“There are two versions of math in the lives of many Americans: the strange and boring subject that they encountered in classrooms and an interesting set of ideas that is the math of the world, and is curiously different and surprisingly engaging. Our task is to introduce this second version to today’s students, get them excited about math, and prepare them for the future.”
Jo Boaler has started a revolution. A professor at Stanford University and the co-founder of youcubed, Boaler has made it her mission to transform the teaching of mathematics. A reformer in math education, she wants to alter how math is taught and embraces the controversial Common Core. Shunning the rote memorization of mathematical facts, Boaler stresses that timed tests and memorizing facts are both detrimental to learning. Teachers need to give students the time to process what they have learned, to really comprehend how a problem works. She is part of the Slow Math movement, where educators allow students to experience mathematics, to aid in lifelong comprehension.
Boaler believes that how math is taught and discussed directly impacts females and minorities. Referring to an important research study, Boaler states that “when mothers tell their daughters, ‘I was no good in math,’ their daughter’s achievement in math goes down immediately.” She also states that females tend to be more anxious about math, which holds them back. When female elementary school teachers are anxious, the impressionable girls in their classrooms are affected by this and the cycle continues. Minorities are behind their peers in math, with one in fifteen black students taking Calculus in high school, compared to one in five white students. On the SAT, black students in one report had a mean score of 428 in math. In contrast, the mean score by their white counterparts was a 536. Boaler believes we need to increase diversity of teachers to give role models to students of color. In addition, we must emphasize achievements by women and minorities in mathematics. In one of her many published articles, she asserts we “need to stop implying that female students are incapable.”
A bestselling author, Boaler’s works are praised by parents and educators alike. Her latest book, Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching, is no exception. Cathy Seeley states that by “following Boaler’s roadmap, perhaps we can once and for all lay to rest decades of archaic and destructive notions about what it takes to be good at math.” Furthermore, Boaler’s articles have also been published in the Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other prominent news outlets.
Jo Boaler is empowering teachers and parents to make changes so that math education becomes truly effective. Her passion, backed by solid research, inspires people to look at new methods of teaching. Hoping to foster a love and understanding of math among children of all races, Jo Boaler is a much needed force in education. With minorities and females falling behind in math, Boaler’s cry of “Viva La Revolution!” is a welcome sound for educators and students alike.