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What's Math Got to Do with It?: Helping Children Learn to Love Their Least Favorite Subject--and Why It's Important for America

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  349 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
A recent assessment of mathematics performance around the world ranked the United States twenty-eighth out of forty countries in the study. When the level of spending was taken into account, we sank to the very bottom of the list. According to Jo Boaler, who was a professor of mathematics education at Stanford University for nine years, statistics like these are becoming ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 17th 2008 by Viking
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Apr 09, 2013 Sylvia rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, math
This book makes a lot of points that I respect and agree with--math should involve project-based problem-solving, students should be encouraged to work in groups and talk through math problems, etc--but sometimes Boaler is overly confrontational and negative, without offering a lot of strategies for teachers to follow.

As another reviewer says, the title explicitly states that every kid in America hates math, which isn't true. She repeatedly refers to students having been "traumatized" by their
I decided that it's high time I got control of my math anxiety, and, rather than picking up a fractions drill book from the children's section, I got this. I want to understand WHY I can't do math.

And now I do. I do not have a learning disability in math. My teachers have had teaching disabilities. Math is a subject that is not taught well (from sources other than this book, I learned that it hasn't been taught well for a long time. Students taking advanced math classes have steadily dropped th
Aug 18, 2009 Valerie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all teachers
Recommended to Valerie by: Bill Ward
Shelves: math
This is exactly the book I needed to read right now. I always want to encourage flexible thinking, pattern recognition and problem solving, but I hold myself back because of worry about standardized testing. I worry that my classroom will be seen as noisy and non-productive, because I encourage my students to ask questions, and collaborate. I felt very ineffective last year, because I hovered between what I felt was interesting and what I felt I 'should' be doing. This book not only validated my ...more
Marissa Morrison
Oct 14, 2009 Marissa Morrison rated it it was amazing
In this excellent book, the author describes how math as practiced by mathematicians differs from math learned in school (more project oriented, often done in groups, relies less on specific types of calculation and more on general reasoning). When math in school is taught in a an environment that replicates how mathematicians actually work, kids have fun, understand the importance of the work they're doing, and learn more.

Boaler slams the useless high-stakes tests created for No Child Left Beh
Oct 09, 2009 Monica rated it really liked it
Didn't much like the title and was worried by introduction with the typical "everyone needs math in today's world" cheer, but this book is about so much more than that. She conducted studies in all types of classrooms, all types of school in America and England. Discussed were gender issues, cooperative learning and assessments. I was inspired most by the assessment talk - as she recounted the effects on students from grading them against one another instead of against themselves. She talked a ...more
Mar 29, 2010 Hester rated it it was ok
I should have known I would have problems with this book when I saw the subtitle "Helping children learn to love their least favorite subject." While math is America's most hated subject, it is also its most loved. Boaler writes as if every child in the US hates math, which is just not true. She has some good points and interesting research, but she consistently paints an incomplete picture.

She repeatedly states that current instruction methods are inadequate and describes superior ones, suggest
Nov 18, 2008 Megan rated it it was amazing
I did not expect to enjoy this book so much. It's about math, after all, and math was never my favorite subject. I ordered the book from the library thinking it would have a few exercises to help me teach my second-grader math at home, since math in American schools is notoriously crappy and I wasn't sure which curriculum I should support, etc. Well, I got much more than I bargained for. This book has not only given me a lot of ideas about how to incorporate mathematical thinking into our home, ...more
Apr 19, 2011 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
GO READ THIS BOOK! What's Math Got to Do with It is the best articulation of where American math education should be headed in the 21st century that I have ever read. Boaler's book aimed towards parents and teachers is instantly accessible, with a clear rationale for why children need to be engaged in interesting complex problem solving in math throughout their educational experience as opposed to regular practice of standard algorithms. She backs up her work with her own and others' research ma ...more
Dec 30, 2010 Karen rated it it was amazing
I'm always interested in reading books about learning, especially about how students learn math and writing. The author is a professor at Stanford and Sussex, who conducted extensive researches in both United States and Europe (France, England..), trying to find out why math is the most hated subject in school, why most students are failing it, and why the US is behind the other countries in producing above average math students.

