject.
Unfortunately it didn’t work out so well. When his students went on to Intermediate school a couple of boys came back to tell him the teacher at the intermediate had said all the kids from his class couldn’t do math! Bruce asked if the boys were in ability groups. They said they were – and in the top group!! He then asked
the boys how come this was the case if students couldn’t do maths? The boys were confused and the next day they returned with the answer ‘the teacher said none of the students could use a text book!’ One of the boys was a member of the recent tax review group!!
The next year he introduced textbooks in the last months to avoid the issue but his students were given the message that ‘real’ maths is doing maths and text book are to be seen only as ‘practice’ maths.
Bruce and Allan both wish they knew about Boaler in their teaching days.
Teaching students learn and love maths
Facing up to the elephant in the classroom – the mind changing ideas of Jo Boaler
‘Jo Boaler makes two main points – maths can be a fun activity for all students but to achieve this needs the removal of an approach based on ability grouping. The one in five currently failing in our schools, (notwithstanding the effects of poverty) see themselves as failures, as defined by numeracy and literacy, and the premise of this book that this is, in good part, to the result of the use of ability grouping. Jo Boaler’s book reports on the depressing research to back her position on ability grouping.’
Learning to love maths – moving away from ability grouping. Prof Jo Boaler
Links to excellent resources.
Jo Boaler writes, ‘far too many students hate maths. As a result adults all over the world fear maths and avoid it at all costs…. It’s the subject that can make them feel both helpless and stupid….Maths more than any subject has the power to crush children’s confidence.’
Mathematics in education and ability grouping
To develop developing maths understanding and an appreciation of the power of maths through teaching maths through activities and investigations preferably integrated with the classes current inquiry study(ies).
Why Kids Should Keep Using Their Fingers to do Math
‘Stanford professor Jo Boaler writes in The Atlantic about the neurological benefits of using fingers and how it can contribute to advanced thinking in higher math.’
Think you’re bad at math? You may suffer from ‘math trauma’
Teachers may like to reflect on this when carrying out those pointless timed Numeracy assessmenst.
‘Tying speed with computation debilitates learners. People who struggle to complete a timed test of math facts often experience fear, which shuts down their working memory. This makes it all but impossible to think which reinforces the idea that a person just can’t do math – that they are not a math person.’
‘Schools have forgotten about fun for fun’s sake’
‘We make a mistake trying to inject fun into lessons – we should simply aim to make schools more fun in general.’
Exploring literacy: How six schools lifted achievement?
‘How can schools support students to make progress in reading and writing? To explore this question, the project identified schools that have sustained positive achievement in literacy over five years, and asked what they did to achieve this. The goal was to uncover common themes which might help other schools work towards similar lifts in literacy achievement and no mention of phonics!!!!’
Future focused education at Taranaki high school takes flight
‘Once the biggest school in Taranaki, Spotswood’s roll has been in slow decline for two decades as it struggled to remain an attractive option against the city’s four single-sex high schools. More liberal and less bound by tradition than those high schools, it is undergoing a radical transformation that could completely change the way the school is viewed both from within and without. It is one of just six schools in New Zealand using the progressive Disrupted programme.’
5 Ways to Boost Science in the Classroom
‘At the core of science is the wonderment of inquiry. Encouraging this inquiry is how you bring science into the classroom, transforming your kids into budding scientists who want to discover the why’s hiding behind everyday phenomena. Luckily, there are ways to turn your classroom into a laboratory of discovery without fire and explosions! Here are our favourite ways to boost science in the classroom.’
What is inquiry based learning?
In our quest as educators to prepare our kids to enter the world to thrive and succeed, we constantly strive to empower them with the best aptitudes for doing so in a rapidly-changing world. These are the abilities of independent and critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, and the drive to learn anywhere at anytime. Ultimately, few instructional methods accomplish this quite like inquiry-based learning
Will Education Be Pointless 30 Years from Now? — Part One
‘It’s too late for evolution. It’s time for disruption!’
#3quotes from Montessori
‘Maria Montessori is a controversial figure in education. She is considered by many to be a true visionary, while others consider her methods to be detrimental. She was highly critical of formalised education systems and believed they actually obstructed children’s potential to learn. She saw transmission methods of teaching as a great travesty, and worked incessantly to create alternative methods of education that were more child centred and which led to greater levels of engagement with learning.’