Brain Research, Math

How To Learn Math

Thanks to my new colleague, I learned of a free class offered online by Stanford titled How To Learn Math. 

I started the class and am on to the third lesson.  Each lesson comprises of short video clips with questions in between.  Your submissions are peer reviewed and you play your part in reviewing others responses to the same questions.  Some of the submissions are self-reviewed – more of a reflection on what you have just watched in the video.

The following ‘definition’ of a mathematician was given in one of the readings that does not use the word ‘numbers’ but paints a different picture of the way in which a mathematician ‘works’

A mathematician, like a painter or poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas. ~Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician’s Lament

The above quote made me think of one of my favorite mathematicians (after Sal Khan, she is my favorite!) – Vi Hart.  I think to begin a year with some of her videos is to expose your class instantly to whole new mindset on math.

The first lesson also talked about the power of direct feedback and with prefacing your feedback (critical commentary on learning) with the statement: “I am giving you this feedback because I believe in you”. Research showed a greater acceptance of the feedback and improvement by the student when they felt that the teacher believed in them.  The suggestion is not to preface every comment with this statement but rather to recognize the power of relationship, honesty, and trust between student and teacher.

The second lesson spoke of math and mindset and taps into the work of Carol Dweck on the subject of mindset.  Again, research shows that three weeks is the time period it can take your brain to develop new pathways when learning something new.  This was interesting to me as I am sure that before the three week period is up, I will often convince myself that I am not an X person, or I can’t possibly do Y.  Armed with this information, I hope to look into hanging in there a bit longer when I next tackle something new.

I have until the end of September to complete the eight session course.  I am motivated by what I have learned thus far and by the fact that I know some of my colleagues are also doing the same course.  The format is easy to follow, the information interesting, and the chance to get feedback on ideas from like minded students, teachers, and parents who are also doing the course is fascinating.

If you are interested in this free open learning opportunity, click here for more information.   As I thought about extending my own learning and in light of the day looming near in which students are about to return to school, I found this poster which sums up my feelings on learning and what I want to foster in my class this year – which is why learning is something I am choosing to do now.


4 thoughts on “How To Learn Math”

  1. Thanks for sharing Sonya! I love your links! I have just now looked over the course information and was encouraged to notice that you can take the course any time from now until Sept 27, with a time requirement of 1-2 hours per session, with 8 sessions. Is that what you are finding? The course can also be simply “browsed,” by those who opt out of a Statement of Accomplishment . I thus have also signed up, and will share with others.

    1. The time descriptor seems pretty accurate. Each of the first two lessons (all I have done thus far) have 4-5 short videos and then questions to make you think and reflect. You could just browse the videos and learn a ton. The questions help me to solidify what I just watched and help me to form/refine my opinions. Totally worth the time/effort in my opinion. Would be good if you and Zoe did it at same time so you have someone to bounce ideas off on person.

  2. Dear Sonya
    I’m doing the course too – it’s part of my, there has to be a better way, search for improving my teaching,and my students’ learning in maths in particular. I came across your blog when I was following crumbs on the web one night – when I saw that you talked about Donalyn Miller’s Book Whisperer as well, I smiled. The Jo Boaler stuff is fantastic – I’ve finished no.3 but it is probably closer to the 2 hours especially when you’re reflecting and reading the reflections of others too…..

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