She studied groups of students from middle school to high school, a
Megan Blood
Feb 27, 2012 Megan Blood rated it it was amazing
Who stays up until 11pm reading a book about how to teach math? Oh yeah--me. Seriously--this was a fantastic book. As one of the very, very many who struggled with math (my 5 on the AP Calc test is still one of my greatest achievements), this really rang true. It's much more than just a 'try this method' book; she goes into so many different facets of schooling and how they affect how students learn math. My favorite chapter dealt with gender differences. Did you know that men and women process ...more
Oct 23, 2012 Annette rated it it was amazing
What's Math Go To Do With It? and The Elephant in the Classroom by Jo Boaler are different versions of the same book. The first focuses on American classrooms, while the second takes a United Kingdom approach. While it's interesting to compare the different examples and approaches, they're basically the same book.[return][return]Boaler does an excellent job exploring the importance of math for today's digital citizens while discussing the need for changes in teaching practices.[return][return]If ...more
Aug 10, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book about problems with math instruction in public education and what can be done about it. As a fifth grade math teacher I know all too well how many students come into my classes with dread. I'm very happy to say that by the end of the year most of them will say math was their favorite class. There were several times while reading this when I thought, "You are preaching to the choir Jo!" Too many poor quality tests, too much emphasis on drills, and not enough thinking and ...more
Feb 22, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
I am scared of math, barely got through calculus I don't know how, and now can barely remember how to do probably 5th grade math. But this book really opened my eyes to what math can and should be. It actually made me want to try to learn math again. It talks about the ways schools and parents can teach and present math in fun, interesting, applicable ways that could change the dismal math scores of American kids. Not that math should be about scores, but it shows how poorly America is teaching ...more
Mar 12, 2011 Keith rated it it was amazing
Excellent book exploring how to teach math in school. The book overs many excellent insights and some actual ideas for teachers to use. While the book does talk about some of the wrongs of the way math is taught and offers many ideas for making it more accessible and interesting to the students, I think it could use the frame it has and offer much more. Still it is an excellent book as it stands and very readable for even the non-teacher.
Aug 23, 2012 Sue rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, education
At first when I skimmed this I thought it was worth about an hour, but when I settled into reading it I found that I had seriously underestimated the book - lots of good ideas, and a vital message. I wish that I could give this to administration and have them really read it, but there are too many levels of people that would need to read it above them. Lots of practical ideas and things to link to and other books to look at.

Definitely a must read for math teachers.
Lori Yvette Fernandez Lopez
Nov 06, 2012 Lori Yvette Fernandez Lopez rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nook
I love this book. I enjoyed it even more since I took a class by Jo Boaler at Stanford and learned what an amazing professor and woman she is. She truly cares about children's education and it shows throughout this book. I hope parents listen to what she has to say and start making productive changes at home. Jo Boaler is currently teaching the next generation of teachers who will hopefully pass on all they learn.
Apr 18, 2013 Natalie rated it it was amazing
An excellent book about improved ways to teach children math for understanding as opposed to the "memorize processes" way I was taught in school. Jo Boaler makes a great case for changing the way math is currently taught and provides many resources and ideas for how parents and teachers can provide engaging mathematical activities for children.
Pooja Goyal
Aug 17, 2016 Pooja Goyal rated it liked it
Some great insights about how children process Math and by extension what it means for teachers and parents. However, a lot of it was very repetitive.
Oct 07, 2016 Liz rated it it was ok
As is far too frequent with math ed books that I read, this was far too much LOOK AT ALL THESE PROBLEMS. LOOK AT THESE FEW ISOLATED SCHOOLS THAT ARE STUNNINGLY AMAZING BE LIKE THEM. With really no practical advice for how to progress towards that goal while still following a district curriculum that you are mandated to teach at a certain pace to your students. These books too often ignore the realities of teaching. I want small practical things that I personally can change in my classroom on a ...more
Shifting Phases
Apr 07, 2011 Shifting Phases rated it really liked it
Have students come to the board in groups (p. 2)

Opportunity to "spend part of each lesson working alone and part of each lesson talking with each other and sharing ideas about math." (p 3) (How to decide which parts in which format?)

"Whether browsing the Web, interpreting medical records, administering medicine, reading the news, working with finances, or taking part in elections, twenty-first-century citizens need mathematics. But the mathematics that people need is not the sort of math learned
Mar 16, 2014 Aspasia rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I am a math hater. I am 34 years old and I have yet to find a math teacher that makes math interesting and useful to me. I highly doubt that I will be using quadratic equations later in life. I am going back to school for my Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and even though I took and passed a math class at another college for my A.A. degree, I have to take College Algebra again! My teacher is not the greatest and I am really struggling with this course and all the homework is consuming my ...more
May 11, 2014 Susie rated it really liked it
p. 24: "Diane Maclagan, a professor at Rutgers, was asked, 'What is the most difficult aspect of your life as a mathematician?' She replied, 'Trying to prove theorems.' The interviewer then asked what the most fun was. 'Trying to prove theorems,' she replied."

p. 133: From Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist and author of the book The Female Brain: "A huge testosterone surge beginning in the eighth week of pregnancy kills cells in the communication centers of male brains and grows more cells i
Feb 03, 2016 Adam rated it really liked it
Full of lots of great ideas about classroom approaches, how math should be motivated, taught, and tested on, as well as constructive strategies for parents about engaging with teachers at their local schools. I highly recommend reading this book.

