Let's explore the research of Stanford Professor Jo Boaler, the author of Mathematical Mindsets, concerning why timed math tests amplify math anxiety and turn students, especially girls, away from math. To reform math education, we need to shift the focus to a growth mindset for math and onto achieving deep mathematical understanding.
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Jo Boaler: Stanford researcher, professor of math education and author of the acclaimed book, Mathematical Mindsets.
Math anxiety has now been recorded in students as young as five, and timed tests are a major cause of this debilitating, often lifelong condition.
Timed tests evoke such strong emotions that students often come to believe that being fast with math facts is the essence of mathematics.
This misguided emphasis on speed and memorization has resulted in high numbers of students dropping out of mathematics.
Brain research shows us that under the stress of time pressure, working memory can become blocked, leaving students unable to retrieve what they already know.
The blocking of the working memory and associated anxiety is particularly common among higher-achieving students and girls.
When schools make learning math an anxiety-provoking experience, we turn students away.
The best way to learn math facts is to through mathematical activities that focus understanding number relationships.
This authentic understanding is best achieved through taking the time to think deeply about number strategies. which takes time.
Yet, many people believe that mathematics is only about calculating -- and that the best mathematics thinkers are those who can calculate the fastest.
In truth, skilled mathematicians are often slow with math, because they take the time to think carefully and deeply about mathematics.
We need our students to become powerful thinkers
who can make connections, think logically, and solve complex problems.
To achieve this goal, we must shift the focus of math education away rapid calculation and towards deep mathematical thinking and understanding
This movement in education reform is gaining momentum and your input helps. Please join the conversation and share your thoughts in the comments.
You can learn more about the supporting research and the work of Jo Boaler at YouCubed.org
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