“The title comes from the central argument of the book,” says Birmingham-raised
Boaler, “namely the idea that maths is a gift that some have and some don’t.
That’s the elephant in the classroom. And I want to banish it. I believe
passionately that everybody can be good at maths. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Studies of the brain show that all kids can do well at maths,
unless they have some specific learning difficulty.”
But what about those booming Asian economies, with their ready flow of mathematically able graduates? “There are a lot of misconceptions about the methods that are used in China, Japan and Korea,” replies Boaler. “Their way of teaching maths is much more conceptual than it is in England. If you look at the textbooks they use, they are tiny.”
Professor Boaler’s tips on how parents can help Make Britain Count.
1 Encourage children to play maths puzzles and games at home. Anything with a dice will help them enjoy maths and develop numeracy and logic skills.
2 Never tell children they are wrong when they are working on maths problems. There is always some logic to what they are doing. So if your child multiplies three by four and gets seven, try: “Oh I see what you are thinking, you are using what you know about addition to add three and four. When we multiply we have four groups of three…”
3 Maths is not about speed. In younger years, forcing kids to work fast on maths is the best way to start maths anxiety, especially among girls.
4 Don’t tell your children you were bad at maths at school. Or that you disliked it. This is especially important if you are a mother.
5 Encourage number sense. What separates high and low achievers in primary school is number sense.
6 Encourage a “growth mindset” – the idea that ability changes as you work more and learn more.