Chapter 1: A New Mathematical Relationship


In the first chapter of Math-ish, Boaler reminds us of the importance of fostering a growth mindset in mathematics and emphasizes the value of having mathematical diversity in the math classroom. 

The term mathematical diversity is defined to include diversity of people and of the ways we see and learn mathematics through multiple modes. Student diversity is key for collaboration, problem-solving, and compassion, which leads to achievement. Our traditional schools systems lack mathematical diversity and often presents mathematics as a system of procedures and algorithms that must be memorized in order to lead us to a correct answer. Boaler coins this idea as "narrow mathematics." Mathematics is such a beautiful discipline and is best experienced when we see it visually, look for patterns, connect ideas, form relationships between visuals, numbers, and algebraic representations. Math is about problem-solving, not answer getting, and It's about sparking curiosity, and getting students to question the world around them. When math is embraced as a subject that can be seen and solved differently from many different strategies, it leads to higher achievement, greater motivation, and enjoyment. 

Boaler also suggests that we have a global cultural problem with mathematics. Many people experience mathematics as a discipline that ranks, judges, and segregates people. Combine that with over testing, it's no wonder some students don't enjoy math, and the continue that distaste into adulthood. As a society we also have a problem of segregating people in those who are and who are not math people. This idea of having a math brain is a huge problem, and a strain on our educational system as well as a disservice to our young ones. Over-testing combined with traditional misrepresentation of the subject as a set of procedures and right and wrong answers, and embracing the math brain, leads to failure and anxiety. All three of these are referred to by Boaler as the three villains. 

Boaler suggests a new model for mathematics success that involves building positive relationships with mathematics by changing our approach to mathematics from narrow to open questions that invite diverse and creative ideas; and encouraging respectful collaborative relationships.

Key Ideas/Themes:

Reflection Questions:

After reading this chapter reflect on the following questions. Think about: