Saturday, March 8, 2014

Title: What's Math Got to Do With It? Helping Children Learn to Love Their Least Favorite Subject
Author: Jo Boaler
Genre: non-fiction, education issues, mathematics

I am a math hater. I am 34 years old and I have yet to find a math teacher that makes math interesting and useful to me. I highly doubt that I will be using quadratic equations later in life. I am going back to school for my Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and even though I took and passed a math class at another college for my A.A. degree, I have to take College Algebra again! My teacher is not the greatest and I am really struggling with this course and all the homework is consuming my limited spare time.

When I read this book, I felt like Jo Boaler had been secretly following me my whole life. All the things I hate about math and math class, she brings up in this book:

1. Math classes foster passive learning (students sit quietly and copy formulas for an hour). Was your favorite class in high school or college a passive-learning class or was it an active-learning class full of ideas and opinions? "Another major problem with passive approaches to mathematics is that students work in silence. One problem is that students often need to talk through methods to know whether they really understand them." (46)
2. Formulas and methods that do not make sense, "The fact that students are drilled in methods and rules that do not make sense to them...leaves students frustrated because most of them want to understand what they are learning." (43)
3. The numerous math formulas students need to "learn/memorize" have never made sense to me: "The girls were able to accept the methods shown to them and practice them, but they wanted to know why they worked, where they came from, and how they connected with other methods." (125) Have you ever had a math teacher take the time to explain all this? Jo Boaler also explains that emerging brain research show that boys and girls use different parts of the brain to learn the same thing!

Jo Boaler also devotes a chapter or two to the dangers of standardized testing:
"American children are tested more than ever before, tested more than students in the rest of the world. The tests used in America are rejected by most other countries." (84) She also states that multiple choice tests do not truly show what students have learned or understand or prepare them for life: "Multiple choice does not tell you much about how well they will handle more advanced material or solve complex problems in the workplace." (87)

This books needs to be read every parent, teacher ,principal, Board of Education member, senator, etc., in this country!