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Vive Le Maths Revolution

How maths teaching must change


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Professor Jo Boaler may now be a maths professor at the prestigious Ivy League school Stanford University, but of course she still has a soft spot for her home country.

However, she has not been happy with how maths is being taught in England. Recently, she has caused quite the drama within the maths community as she has been criticising the way maths has been taught throughout the UK.

 The Week of Inspirational Maths

Jo Boaler maths evangelist

A couple of months ago, she was back in the UK helping to promote a new initiative – the “Week of Inspirational Maths”. This programme included 300 schools from all over the country and helped to show how she believes is the correct way maths should be taught. She is personally on a mission to change things within the maths education world and even signs emails sent to her subscribers with “Vive Le Revolution”. 

Her most recent outcry has been about the “maths anxiety”

This is where children start to feel anxious around the age of eight. This is more or less the age when children are “taught” times tables. The problem is that there is a lot of pressure on children when it comes to times tables. It is almost like it is a competition in class as to who can do them the fastest. If a child is not so quick, then they feel they are bad at maths, which may not be true. These tables are purely about speed and memory and do not test mathematic intelligence. 

She had this to say about the situation: 

We know that speed and the ability to memorise is not a good indicator of maths potential. So to see this policy being pushed in Britain now is simply heartbreaking.

“They do not do rote learning in China, or memorisation,” she protests. “I went to China recently and their approach is also very visual, much more conceptual than we have been led to believe.”

Once again, Asian countries are making an example of our maths education techniques.

Jo is not just speaking emotionally because the state of our maths education upsets her, she actually has a lot of research and many believers who are willing to make a change. 
This thinking and further advice is seen in her book, The Elephant in the Classroom, which is loved by thousands of maths teachers worldwide. A new edition of this book has just been released, with her updated thoughts on things. 

Another book is being released in early 2016, called Mathematical Mindsets.

mathematical mindsets, teaching maths, teach maths


Here Jo talks again about the issue of “maths anxiety” and explains that maths should be taught using more visualisation techniques and difficult problems should be solved within a group to help build confidence. The children should be tested less, so that they are not so worried about failure. The foreword of the book is written by her colleague at Stanford University, Carol Dweck. Carol is a  popular psychologist in the education world as she has helped many realise that there a “growth mindset” when learning. Children should not believe  they are simply 'born' with talent,they can work hard towards achieving any goal they have in mind. 


If you wish to pursue your passion for maths, if you want to take on extra responsibilities or certain specialist roles then it's likely those opportunities will be there in your maths teaching career. With up to 13 weeks holiday there are times for travel and pursuing leisure activities.

Teaching Mathematics is so important for the future of our economy for encouraging the skills required and for instilling a love of this incredible subject. Doesn't  that sound like an exciting opportunity for a fulfilling career? Click here to find out even more about teaching maths.