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Memorizers are the lowest achievers and other Common Core math surprises (commentary by Jo Boaler)

May 7, 2015
Hechinger Report
“We don’t need students to calculate quickly in math,” writes Stanford GSE professor Jo Boaler. “We need students who can ask good questions, map out pathways, reason about complex solutions, set up models and communicate in different forms.”
Jo Boaler

It’s time to debunk the myths about who is good in math, and Common Core state standards move us toward this worthy goal. Mathematics and technology leaders support the standards because they are rooted in the new brain and learning sciences.

All children are different in their thinking, strength and interests. Mathematics classes of the past decade have valued one type of math learner, one who can memorize well and calculate fast.

Yet data from the 13 million students who took PISA tests showed that the lowest achieving students worldwide were those who used a memorization strategy– those who thought of math as a set of methods to remember and who approached math by trying to memorize steps. The highest achieving students were those who thought of math as a set of connected, big ideas.

The U.S. has more memorizers than most other countries in the world. Perhaps not surprisingly as math teachers, driven by narrow state standards and tests, have valued those students over all others, communicating to many other students along the way – often girls – that they do not belong in math class.

The fact that we have valued one type of learner and given others the idea they cannot do math is part of the reason for the widespread math failure and dislike in the U.S.

Read the entire commentaryat the Hechinger Report.

Read more about Professor Jo Boaler and the YouCubed math center at the GSE, where practionners, parents and others can get the latest research, access innovative teaching and join a community aimed at inspiring all math learners.

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