‘What’s Math Got To Do With It?’

Jo Boaler
Review by Samantha Minden

What’s Math Got To Do With It? by Jo Boaler is an excellent book recommended for both teachers and parents.  The book is very straightforward and easy to read making it easy to engage with, even for those who do not have a solid foundation in mathematics.  Boaler draws in readers right from the start painting a clear and familiar picture of what math feels like to those who have struggled with it.  The novel draws in skeptics with studies and proof of why the problem solving approach to teaching mathematics is superior.  Boaler helps readers to understand how important math is in everyday life and how schools can and should start making this connection; as she points out, students need to stop seeing “school math” as separate from “real world math.”  Boaler provides specific strategies for the problem solving approach including presenting children with long, complicated problems which encourage persistence and are realistic to them, as well as collaboration between classmates, allowing time for children to understand, and letting children experience success.  Boaler reinforces the importance of the teacher and type of classroom he/she creates.  Another reason this book is very user friendly is for every math problem that is presented, there is an answer and explanation at the back.  Not having this information can be frustrating to a reader, especially one who already struggles with math, and Boaler helps to relate to her readers by understanding this.  One criticism of the book might be seen as Jo Boaler’s one-sided view and representation of the situation of mathematics in the United States, which she perceives to be inadequate.  However, her studies, examples and approaches to more effective instruction and classrooms do a very good job of demonstrating why her approach is more beneficial than the more traditional one that many of us grew up with.  The book finishes off with resources for parents as well as for teachers on improving the mathematics situation for students and helping everyone to achieve success.