I would have given the book five stars, but I felt its focus on equity in the classroom undermined the goal of simply making the classroom better for everyone, for the sake of ideology and in disagreement with existing research. In particular, I found th
Minh Pham
May 04, 2016 Minh Pham rated it it was amazing
Một trong các chủ đề mình rất quan tâm (khi có thời gian) là các kiến thức về tâm lý và giáo dục. Trong đó, mình rất quan tâm đến các phương pháp giảng dạy môn toán cho trẻ, vì mình rất muốn các con của mình yêu thích môn toán. Đọc cuốn sách “What’s Math Got to Do with It?: Helping Children Learn to Love Their Least Favorite Subject–and Why It’s Important for America” của tác giả Jo Boaler (GS ĐH Stanford:, mình thực sự thấy như được mở rộng tầm mắt. Rất ...more
Aug 10, 2013 Amy rated it liked it
I read this with perspective of a homeschooling parent trying to learn some new techniques to make math a more positive experience for my 9 year old daughter. (I am also taking a Stanford online class taught by Boaler right now.) It includes some good information about the importance of having a growth mindset but does not detail how to get one (darn it. You can buy curriculum from Carol Dweck $$ or hope that saying mistakes make your brain bigger over and over will work...) The book suggests ...more
Mar 28, 2012 Jane rated it liked it
Boaler covers well the crucial information parents need to help schools focus on best practices in mathematics instruction. However, the book is somewhat repetitive and not enough of a how-to for her intended audience: parents! I felt the content order was right for educators but not for parents. Further, I kept thinking of other current titles that are far more readable (such as Outliers, Drive, etc.) that people from all walks of life are finding enjoyable. I've done considerable research on ...more
Sep 30, 2015 Evan rated it liked it
While I cannot say that this book gives a totally clear or complete picture of "inquiry-based" mathematics education, I found it to be an excellent introduction to this topic. So much so, in fact, that I wrote my Capstone essay on its ideas (which will be on my profile soon enough). The book may only be worth 3 stars (I don't want to be misleading, as this book is not the Holy Grail), but the topics it discusses along with the subsequent research and thought you may do are worth at ...more
Feb 15, 2015 Shannon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
I almost went insane reading the snarky penciled notes left behind for me on the library copy of this book. "S" scoffed at every one of Jo Boaler's points. The notes were helpful in me gaining insight into why so many teachers are frustrated with, even fearful of math. This book changed my life. It refined my purpose and my vision.

"Mathematicians will tell you that the subject they care so much about is a living, connected, and beautiful subject. This book is about giving all children, not only
I was reading this slowly because it was so good, and the only reason I didn't finish it was because someone else had it on hold and I had to return it. Boaler questions the way we teach math in the United States. When so many Americans proudly proclaim they "can't do math" and "aren't good at math" why is there such a push to continue teaching mathematics the way our parents and grandparents learned? Boaler highlights innovative ways teachers, at home and abroad, engage their students in ...more
Grace Ward
Dec 16, 2015 Grace Ward rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education, ebook, math
An incredible book and Jo has completed some amazing research in the United State and England which supports the eight practices of the Math Common Core State Standards. This is a must read for all pre-service and in-service math teacher as well as all math educators at the college level. Parents who want their children to love math and have fun learning math everyday should read this book. Jo has provided many resources and ideas which allows you to think differently about how you teach math ...more
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“When an official report in the UK was commissioned to examine the mathematics needed in the workplace, the investigator found that estimation was the most useful mathematical activity. Yet when children who have experienced traditional math classes are asked to estimate, they are often completely flummoxed and try to work out exact answers, then round them off to look like an estimate. This is because they have not developed a good feel for numbers, which would allow them to estimate instead of calculate, and also because they have learned, wrongly, that mathematics is all about precision, not about making estimates or guesses. Yet both are at the heart of mathematical problem solving.” 1 likes
“Grades may be useful for communicating where students are in relation to each other, and it is fine to give them at the end of a semester or term, but if they are given more frequently than that, they will reduce the achievement of many.” 0 likes
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