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How to Learn Math: For Students

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
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How to Learn Math is a class for learners of all levels of mathematics. It combines really important information on the brain and learning with new evidence on the best ways to approach and learn math effectively. Many people have had negative experiences with math, and end up disliking math or failing. This class will give learners of math the information they need to become powerful math learners, it will correct any misconceptions they have about what math is, and it will teach them about their own potential to succeed and the strategies needed to approach math effectively. If you have had past negative experiences with math this will help change your relationship to one that is positive and powerful.

The course will feature Jo and a team of undergraduates, as well as videos of math in action - in dance, juggling, snowflakes, soccer and many other applications. It is designed with a pedagogy of active engagement.The course will run from May/June to the end of December, 2014.


Part 1: The Brain and Math Learning.

  1. Knocking Down the Myths About Math.

    Everyone can learn math well. There is no such thing as a “math person”. This session give stunning new evidence on brain growth, and consider what it means for math learners.

  2. Math and Mindset

    When individuals change their mindset from fixed to growth their learning potential increases drastically. In this session participants will be encouraged to develop a growth mindset for math.

  3. Mistakes and Speed

    Recent brain evidence shows the value of students working on challenging work and even making mistakes. But many students are afraid of mistakes and think it means they are not a math person. This session will encourage students to think positively about mistakes. It will also help debunk myths about math and speed.

Part 2: Strategies for Success.

  1. Number Flexibility, Mathematical Reasoning, and Connections

    In this session participants will engage in a “number talk” and see different solutions of number problems to understand and learn ways to act on numbers flexibility. Number sense is critical to all levels of math and lack of number sense is the reason that many students fail courses in algebra and beyond. Participants will also learn about the value of talking, reasoning, and making connections in math.

  2. Number Patterns and Representations

    In this session participants will see that math is a subject that is made up of connected, big ideas. They will learn about the value of sense making, intuition, and mathematical drawing. A special section on fractions will help students learn the big ideas in fractions and the value of understanding big ideas in math more generally.

  3. Math in Life, Nature and Work

    In this session participants will see math as something valuable, exciting, and present throughout life. They will see mathematical patterns in nature and in different sports, exploring in depth the mathematics in dance and juggling. This session will review the key ideas from the course and help participants take the important strategies and ideas they have learned into their future.

Who is this course for?

This course is designed for any learner of math and anyone who wants to improve their relationship with math. The ideas should be understandable by students of all levels of mathematics.

Parents who have children under age 13 and who think their children would benefit from some of the course materials should register themselves (i.e., parent's name, email, username) for the course. The parent may then choose to share course materials with their child at their own discretion.

What is the course structure?

The course will consist of six short lessons, taking approximately 20 minutes each. The lessons will combine presentations from Dr. Boaler and a team of undergraduates, interviews with members of the public, cutting edge research ideas, interesting visuals and films, and explorations of math in nature, sport and design.

What is the pace of the course?

The course will be self-paced, and you can start and end the course at any time in the months it is open. It is recommended that you take no more than one session a week, to allow the ideas to be processed and understood.

How will I be assessed?

There will be no formal assessment. Participants will be asked to complete a pre-and post-survey. The course will include quizzes that combine opportunities to write, work on math and reflect. These will not be graded.

Does this course carry any kind of Stanford University credit?


Jo Boaler
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