Experiencing School Mathematics: Teaching Styles, Sex, and Setting

“Jo Boaler has written a stunning book. Clearly written and carefully researched, it is a model of technical rigour. A wide range of qualitative and quantitative data is marshalled to produce exhaustive case studies of two contrasting mathematics departments – one traditional and one progressive. Boaler’s findings represent a major challenge to the ‘back to basics’ credo. This book should be read as a matter of urgency by politicians, mathematics teachers, and educational researchers.” –Stephen Ball, Professor of Sociology of Education, King’s College, London

“Anyone with an interest in making sure that every child is numerate should read this book” –Sally Tomlinson, Professor of Sociology of Education, Goldsmith’s College, London

Experiencing School Mathematics is the first book of its kind to provide direct evidence for the effectiveness of ‘traditional’ and ‘progressive’ teaching methods. It reports upon careful and extensive case studies of two schools which taught mathematics in totally different ways. Three hundred students were followed over three years and the interviews that are reproduced in the book give compelling insights into what it meant to be a student in the classrooms of the two schools. The different school approaches are compared and analysed using student interviews, lesson observations, questionnaires given to students and staff and a range of different assessments, including GCSE examinations. Questions are raised about:

  • the effectiveness of different teaching methods in preparing students for the demands of the ‘real world’ and the 21st century
  • the impact of setted and mixed ability teaching upon student attitude and achievement
  • gender and learning styles and new evidence is provided for each. The book draws some radical new conclusions about the ways that traditional teaching methods lead to limited forms of knowledge that are ineffective in non-school settings. The book will be essential reading for maths teachers, parents and policy makers in education.