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The Elephant in the Classroom: Helping Children Learn and Love Maths [Paperback]

Jo Boaler
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

17 Feb 2010 0285638750 978-0285638754
Why do millions struggle with mathematics and what can teachers do to change that? Jo Boaler has followed the progress of thousands of pupils in two countries (the UK and USA), monitoring how they learn maths through their school carers and then following them into adult life. This remarkable research is the foundation of her investigations into the impact that differing maths experiences can have on an entire generation. Jo Boaler outlines what has gone wrong, identifying the problems facing children in mathematics classrooms today and offers concrete solutions for parents and teachers that will revolutionise children s experiences with maths. The Elephant in the Maths Classroom offers concrete suggestions on ways to teach maths well, and ways to help children in the home, that will offer new and more effective ways of learning maths. This is an exciting way forward, a new approach that teaches children to reason and problem solve; helping all children, even those who think that they are maths failures and that they could never enjoy maths. An indispensable guide and resource for parents, teachers and educationalists, that inspires and enthuses as much as it teaches.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd (17 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0285638750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285638754
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 21.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A very interesting book which addresses some common problems found in the maths classroom which has been well researched and provides positive solutions and practical activities for those interested in trying to encourage students of today to become mathematicians of tomorrow. --Times Educational Supplement

Help children to learn to love the subject… Make mathematics more the mathematics that people need out there in the world. --BBC Radio 4's 'Woman's Hour'

Maths can be fun if only it s taught properly...Children who are subjected to dry and narrow maths classes need to know this and they need to be introduced to the real mathematics the varied and exciting subject that will help them for the rest of their lives. --'Scotsman'

About the Author

Jo Boaler is the Marie Curie Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Sussex. She has previously taught at King s College, London, and Stanford University. Professor Boaler has presented her research findings to government advisers and the House of Lords.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elephant in the classroom 18 Feb 2010
I have just finished reading this book and it is fabulous. It brings to life the new Numeracy framework and is packed with lots of useful ways of improving the quality of teaching in the classroom. This book is also focused on the teacher - parent - child partnership and it explains how each has to play their part.

The book compares how excellent teaching in America compares to the traditional teaching in the UK and why lots of lessons lack the sparkle children need to aspire.

It also has lots of shocking facts about the state of education in maths and why this is going to have an every increasing impact on the future generations and their ability to work.

I would recommend this to anyone who teaches maths, have children who are teaching maths, or children who are having difficulty in really enjoying maths. It is also a excellent read in itself - I can read it, while juggling a newborn sleeping baby on my lap - so it must be quite easy to digest!
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67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Concerned Parent 7 April 2011
By Josh
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a parent. I have young girls in KS1 who "don't like maths" and who are "no good at it". I personally found maths fun at school, college and university, now in my job and even more so in my leisure time. So I couldn't understand my girls' attitude.

The other day my seven year-old had a homework worksheet with about 20 questions. It was something like adding two numbers in the range 50..100. She first declared that she couldn't do it. Then we picked an easy one and worked through it together - she counted-on in her head and in fact completed the whole thing without help. Before starting the next question she had dropped her pen, twice, swivelled around on her chair and asked if we were finished yet. She declared again that she couldn't do it. Again she did it by herself, counting on, only this time she was slightly off because she'd miscounted. It was at this point that I decided to cut the session short. This was not the first time, I was failing, and I needed help.

I've never read any book in this field before. The Elephant in the Classroom was not what I was expecting. I was looking for something practical, perhaps some maths problems to work through together or guidance on how things are taught these days, such as multiplication "groups" and "number squares". What I got was something aimed at changing the way maths is taught in the UK. To my surprise this was both enjoyable and compelling. I found several reasons that helped to explain my daughters' attitudes. These reasons were more complex than I had ever imagined. These are the sort of issues that would make you change your vote or join the PTA. Many of the issues are demonstrated by serious, long-term studies, with startling results.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking 26 Aug 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a practising maths teacher I bought this book out of interest. The title had me 'hooked'.

The traditional teaching techniques which helped me, and many like me, to become a chartered engineer come in for a lot of criticism. As such, I found myself tempted to dismiss all within.

However, I kept reading, and found myself agreeing more and more with content.

The following points made are without doubt truthful:-
1) We do spend an enormous amount of time testing pupils, teachers and schools (with exam results).
2) The pressure put upon schools (and hence teachers) to achieve exam results does make the classroom teacher 'teach the exam paper'.
3) Not enough time is spent upon maths in a practical environment, in which the pupils have to analyse the everyday problems, plan out what needs to be done and produce the necessary maths to solve them.

The book author advocates group work allowing pupils to communicate and compare techniques making the maths room more like a science laboratory. She does unfortunately not give the missing 'how to deal with pupils that do not want to work'.

Despite my critical comments I found this book a thoroughly good read and look forward to trying out ideas and concepts within. As a person who seldom reads this type of work, this is praise indeed!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As someone who has just finished her PGCE year in mathematics, this book has been very helpful. I agree totally with the majority of what Jo Boaler says in this book, and there are activities which I can use, or which have given me inspiration as to how to create my own, following my beliefs of maths teaching.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book 17 Feb 2012
This is a great book about maths education. I originally got it out of the library, and did not expect much, but was very pleasantly surprised.

It seems that our efforts to improve maths skills by trying to measure them are counterproductive. That assessment itself turns kids off maths by replacing their curiosity with the need to protect their ego. That constant teaching to external tests is bad. And, counterintuitively, that streaming according to "ability" is bad for everyone (except perhaps the teacher who gets the "good" class).

There was also special mention of issues effecting girls and maths.

I think a quick summary of the book would be that we can't all be mathematical geniuses, but we can have greater enjoyment of maths, greater engagement with maths, and go out into the world with maths skills that are actually useful.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good start for trainee mathes teachers !
Very informative and liked all the references in the book to back up the findings.
Published 24 days ago by Pete Scorey
4.0 out of 5 stars Book review
Although intended for children, this book was bought for and enjoyed by an adult who had always been frightened by maths, and who wanted a basic approach to arithmetic
Published 1 month ago by Roger Shenton
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
easy to read and amazing insights! I.would recommend to anyone who wants to get into teaching maths or.helping children with maths.
Published 4 months ago by Shakti Pandey
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A great books about maths education, every trainee teacher should read this. Has some fantastic ideas and good research in it.
Published 4 months ago by Ms. J. Coleman
5.0 out of 5 stars The UK's education minister(s) must read this book!!!
I am a true mathematician by heart and love mathematics. My passion is to impart mathematical knowledge to everyone, anytime. Read more
Published 6 months ago by S Somani
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for all teachers of Maths
I would recommend this for anybody who teaches maths to someone, from parents to secondary maths teachers. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Emma
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and great for prospective teachers and parents alike
This book is written so well it makes it an easy, enjoyable and informative read. I am studying a PGDE and this book works perfectly alongside the way we are being taught to teach... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Barnezze
5.0 out of 5 stars Must for Teachers
Great book, and not just about Maths but about teaching methodologies in general. I read the book in just two days which is very quick for me!
Published 8 months ago by Mark Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars The Elephant in the Classroom
Not having a child currently in school and the fact that this book is several years out of date I cannot comment on what is currently happening in maths classrooms in the UK or the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by igglepigglesquiggle
4.0 out of 5 stars changed my mind about maths teaching
Really found this book useful to reflect on my own practice as a teacher and on what my children are experiencing in their own maths lesson.
Published 9 months ago by Helen Wheeler
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