PoSWW 23: Jo Boaler is Challenged

It’s Greg Ashman‘s fault. It’s always Greg Ashman’s fault.

A couple days ago Ashman had an excellent post, on Jo Boaler and her California Dreamin’ curriculum. That draft curriculum has been, let’s say, hammered, particularly by mathematicians. Not that such criticism slows Boaler:

“We understand education, and they have no experience studying education. Mathematicians sit on high and say this is what is happening in schools.”

Anyway, as a consequence of Ashman’s post, we went browsing and stumbled across the following video, from last year. Enjoy.*

*) Those who want the real story of Boaler’s “Railside” study and its aftermath, alluded to in Boaler’s talk, can go here, here, here, here and here.

UPDATE (14/12/2021)

Prompted by Johnald’s comment, below, it seems worth linking to two open letters opposing California Dreamin’:

*) Independent Institute

*) k12mathmatters

20 Replies to “PoSWW 23: Jo Boaler is Challenged”

  1. “Why would you do this? What is the purpose? The purpose is activity and the hypothesis is that engaging in maths-type activity = learning mathematics.”

    I think this line really sums it all up.

    I also dispute the line that Mathematicians “…say this is what is happening in schools.”

  2. In Australia, there is a big divide between the community of experts in mathematics and the community of experts in mathematics education. To its credit, at its annual conference, the Australian Mathematical Society has for a long time devoted a section to mathematics education, and devoted one of the days for teachers. Still, it would be a step forward if there were collaborations with a view to finding more common ground between the two communities.

    1. Unfortunately, my feeling having known people (socially) from both camps, the divide seems to be widening rather than narrowing, so I cannot see much “finding of common ground” happening soon, despite the efforts of AMS or other organisations.

      What I really want to know (and I am too young to remember…) is where it all started splitting. I suspect it was around the time VCE came on the scene, but this may be a symptom rather than a cause.

      1. I think the maths education group in Australia is MERGA. On their website, they have past conference proceedings going back to 1992 and it seems from looking at them that like the split existed back then at least. They provide a history of themselves as well, which says that they were established in 1977 because there was no group for research in mathematics education in Australia – it mentions considering whether AAMT should be their natural home (but not AustMS).

        I think perhaps for a lot of people, it is not automatic to consider mathematics relevant to school mathematics. Perhaps we should work on making that case. Should mathematicians decide what mathematics is important for the rest of society to learn? Is ‘school mathematics’ actually mathematics at all? Should it be? I don’t know the answers to these questions.

        1. Thanks, wst. I don’t think it’s so much a question of when maths education split from mathematics, but rather when it split from reality. True, the moment mathematics education became its own thing, its own industry, it probably sowed the seeds of its inevitable decline. But maths ed, at least in Australia, didn’t start out so ignorant, so anti-mathematical, so plain nutty.

          I’ve been working hard, trying to figure out the 90s curriculum war. In ways that war was very similar to the current war, with an arrogant and inept federal body trying to ram through an appallingly stupid curriculum. But in other ways the war was very, very different. And, one huge difference is that in the earlier war the maths ed guys were (mostly) fighting for The Good Team.

          In the past, MERGA had some value. Can anybody argue that now? Is there a single issue of maths ed where, on balance, MERGA is not making things worse?

  3. Thanks wst – that makes a lot of sense.

    Marty – I look forward to your history of Mathematics education in the 1990’s…

      1. My friend came up with that punchline. Kudos to him.

        Do you think Bailer will use my nicknaming of her against me?

  4. So, I’m actually in this group that works to spread opposition to Boaler’s CMF, and some of the members, including Edith Cohen, wrote another open letter that gained more widespread traction.

    https://sites.google.com/view/k12mathmatters/home – Here’s the link.

    I think this one is bipartisan as opposed to the letter from independent institute, which is a Republican partisan hack org, err… I mean biased in favor of Republicans. I think it may be helpful to share this as well. I’ve done my part and signed the letter (though, I don’t think they’d let you sign since you’re not based in US).

    By the way, I’ve been corresponding with the guy organizing this opposition in California, and do you know how he first heard about this CMF?

    I shared your Californian Dreamin’ WHiTCH!.

    You’re doing God’s work man. Keep spreading the words.

    1. I am the guy to whom Johnald is referring. Not sure if this anonymous handle I chose really suits me, but it beats Fred Flintstone.

      Your WitCH about California Dreamin’ prompted me to write my opinion piece and get a group together, and we are actively fighting it.

  5. Me doing God’s work? Then clearly we’ve reached the End Times.

    Thanks, Johnald. I’ve updated the post with links to both letters. I hadn’t looked at Independent Institute before. Yeah, in general they appear to be pretty loony. But, in a world of loons, you get the allies you’re given, not the allies you may wish for. Republicans are, almost to the man, lunatics. But you’d have to work hard to convince me that the Left percentage, in any sense of “Left”, is significantly more encouraging.

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