There is no such thing as a math person. Are you skeptical? I was too. However, after reading this book, I am 100% convinced that this statement is true. This book opens math up to everybody. It brings math out of the dull, lonely, elitist shadows and brings it into a colorful, creative, social place. I WISH I had learned math like this as a kid. I hope enough people read this book that, in the future, all kids will see math as beautiful and interesting.
Title: Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching
Author: Jo Boaler
Publication Year: 2015
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Review: I became a fan of the author after discovering the free series, Week of Inspirational Math, on YouCubed.org. After checking out the author’s previous book, What’s Math Got to Do With It, from the library, I decided to spend some money on this book, Mathematical Mindsets. I’m glad I did.
Although it’s an easy read, I treated this book like a valuable textbook, highlighting my favorite passages for easy reference. Although a lot of the subject matter is repeated from her first book, I found it useful to have read both. However, if you were to only read one, this book is more thorough.
The main take-away from this book, in my opinion, is that there is no such thing as a math person. Furthermore it is harmful to perpetuate the misconception that some people are just more mathematically gifted than others. At first, this might SEEM like an oversimplification. After all, some people ARE just naturally better at math than others, right? According to this book, some people are faster at math than others, but speed is not what is important. It’s true that some people might pick up mathematical concepts more quickly than others, but having a deep understanding is what is really important. With effort, anyone is capable of eventually gaining this deep understanding. (Another way of saying this is that this book promotes a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, which plenty of research has shown is what we should want for our kids.)
The second most important thing I learned from this book is that there are ways of presenting math that would make more people actually WANT to put more effort into learning math. The mathematical exercises described in this book are challenging, but they actually sound fun. The author promotes group learning. She turns math into a social exercise where ideas are shared and discussed giving everyone a better understanding. As an engineer who works in a research lab, I definitely find this more like a real-world environment than the way math is typically taught with kids solitarily working through the same type of problem over and over. The best part of my job is “bouncing ideas” off my coworkers, trying to come up with a solution to problems that have never been solved before.
I also love that the tasks the author describes are what she calls “low floor high ceiling.” By this she means that they are accessible to everyone no matter their ability (low floor), but are still challenging enough that even the oldest and quickest students will not arrive at the answer right away (high ceiling). This allows a teacher to give the same exercise to not only a class with a wide range of abilities, but also to a group of kids with a wide span of ages.
Now honestly, I don’t know if this way of teaching always works well in real world situations. I’m sure the author chooses to highlight the most successful examples of her methods in practice. However, I really feel like if math were taught this way, many more kids would find math enjoyable and stick with it for longer. For that reason alone, I think this book is invaluable.
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