Jo Boaler has again been spreading her nonsense about how learning times tables stresses kids out. This has been thoroughly refuted by Greg Ashman and it is worth pointing out that Jo Boaler did a Psychology degree and then worked for 3 years as a Maths teacher before leaving for academia in 1991. Think about that, she hasn’t taught for 24 years! Anyway, that’s not the main point of this blog, which is, where are all these stressed out kids?
If you don’t work in Secondary or Maths you might not be aware that kids do lots of tests in Maths. Some schools test after every module but a test every half-term is pretty standard in most schools. In all my years of teaching, at several schools, I’ve never met a child who was so stressed about tests that I was concerned.
Doing regular low-stake tests mean they’re just another part of life for the children, so, it actually makes them less stressful. It’s when the kids aren’t used to them and a lot rides on them that they become stressful.
The main reason kids get anxious is when they know they can’t do the Maths. The main reason they can’t do the Maths, they missed out on the basics earlier on, usually because they were taught using the happy-clappy nonsense Jo Boaler pushes instead of some actual rigour. When you get them to teach later on, it’s like trying to build a Jenga tower from the top when the bottom three layers are missing.
As part of her job, Jo Boaler interviews kids about their feelings about Maths. I’d be very interested to see transcripts of these interviews. I suspect they mainly consist of her coaching the children, “Does Maths teaching make you anxious?, Oh it does. Do you get stressed? Oh you do.” , etc. This then gets released as her “Research”.
Every Saturday, I drop my God-daughter and her Mum to swimming lessons. It’s a great excuse to see them once a week and catch up with what they’ve been doing. Obviously, I always ask her what she’s been up to at school that week. One week, last year, I asked her as usual, and she’d learned about the planets and she’d had pizza on Friday and then someone wouldn’t play with her at break-time, but then they made up later on. I dropped them off and went to work. Turned out later that she’d had her Year 2 phonics test that week. Didn’t even mention it. Meanwhile, on Twitter, half the Primary school teachers are claiming their kids are all having nervous breakdowns because the phonics test is so evil and puts them under so much pressure. Makes you think.