Success Stories

I love hearing Success Stories and this is one of the best. I was reading my email on Monday (just like every day) and was blown out of the water by the e-mail I got from Karen Oliver, a teacher in Utah.

As background, I offered Jo Boaler’s MOOC called How to Learn Math for Teachers and Parents for USOE credit three summers ago when the class was brand new and free. Karen was one of the teachers who took me up on that offer. She took and finished the class. This summer we once again offered the class for credit. The course now has a registration fee but we offered to pay the fee for the first 100, then 125. then another 100 teachers. We have 232 Utah teachers taking the MOOC this year for USOE credit.

The e-mails about Jo Boaler’s class spurred Karen to write me an e-mail about her experience in the class and how it has changed her teaching. With Karen’s permission, I am quoting her e-mail here.

Karen says:

I don’t know if you remember me, but I took the Jo Boaler class three summers ago when you offered it for the first time and have since implemented a “Growth Mindset” classroom for my fourth graders.  The first year implementing it my student scores were terrific. However I thought it was probably just because they were high level students in the French Immersion class at Morningside. The second year implementing this math “mindset” I taught the traditional class at Morningside with a lot of “lower” students. Their scores were excellent!  80+% proficiency. This year I moved to Oakwood Elementary and my students were 90% proficiency. (Another teacher had the “gifted” cluster.)

Jo Boaler’s research and approach to teaching has had a profound impact on my teaching. I wanted to share with you the poster (see below) I made for the class as well as my “bullet” points for setting up my math instruction.

  • Introduce the poster and celebrate “math mistakes”
  • No tests throughout the year. End of Chapter tests are referred to as “reviews.”
  • No timed math facts tests, but a lot of work on strategies for knowing math facts.
  • Fix up all math problems. The expectation is 100% on all math problems for all students.
  • Ring the classroom bell for learning from mistakes.
  • A lot of problem based learning with group or partner work to start a math lesson. – High engagement

Students have loved learning math  – Thank you for that opportunity to take Jo Boaler’s class!!

Very best, Karen Oliver

Double Black Diamond Mathematician

Needless to say, I am extremely proud of Karen and her hard work in changing her students’ math mindsets. Teaching mathematics can be very difficult. But if other teachers can do as Karen has done, and I know they can, their students will love mathematics as well! Keep up the great work, Karen. I have your back.


About MathDavidUtah

Husband of 1 gorgeous woman. Father to four intelligent boys. Father in law to three. Grampy to 7 (Charlie, Meili, Camden, Grayson, Marick, Diem, Remi)! Ham radio callsign K7CMG. Educational Leadership Specialist at the Utah State Board of Education.
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