In the 'math world' the name Jo Boaler is one that is well known, respected, and in some circles, debated. I had heard of her, read some of her articles and had, what I thought was, a pretty good premise of her philosophy about teaching mathematics. But ... I didn't embrace what she had to say, I did not dig very deep into her research,

__and__I was wrong. I made a mistake.

A few weeks ago a series of odd events (one involving having dinner with my uncle's orthopedic surgeon and his wife no less) led me to take a closer look at Jo Boaler and her work.

Jo Boaler is a Professor of Mathematics Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. She is an author, the creator of two online courses "How to Learn Math: For Students" and "How to Learn Math: for Teachers and Parents", a blogger at YouCubed.org and joboaler.com, and an active advocate for equitable mathematics in the classroom. One of her more visible articles, 'Timed Tests and the Development of Math Anxiety' is partly why I kept some distance, and didn't actively learn more.

Ahh ... yes ...

*Timed math fact tests: To do or not to do*. This is one of the many heated topics in education. Do they cause anxiety and undue stress in some children? Absolutely. Do they give teachers a good picture of the student's math ability? No - only a snapshot of how quickly the student can recall their math facts. Is there a standard measure for these fact tests (the time limit, the number of facts, etc...)? No - this school year alone I know of at least 4 different timed assessments that were/are being used by various teachers.

All that being said, I do used timed math fact tests and I do find them useful. HOWEVER, I have looked long and hard for a set of tests that I feel is fair to the students, is easy for them to work with, and has a

__time and # of correct facts standard__that isn't too stressful yet gives me some good data. I also do not use my fact fluency tests as measures of math ability, only as measures of fact recall and as an observation on how the students go about answering the problems. I am very careful with how I use these assessments, and make every attempt to keep the experience as stress free as possible.

So as I mentioned, there was a series of odd events that eventually led to me taking Jo Boaler's free online class at Stanford, 'How to Learn Math: For Students'.

My initial reason was that I wanted my 5th grade son to take the course (he's had a rough time with his math self-esteem this year), but I really couldn't expect him to do so without having experienced it myself. So I went first.

**I am SO thankful that I made that decision!**Hence, this post.

Jo Boaler believes that there is no such thing as "math people". That we all have the ability to do, and understand higher level math. Math instruction however, needs to be structured and taught in a way that will promote this idea. Unfortunately, both when we were in school and in some cases even now, math instruction is based on rules, memorization, and right or wrong answers.

** A side note, I read a really interesting article about whether or not it's true that there is no a ceiling to what people can learn. Check it out here.*

No wonder so many of us have math anxiety, feel like we aren't "math people", or my least favorite quote by most of my students: "I'm not good at math".

She stresses the importance of learning the why and how of mathematics, not just the algorithms and rules. As teachers we want our students to be connected to their learning, to see it as being attainable and interesting. As parents and caregivers we want that too don't we? After taking Jo Boaler's course, I feel more inspired to work even harder at helping my students, and my own children, become empowered by their math abilities. I no longer want to hear the words "I'm not good at math".

The current thinking and research about Mathematics Education is not the same as it was when we were in elementary school. Personally, I find it much more exciting! Which is why I wanted to share this recent experience with all of you, and to ask if you "care to join me?"