Mathematics & the Path to Equity

Welcome to Chapter 6 of our Mathematical Mindsets Collaborative Book Study! I'm so glad you're joining us, but if you missed the first few chapters, you can catch up below:
Chapter Summary

Chapter 6 focuses on the myth of the mathematically gifted student. Hmmm. . . that caught my eye, particularly since my district does identify students as gifted in particular subjects. “The US education system focuses on gifted students who are given different opportunities, not because they show great tenacity and persistence but often because they are fast with math facts." (p. 94) Yikes! That is food for thought! And how often have I been guilty of emphasizing math fact speed? But even more concerning to me was the next quote:
Not only do our unlabeled students suffer, but it is a detriment to our students labeled "gifted" because they asuume math should come naturally to them. When they come to a difficult problem, they often quit and get more easily frustrated than my students who have to work harder and show persistence.

My Takeaway
It's all about meaning and relevance. Boaler suggests six equitable strategies to include & benefit all students. (And you can replace the word "mathematics" with any subject!)
1. Offer all students high-level content
2. Work to change ideas about who can achieve in mathematics
3. Encourage students to think deeply about mathematics
4. Teach students to work together
5. Give girls & students of color additional encouragement to learn math & science
6. Eliminate (or at least change the nature of) homework

This is a terrific video where Boaler demonstrates these strategies in an inquiry-based lesson to older students. (And in case you're noticing the "enquiry" spelling, I looked it up & that's how they spell "inquiry" in England!)
Tips for the Classroom
If your district or school mandates homework, make it meaningful. According to Cathy Vattertott (Educational Leadership, 2010), "Homework shouldn't be about rote learning. The best kind deepens student understanding and builds essential skills. There are five hallmarks of good homework:

  1. Clear purpose (not busy work)
  2. Efficiency (demonstrate student learning)
  3. Ownership (relevant & offer student choice)
  4. Competence (student can successfully complete without help)
  5. Aesthetic Appeal (“students at all levels are more motivated to complete assignments that are visually uncluttered, less information on the page, plenty of room to write answers, and the use of graphics. . .”)
And sigh. . .yes I'm rethinking how I do homework this coming school year. I'm playing with the idea of a choice menu with real-life problems. In the meantime, I'm still going to use my problem solving booklets, which give a variety of engaging problems. The kids always love the cooking option on the back of each booklet (there's a recipe, along with some math to do with it). Click on the picture to take you to my store.
Although I already require a lot of group work in my class, I'm going to be even more intentional this year. Here's a rubric I use for STEAM challenges; you can download for FREE by clicking on the rubric below:
Next Thursday, stop by for Chapter 7: From Tracking to Growth Mindset Grouping. This whole book is truly challenging my mathematics practices. How about you? Please chime in below!


  1. This chapter really struck a chord with me too because in every district that I have taught in, students are identified as gifted in math or reading. I can remember times when I felt that a student was not really gifted in math, but he/she received the label because he/she was a quick thinker and could complete math problems faster than others.

    1. Yes! :( I've been sharing this with my staff to start the conversation!

  2. Ditto!! ^^^
    We need to break the mindset that fast thinkers are "gifted!" I loved all the strategies that this chapter provided for how to do that, and I can't wait to check out your math problem solving booklet, Kathie! I also made the questions from Chapter 6 and an earlier chapter into a simple homework reflection sheet that I linked as a freebie in my post...check it out!

    1. I love that you made a reflection sheet!! Heading over to your blog now!

  3. This chapter rang true to me! Things that I suspected were damaging or at least fairly useless, the author confirmed - like advanced math classes and time wasting homework.

    1. Yep, I agree! Now we have to educate our families (& perhaps administration & other faculty members)