Monday, June 14, 2010

What's Math Got to Do With It? - Wrap Up

We had our final book group on What's Math Got to Do With It? by Jo Boaler.  See record of our previous two discussions here.  I didn't realize that she had moved on from Stanford to the University of Sussex.  There's a video of her talking about the book, and also maybe a TED talk on the way?  (At least TED has a profile of her.)

Interestingly, Keith Devlin recently talked about this book, too.  It's worth reading his thoughts about it, in the context of emphasizing thinking over skills.  I'm probably not that extreme in practice, trying for thinking along with skills.


What the students noticed:
  • Parents using puzzles or games at home.  Makes it easier for parents to be and get involved.
  • Learning goals: as students we never knew the learning goals.  I can or I will statements...
  • Important to make the classroom open to questions, with validation for questioners. 
  • Teachers can respond without giving the answer.  What did you get vs how did you get there.  Dig deeper.

Chap. 8: would like other ideas for games.  The ones in the book were good and raised questions even for us.  Manipulatives are good, especially for children who can not do it mentally.
What about time management?  Don't manipulatives take longer?

Homework that parents can't help with...  What do those students do?  And it's anxiety-causing for a parent who doesn't understand and doesn't want to admit it.  Problems that allow flexibility in method opens it up to more students and parents.

Chap. 9: what can parents do?  Parents need to be advocates for their students if the student doesn't understand.  At the same time, if the parent forms a front with the teacher, then there's two people looking and checking for understanding.

On the teacher side, promote that kind of interaction with parents.

Overall: the preservice teachers thought it was a good book.  Many talked about keeping it for when they're teaching.  Asked to give it stars (like a review), only one student gave it less than full marks, and that was a 4/5.  Clearly the best textbook reaction I've ever had in a class.


  1. I loved this book, and especially liked the analysis of gender issues and how no tracking works better for all levels of students. But her subtitle, "How Parents and Teachers Can Help Children Learn to Love Their Least Favorite Subject", seems quite misleading. I didn't feel like she gave me enough detail to implement this.

    I looked up that phrase she used, "complex instruction", and didn't find anything. I'd like to see: : 1) a list of group-worthy problems, 2) definitions of the roles the students take on, and 3) transcripts of class sessions.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. Both with loving the book and with never quite delivering on helping parents to make math lovable. It seems to be written a bit to teachers, and I think she addresses a lot of the blockades we've erected in school against student engagement.

    The English title would have been better: "The Elephant in the Classroom: Helping Children Learn and Love Maths"