Everyone Can Learn Math

Here’s a new video from Jo Boaler at YouCubed.org.

Boaler’s Four Key Research-Based Messages

There is a huge elephant standing in most math classrooms, it is the idea that only some students can do well in math. Students believe it, parents believe and teachers believe it. The myth that math is a gift that some students have and some do not, is one of the most damaging ideas that pervades education in the US and that stands in the way of students’ math achievement.

—Jo Boaler
Unlocking Children’s Math Potential

A Wealth of ResourcesBoosting Math screenshot

The YouCubed site is full of encouragement and help for families learning math.

— and plenty more!

14 thoughts on “Everyone Can Learn Math

    1. Here is the opening paragraph from the Quirky Teacher’s blog, so you can see why it is so long:
      “This is a blog post about how I believe Jo Boaler is wrong when she asserts that learning maths facts off by heart and timed tests are detrimental to children’s well-being and mathematical ability. I’ve tried to take the time to read pretty much every piece of research she has linked to in her article and it’s been an interesting reading journey, not least because some of the research she cites seems to provide evidence that learning maths facts off by heart and the use of timed tests are actually beneficial to every aspect of mathematical competency (not just procedural fluency). To help me get my head around what she’s saying, I’ve summarised the entire article and analysed each part:”
      –Quirky Teacher( link in first comment)

      1. I have read other criticisms of Jo Boaler in the past. I try to stay out of that sort of fight. So many of the research articles are locked behind one paywall or another that I really can’t make an informed opinion.

  1. I am so happy that I did not become a math teacher. I was just curious about the brain research on learning math facts and what fluency means.
    All the research from the blog has links to YouCubed, in case anyone is else is curious.

  2. Have you seen the movie, “Stand and Deliver”? This post reminded me of
    Anyway, the research aside, I mostly agree with the four statements from YouCubed.
    Taking the time to correct mistakes can help a student accept mistakes as part of learning. Teachers, tutors, and mentors can help students overcome stress.
    You have many games and other activities to help on your blog.

    1. I think many of the problems people have with Boaler’s work relate to her tendency to overstate her opinions.

      She will say things like “Mistakes make your brain grow, even if you don’t notice them consciously” — which may or may not be true (“brain science” is far from exact, and pretty flashy lights on a scan might not mean anything), and even if it’s true may not have any affect on learning.

      Mistakes are an important part of learning math. If we never make a mistake, then we’re doing stuff that’s too easy and not learning much. So we do need to help students not to fear mistakes. And I think that is what Boaler is trying to do.

      Or she will say that timed tests hurt children’s learning, when the truth is that they hurt *some* kids — especially the struggling ones who most need our support and encouragement.

      Children do need to learn fluency with arithmetic, which is the goal of timed tests. But there are many ways to develop fluency without the time-pressure stress that can make some children feel like failures and lead to math anxiety.

      Perhaps if Boaler avoided such overstatements, her opponents might be more receptive to her suggestions. Or perhaps folks on the internet just like to argue, and Boaler is popular enough to be an attractive target. As I said, I try to stay out of that fight.

      1. I looked up Joan Boaler on Stanford University’s website.
        I found out that she had left Stanford in 2006 and didn’t come back until 2010. A couple of retired colleagues didn’t like her new ideas, so they gave her a hard time.
        She called them out:

        She has done her own research of which this online course was part.

        Anyway, she could be a very valuable resource for teachers. She has books and curriculum on Amazon.

      2. The fight is, of course, connected to the implementation of the Common Core Standards. I understand why you are silent on that subject.
        My family has made our own judgement about it. I think I have to just focus, once again, on teaching my own way and forget about what Math Education “experts”.
        I will, however, keep a watchful eye out for it after ten homeschooling.

        1. Well, I don’t necessarily try to be silent on the Common Core, though I do my best to avoid pointless flame wars about it.

          I think there are some very good things about the Common Core — particularly the Standards for Mathematical Practice. But as with any human endeavor, the good is mixed with the bad, or at least with the highly debatable.

          And the steady increase in high-stakes testing is, in my opinion, an unmitigated evil.

    2. On a more positive note, there is much research to be found, including but not exclusive to what is posted on YouCubed, that supports the “open mindset” theory that your ability to learn is fluid(including math). The studies we’re not “brain science”.
      It took me some time and patience, but I found some of that research online.

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