There’s no such thing as a “math person”

This was a novel idea when I first heard it. In fact it sort of blew my mind. It also was a novel idea to my first year math students. Since the beginning of my teaching career, I’ve been troubled by the reaction I got when I told people I was a math teacher. It seemed a bit like awe, but then immediately, almost urgently, they’d tell me how bad they are at math or how much they hate math. I’ve always been a little frustrated with the social acceptability of math hating. No one (with the possible exception of my friend Abby) brags about not being a good reader or not being able to read.

After several years in the classroom, I found someone who put a voice to my thoughts and ideas on the topic. Jo Boaler is a math teaching revolutionary at Stanford University, and sort of my hero. She runs a research program called YouCubed which focuses on what she calls Math mindedness. Piggybacking off of Carol Dweck’s idea of the growth mindset she trains teachers to train students that math is a skill. Somewhere along the line, we began to think that math requires a special kind of brain.

Using math problems and games that have more than one entry place, she helps kids begin to understand that problem solving (even in the math classroom) can and should be a creative process. As students expand their brains the begin to think differently about the subject and gain confidence as well.

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