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January 24, 2016

Stanford professor urges teachers to rethink math instruction (features the work of Jo Boaler)

Jo Boaler discusses how teachers and parents can help their children learn to learn and enjoy math.


Professor Jo Boaler teaches math at Stanford University and has written several books and research articles related to math education. She also co­-founded, an organization and website that offers math education resources to students, teachers and parents. In addition, Boaler advises Silicon Valley companies and has given White House presentations on Girls and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM. EdSource interviewed Boaler about her work and her latest book, “Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching.” Below are excerpts from the interview and her book.

Why is there a common belief in society that some people are naturally good at math and others are not?

It seems that people in the U.S. believe this about mathematics, but not other subjects. In some countries, people believe that learning is a long and slow process that happens over time, in all subjects. Here in the U.S., and some other countries, people are quick to believe that if a math problem is hard to solve, then you are not “a math person.” It is difficult to know where this started, but I would say it is linked to the teaching of mathematics. That tends to be all about right or wrong answers and speed.

When we add to this the idea that people who can do math are (considered) “smart,” then any math struggle becomes truly devastating for students. My book attempts to debunk this myth, pointing out that all subjects are difficult in different ways and part of the reason people think math is so difficult is the faulty ways in which it is taught.

Read the full article at Edsource's website. Hear a recent radio interview with Jo Boaler on the KQED website.


Jonathan Rabinovitz, Director of Communications, Stanford Graduate School of Education: 650-724-9440,


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