Another recommended reading from Teach First. Selected quotes below:

Mathematics is a performance, a living act, a way of interpreting the world. Imagine music

lessons in which students worked through hundreds of hours of sheet music, adjusting the notes

on the page, receiving ticks and crosses from the teachers, but never playing the music. Students

would not continue with the subject because they would never experience what music was. Yet

this is the situation that continues in mathematics classes, seemingly unabated.

Those who use mathematics engage in mathematical performances, they use language in all its

forms, in the subtle and precise ways that have been described, in order to do something with

mathematics. Students should not just be memorizing past methods; they need to engage, do, act,

perform, problem solve, for if they don’t use mathematics as they learn it they will find it very

difficult to do so in other situations, including examinations.

We cannot keep pursuing an educational model that leaves the best and the only real taste

of the subject to the end, for the rare few who make it through the grueling eleven years that

precede it. If students were able to work in the ways mathematicians do, for at least some of the

time – posing problems, making guesses and conjectures, exploring with and refining ideas, and

discussing ideas with others, then they would not only be given a sense of true mathematical

work, which is an important goal in its own right, they would also be given the opportunities to

enjoy mathematics and learn it in the most productive way.

Boaler’s vision is an inspiring but ambitious one. Like Swan, Boaler discusses the end goal of a maths classroom without always making explicit the precursors necessary to allow students to work like mathematicians. Working like a mathematician is *hard* and, amongst other things, requires grit, persistence and a willingness to be wrong before being right. None of these things will come naturally to a mathematics student.

On the other hand, each of these things can be encouraged. The challenge is that it will take time, persistence and agility on my (the teacher’s) part to encourage students to work like mathematicians. It isn’t easy, but if Boaler is to be believed it’s worth the effort.

Boaler: What is Maths? And why do we all need it?