Math teaching and math learning. @JoBoaler

What do you know about how math is taught versus how math is best learned? Do you have twenty minutes to spark and forward your own deeper understanding about maths learning? How does your child’s school approach math teaching and learning? How are you serving as a school leader to enhance math learning in your school – do your school practices match the research?

So, if a maths question doesn’t have the space inside it to think and learn and discuss, then its potential as a learning task is very limited.

When we open tasks and ask students to think about how they see them and to talk with each other, the opportunities for learning are increased.

Maths classrooms should encourage more depth and less speed.

– Jo Boaler, YouCubed


In the summer of 2013, I enrolled in and completed Jo Boaler’s MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), “How People Learn Math.” In my 43 years, it has been one of the strongest learning experiences I have had.

Mathematical Revolutions with @JoBoaler and @ProfKeithDevlin

Mathematics is everywhere, and it’s truly beautiful. Yet, “school” tends to approach mathematics instruction from an imbalanced procedural, algorithmic and computational angle.

Thankfully a number of educators are trying to revolutionize the ways that mathematics is typically taught in school. Two of these incredible revolutionaries are at Stanford University – Dr. Jo Boaler (@JoBoaler) and Dr. Keith Devlin (@profkeithdevlin).

For the past two months, I have learned mightily from participating in a MOOC with Dr. Boaler – EDU115N “How to Learn Math.” And just this morning, I listened to a podcast of Krista Tippett interviewing Dr. Devlin. When I returned from my morning walk with Lucy, I had an email from Dr. Boaler announcing her new non-profit for revolutionizing mathematics teaching and learning – YouCubed.

Of course, I wanted to share these strands and do my part for mathematical evangelism.

Mathematical equations are like sonnets says Keith Devlin. What most of us learn in school, he says, doesn’t begin to convey what mathematics is. And technology may free more of us to discover the wonder of mathematical thinking — as a reflection of the inner world of our minds. – See more at: On Being

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If we know problem-based and inquiry-based are more engaging and effective,… #EDUC115N

So the typical method in classrooms is students are taught methods, then they solve problems. But in this classroom students got big open problems, and then they learned the methods to help them solve them. The students started at these two schools at the same levels in maths achievement, but the students at the problem based schools, ended up scoring at significantly higher levels on the national exam. And I was able to follow up and find the students eight years later, and they also ended up in more professional jobs.

Jo Boaler, speaking in Session 3, EDUC115N How to Learn Math (MOOC) [one of best courses I have engaged in]

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Boaler, J. (2002). Experiencing School Mathematics: Traditional and Reform Approaches to Teaching and Their Impact on Student Learning. (Revised and Expanded Edition ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Association.

Boaler, J. (1998). Open and Closed Mathematics: Student Experiences and Understandings. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 29(1), 41-62.

Boaler, J. (2012, 8-15 July). From Psychological Imprisonment to Intellectual Freedom – The Different Roles that School Mathematics Can Take in Students’ Lives. Paper presented at the 12th International Congress on Mathematical Education, Seoul, Korea.

Rappin math versus wrapping math

“You know, when my dad lost his sight, I started doing accounting for him, and math was the one area that I was able to succeed in,” Scott says.
from NPR’s 2 Pi: Rhymes And Radii, Jan. 8, 2013

The podcast quoted above is a touching story of a teacher working really hard to connect with his students and help them succeed. I’m intrigued by his tactics of putting math to rap and hip hop. Very creative.

But what’s even more interesting to me – he says math really clicked for him when he had to start doing the family accounting. How might he apply that insight to his classroom and instruction?

So, is math rapped as powerful as math wrapped (in real-life context)?


A note of celebration and a tapestry of bright spots

Don’t you love getting little notes – notes that thank you for something and name the specific thing for which you are being thanked? Makes me feel celebrated when I get one of those. I instantly hit “send to OneNote” and place in a “sunshine file” for a proverbial rainy day. As a principal, I have a lot of opportunity to celebrate folks. To be honest, I am not very good at public celebration, but I am working on it – celebrating publicly is a learning goal of mine. But I do try to send email notes (I write better in pixels than on paper) as often as I can.

Yesterday, though, my learning partner and co-facilitator of PLCs beat me to the notes. She wasted no time in celebrating the bright spots of our teams. Specific behaviors were named and resulting outcomes were celebrated. What inspiration that is to a receiver to keep doing those things and improve. Of course, the notes reveal the situations and moments and behaviors that were celebrated, and those notes collectively tell a story about some truly amazing work in our Junior High math-science PLC, which meets four days a week, for about an hour each day. Some days the entire community of JH math and science teachers is together, and some days we break into course teams or other teams.

Enough from me…GO READ ABOUT IT at Experiments in Learning by Doing.

Who can you send a note to today? What bright spot can you celebrate? Pick one and do it! It’s about learning.