Article: "Math Class Doesn't Work. Here's the Solution"

Dr. Jo Boaler's article, "Math Class Doesn't Work.  Here's the Solution was published in Time Magazine:  The article talks about math anxiety which is something my learners experience anytime I mention the word math test.  Dr. Boaler gives her perspective on how to alleviate this anxiety and to help student's increase their learning.  "The best mathematicians are often deep, slow thinkers - qualities that run contrary to what students are taught to prioritize and perform: speed," says Dr. Boaler.  How does her article relate to what we experience in the Adult Education Classroom?  What takeaways or ideas do you have?



I got into education because I firmly believed that grades and unrealistic time expectations were the primary deterrents to learning. I have no problem with formative assessment and I can even understand a need for some evaluative assessment if I was pushed very hard. Our grading practice has been highly subjective and dependent more on conforming to requests rather than demonstrating learning. Most students perceive grading practices as highly judgmental. Where else in life do you start at perfection (100) and then, no matter what you do the best you can do is maintain that average? It is psychologically damaging over time and destroys any motivation to progress or try to improve. Add in the whole class ranking craziness and the intense competition pressures and is it any wonder that most of our adult learners come in with, "I'm sorry, I've never been good at math" attitudes? In competition there are just a few winners, the rest are, by definition not winners which is extrapolated as being a looser by many. When you feel like a looser, it is hard to get excited about much.

Our time expectations in education has always mystified me. It is widely acknowledged that we learn our fundamental skills all at different rates with a very large variance. Why we assume that at some early age we all can just snap into some time frame of learning has never made sense and these artificial constraints on learning cause much anxiety. "I can't keep up" "I'm so far behind" "I can never finish all of this in time" are common comments from students. This is so silly if we think of learning a series of building off previous experience. How can you be "behind" where you current progress is? If you are putting all your energy into "keeping up to others", you are taking energy away from focusing on where you currently are at and what you need to be doing. 

I could share so many other frustrations around grading and time anxieties our systems have imposed on generations, but I hope the above suffices to say that I agree with many of the statements in the article shared! I continue to dream of the day when we have flexible learning paths that allow for individual learners to progress forward to achieve individual success rather than keeping up with some normalized pack that must all conform to some artificially imposed time frames and judgmental assessments.    is a study that shows how so many students who don't place well in math (which is most students)  think of it as a set of memorized rules that often are contrary to common sense. Jo Boaler's approach brings so much "common sense" thinking, with number talks and other meaning-based activities.    I personally think that teaching to concepts is more important than her focus on getting rid of timed tests... but I'm glad she's getting these ideas out there ;)   


This study is applicable to students taking the GED test as well.  The agency I work for is hiring a new math teacher and I'm thinking of giving applicants this article to read as part of the interview process.