The Hub asked Drake professor Dr. Maryanne Huey for ideas on working with young students on math confidence. She recommended the incredible resource: What’s Math Got To Do With It by Jo Boaler. Currently, Boaler is a professor of mathematics education at Stanford University. She also created a website called YouCubed and given TED Talks.
This is one of those rare, important books that every new parent and teacher should read. Boaler explains the importance of introducing math literacy at a young age. She identifies classrooms that consistently develop strong math students and how those teachers do it, and she looks at what parents can do to constantly enrich math at home.
Boaler cites a recent study in which the United States ranked 36 among 64 developed countries across the world. She says that when middle school students asked if they’d rather do math or eat broccoli, over half said they’d rather eat broccoli. While this is humorous, what’s not funny is that many students go into the world with insufficient math skills. The top paying, fastest-growing jobs in the world require employees with strong math skills. If you want a great career = learn math!
But the best part of the book, for me, involves the challenges interspersed through the book. Here are three to check out, but know all of her recommendations are awesome.
1. Page 16: Fibonacci’s Sequence
We loved showing the Golden Ratio, as it’s proof math is everywhere. From the spiral of a snail shell to the spin of hurricane to the way a flower bloom opens, evidence is everywhere! Here’s a website that helps explain this concept. You’ll never walk outside again without thinking about math.
2. Page 170: Tangrams
Introduce geometry in a fun way with tangrams. Preschool kids love the colors and older kids enjoy the puzzle challenge of the project. There’s a website that offers free, online tangrams for teachers and parents to use.
3. Page 211: Race to 20
This is a simple game two people can play in the car. In the game, two people race to reach 20, staring at 0 and using integrals of 1 or 2. While you’ll eventually realize the key to success, the game can be modified by changing the ending number or the integrals used.
Not everyone needs to major in life, but the problem-solving skills learned transfer to all of life’s situations.
In the last chapter, Boaler talks about math’s future: “Let’s move together from the mathematics trauma and dislike that has pervaded our society in recent years to a brighter mathematical future for all, charged with excitement, engagement and learning.”
Kids are born to love numbers. From the first time they hold up their pointer finger when asked their age, to figuring out how much candy they can buy with piggy bank savings. And it takes all of us to nurture their curiosity and ability. If you want to learn how, check out this book.