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What's Math Got to Do with It?: How Parents and Teachers Can Help Children Learn to Love Their Least Favorite Subject

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  326 Ratings  ·  80 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. We are falling rapidly behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to math education-and the consequences are dire.
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ebook, 288 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Penguin Books
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Apr 09, 2013 Sylvia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 h ...more
Aug 18, 2009 Valerie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2009 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 g ...more
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Marissa Morrison
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
Megan Blood
Feb 27, 2012 Megan Blood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 30, 2010 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 23, 2012 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 12, 2011 Keith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lori Yvette Fernandez Lopez
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 03, 2016 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 11, 2014 Susie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Minh Pham
May 04, 2016 Minh Pham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 16, 2014 Aspasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 limit ...more
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 im ...more
Shifting Phases
Apr 07, 2011 Shifting Phases rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 30, 2015 Evan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
If you hated math in school, this book will tell you why (the common teaching methodology sucks). If you've got kids you'd like to save from hating math, this book will give you ideas (nothing surprising, just that you have to pay attention, be involved, and supplement, supplement, supplement - but with the right stuff and it's not more workbook pages).
Nov 26, 2015 Elisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I teach middle school math. This was a very interesting read--although at times it got a bit repetitive. There was interesting information about gender and tracking. I also liked the sample math puzzles that were included and will definitely look into the recommendations listed at the back of the book.

I would recommend this to any math teacher.
Jul 17, 2015 Crispy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
I hated maths as a student, but it's become one of my favourite subjects to teach. This book affirmed the approach I take with my class and I will definitely use it to support my teaching practice. If it weren't for the heavy focus on the dire state of math education in America, I'd be more likely to recommend this book to parents.
Ryann Sweeney
Sep 20, 2015 Ryann Sweeney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chapters on ability grouping and females in math and science are must-reads for teachers. This book clearly articulates how and why the current way we teach and assess mathematics is limiting students from reaching their full potential and from truly gaining insight into how numbers work.
Mar 12, 2014 Natasha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book and found that the chapter about girls and math really resonated with me. I could relate to so many of the experiences and was very intrigued with the solutions provided.
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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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