Take the shame out of math learning. Add confirmation


About the editor: Stanford professor Jo Boaler is hopeful about new approaches to teaching math, and so am I.

When I was studying math at school, I encountered the wall of indifference that Boaler talks about. In my 40s, it was only through a chance encounter with a PhD student in econometrics that I learned that my earning a B in a graduate school econometrics course showed a decent understanding of the subject. I used to think that my grade indicated that I had little understanding of the subject.

A little encouragement and reassurance during class would have helped significantly.

For those teaching math to others, I humbly suggest that they take just a little time to validate and encourage others who may not have been exposed to the subject before. That would have helped me understand that I had a decent understanding of math at a young age.

Hopefully more can be done to consciously encourage those who lack confidence on a difficult subject.

Avis Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles


About the editor: Boaler writes, “The current system of mathematics education in the United States invites few students into the richness of thought.” But public schools offer mathematics classes in all US jurisdictions. Everyone is invited.

She also mentions “decisions by schools or districts to put students on different paths and teach them math as early as the third or fourth grade, which often limits how far they can go.” But recently a high school teacher in Baltimore revealed that most of her students were reading at an elementary level. Why is it surprising that some students are on a different path than others?

Californian students underperform in math. But the revision of the mathematical framework that the author and her colleagues are proposing will only make things worse; They hope to slow down the math and lower expectations. This will not help the students, especially as the proposed revision is based on research that has been criticized as flawed.

Please, California Board of Education, reject the proposed revision of the mathematics curriculum framework.

Kathryn Jordan, Palo Alto


About the editor: Boaler touches on several interesting points, but she still misses one of the most important ones – how do we integrate math with other subjects rather than leave it as a standalone subject?

Are Music Teachers Ready to Teach the Math Behind Selena and Tupac? Are English Teachers Ready to Teach the Math Behind Shakespeare and Maya Angelou? Are social studies teachers ready to teach the math behind Roman engineers and the Great Wall of China?

Are schools ready to give back drawing, lumber business, auto business, and other electives that teach kids some of the fun uses of math?

And are math teachers willing to align lesson order more closely with science lessons so that children aren’t presented with a topic today but don’t see its usefulness for months or even years?

If we stop pretending that each subject can be taught as an individual stovepipe, perhaps we can address why so many students are unwilling to make the effort to learn math.

Mark Peckham, Las Vegas Take the shame out of math learning. Add confirmation

Caroline Bleakley

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