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on 4 May 2017
This book has changed the way I think about how I teach maths. Every teacher must read this. It should be compulsory it will affirm that every child must have a great maths teacher, it is their right. We can all be great maths teachers, this book tells you how. I loved it. It is brilliant just brilliant.
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on 17 February 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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on 7 April 2011
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. There are examples of the dire maths questions posed in maths classes today, and great examples of really intricate problems that have inspired and delighted pupils of all abilities.

It turns out that the fact my daughter had been given a worksheet with 20 questions is a red flag in itself. The questions were too easy. She didn't know why she was doing them. They bored her. She was mechanically applying rules rather than discovering new ones. Jo Boaler declares "this is not maths", and I wholeheartedly agree.

I have since returned to that worksheet with my daughter, only this time we picked one question, 57 + 84, and discarded the rest. We focused on trying to find all the different ways in which we could answer that question, together. Obviously there was counting-on, but we agreed that was tricky with such big numbers. We got out some beads but gave up, now understanding why we don't always use the same techniques. We then started to break the numbers up and focus on the tens while ignoring the units. My daughter suggested that we treat the tens as units, 5 + 8, and then add the zeros back afterwards. I suggested swapping the units around, 7 and 4, so we could add a small number to a big number and count-on more easily. In the end we had half a dozen solutions to the same problem, we had *both* learnt new ways of doing it, and more importantly we had fun.

Only four stars because I would have liked more example problems aimed at primary school children.
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on 17 September 2017
Super fast service. Highly recommended. Thank you!
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on 2 May 2017
This is such an interesting read if you're a maths teacher like me, or, I'm sure, if you're a parent as well. I'm totally sold on the (well backed up) idea that maths needs to be taught in a creative and imaginative way to really inspire children. She makes some really good points about the learning of boys vs girls, and group teaching that I think every maths teacher should think about. It also includes creative puzzles as examples, ranging from easy to the really tricky, some of which I've used to good effect with my students. It's a shame that so many people become disillusioned with such a wonderful subject, and this book gives some clue as to why that might be, and how we might go about preventing that. Solid, excellently backed up, easily readible book, raising good points with some interesting and useable solutions. I'd recommend to anyone, whether a teacher, parent or struggling student!
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on 28 October 2015
When Souvenir Press offered a copy of The Elephant in the Classroom to review I jumped at the chance.

Having hated (and no, that's not too strong a word) Maths at secondary school despite having an enquiring and inquisitive mind, if there was something that helped others who felt as I used to do, then I wanted to know about it and to share it.

Confession - I hated Maths so much that I was disruptive and was kicked out of lessons. Of course not something I'm proud of. No-one had the time to find out what was driving my behaviours and it wasn't until I started working in a Primary school that everything finally clicked. In fact I developed such a love of Maths that I became the 'go to' person and felt confident to sit the test for Adult Numeracy Level 2 which is equivalent to GCSE (and yes, I passed).

Teaching Booster Maths a few years ago the refrain that was heard the most was 'I'm stupid and rubbish and I can't do Maths.' Straight away there's a barrier. Mindset. Jo Boaler has worked extensively with Mindset proponent Carol Dweck. Carol's decades of research with people of various ages shows that a people with a growth mindset (who believe that intelligence and smartness can be learned) go on to higher levels of achievement.

It's a perpetuated myth that some people are naturally good at Maths and some are not. One of my favourite Zen quotes is:

Don't believe everything you think.

Jo Boaler is passionate about sharing the important message that Maths can be learned to high levels by ANY child - that there is no such thing as a 'maths gift' and that the right teaching and parenting can inspire all. It's backed by up-to-date scientific evidence that the brain has incredible potential - for the brain to change and grow. And that's the thing I found most fascinating to learn in The Elephant in the Classroom. Scientific evidence proves that when a mistake is made in Maths, the brain grows - synapses fire and connections are made. Even if we don't know we've made a mistake, it's the challenge that causes the process. At the school I work in we've always said it's good to make mistakes, that children shouldn't feel humiliated, that's the way we learn. The research reinforces the message that we want children to make mistakes. They're not learning failures but learning achievements.

Jo says "There is a huge gap between what we know works for children and what happens in most classrooms." With the removal of statutory requirement for assessment based on National Curriculum levels, having to 'perform' has been taken away. I believe that the introduction of 'Mastery' will allow the way Maths is taught to change. This could be a very exciting time.

Jo Boaler is dedicated to getting research to teachers and parents in an accessible way and she has created interactive online free courses at YouCubed.

The Chapter headings in The Elephant and the Castle give an idea of what you'll find:

What is maths? And why do we all need it?
What's going wrong in classrooms? Identifying the problems
A vision for a better future Effective classroom approaches
Banishing the monsters Moving to more effective forms of assessment
Making 'low ability' children How different forms of grouping can make or break children
Paying the price for sugar and spice? How girls and women are kept out of maths and science
Talking with numbers Key strategies and ways of working
Giving children the best mathematical start in life Activities and advice for parents
Moving to a more positive future

I have no hesitation in recommending The Elephant in the Classroom to parents and teachers. This should be the next book you're reading.

I would like to thank the publishers for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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on 21 November 2012
I wanted a book that was more hands on rather than theoreitcal. i will study it carefully and it may be some use
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on 12 July 2012
I would recommend this book to any primary school teacher, head teacher or secondary school Maths department.
It is a very readable explanation of why our Maths teaching is in such a mess at the moment. Bright children are not challenged enough and far too many children are afraid of maths (as are many primary school teachers).
Jo Boaler obviously has a wealth of relevant knowledge gained over many years. She explains how to make maths more accessible to those children who don't understand the subject and cannot see its relevance to everyday life (often that's because it is not taught in context, and when relevant). Accepted practices such as 'setting' children for maths lessons are challenged (with good reason) and alternative approaches are cited.
Unfortunately, in order to implement many of Ms.Boaler's concepts, there has to be great support by a school, which is why I recommend the book to all staff involved in Maths teaching. (If only I could get my son's secondary school Head of Maths to read it, my son would not be getting bored in his Maths lessons!)
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on 2 January 2016
This book explains simply and clearly why children come to believe that they can t do maths. Packed with relevant data collected in research projects all over the globe, the author repeatedly shows that the current system used to teach maths in Britan is severely flawed. The title of the book sums up the problem perfectly. It provides enough motivation, ideas and resources to enable any willing maths teacher to get the elephant out of the class.
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on 31 December 2011
How I wish I had had this book 40 years ago when I began teaching. This is the finest book on Maths teaching I have ever read and a MUST for every teacher in Primary schools and early High School years. The author is an expert, not just a University Professor but a person with hands on classroom experience and a meticulous researcher. No review can be adequate but the examples, the summer course, and especially the multiple ways of tackling maths are hugely inspirational. The "one right method" which causes so many problems is challenged with the most powerful of arguments and examples of children succeeding where they were failing because they were cornered by single approaches. This is a book for teachers and parents and worth far more than its cost. I am recommending the book to participants in in-service courses, and to all schools I visit. Cannot recommend this book too strongly!

Dr Ken Alston
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