What's Math Got To Do With It?

After reading What's Math Got To Do With It by renowned math education researcher Jo Boaler, I've decided to summarize the findings that Boaler recommends to help students to develop interest in mathematics. This book is written for parents and teacher, and if you haven't read it already, I highly recommend it!

1) Never praise your student for being smart. This was shocking at first, but after careful consideration I realized that the underlying message is that praising a student for being smart puts focus not on the main attribute that is predictive of success. As educators or parents, praise your student for learning and working hard.

2) Never share stories of math failure or dislike. I agree that if the story ends in failure it can be an easy out for students to think that failure and disliking math is okay, but I believe that if the story is turned around it can become a valuable lesson. For example, I often tell students that I struggled with math when I was in first grade. However, after working really hard with a great teacher who was able to help me process and balance my emotions while getting stuck on a hard math problem, I was actually able to solve the problem... and with a lot of practice, I eventually learned to love math.

3) Praise mistakes - Boaler says "our brains grow when we make mistakes" based off of research in neuroscience.

4) Encourage children to work on challenging problems. It's important to engage them in a "productive struggle" and to make mistakes.

5) Do not lead children through work step by step, instead have them discover the solution by looking at the problem in a different way - through a sketch, manipulative, or restating the problem in his or her own words.

6) Encourage drawing whenever you can.

7) Encourage students to make sense of math at all times. Math is everywhere!

8) Encourage students to think flexibly about numbers. When I have extra time with students, this is one of my favorite activities to practice with them.

9) Don't time or encourage students to work faster. Faster is not necessarily better!

10) Find logic in their wrong answers.

11) Play math puzzles and games! Make it fun!

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