Celebrate Mistakes. Please.

A bunch of our secondary math teachers are reading Jo Boaler’s (@joboaler) great book Mathematical Mindsets.  As a former math teacher, I really wish I had read it as a working math teacher with students.  Dr. Boaler discusses the research behind the power of mistakes.  For example, ‘When we make mistakes, our brains spark and grow.  Mistakes are not only opportunities for learning….but also times when our brains grow…”

We do a shockingly good job teaching kids the opposite.  The importance of getting THE RIGHT ANSWER.  Zero brain growth occurs when getting the RIGHT ANSWER.  We focus on limited algorithms, and lots of low level problems, to get the RIGHT ANSWER.  No beauty. No creativity.  No mistakes. No brain growth.

One of our teachers, after this week’s session of our book study, grabbed the Four 4’s activity and threw it out to his students.  They jumped all over it. Conversations. Mistakes. Trial. Error.  More conversations.  Argument.  Mistakes.  Learning.  Collaboration. Communication.  Creativity.  Brain growth.  Love of math.  Fun.


Mistakes are valuable.  Our brains grow.  Celebrate mistakes.  Have ‘The Big Glorious Mistake of the Week’ contests.

It’s ok to make mistakes.  They’re good for you.

Thank you Jo Boaler.  All people who love or value math should read her book.

New and better. Some more.

Oh you know, just sitting here learning stuff, using Tweetdeck.  Happened to be following an event at the White House focused on #nextgenpl and caught, out of the corner of my eye, a worldwide professional learning event called Education on Air: It Takes a Teacher.  Well, thinking in terms of old style professional development…this ain’t it.  No ‘expert’ person is winging into develop us.  We aren’t paying for airfare and hotels somewhere.  We are joining in a conversation and learning based upon our interests and our choices from the comfort of our homes.  On a Saturday, at our convenience.

If innovation means making something that is ‘new and better’, I believe this is a powerful example of an innovative mode of professional learning.  I also believe there will continue to be more and more professional learning just like this.

I can’t wait!

Brave teachers.

Just have to throw a lot respect and admiration to some colleagues this morning. A dedicated group of math teachers is reading Jo Boaler’s book Mathematical Mindsets.  It is definitely challenging our math thinking.  As teachers, we, ourselves,  are products of old style math learning. Cemetery learning.  Rows of kids, sitting in silence, doing worksheets.  Very few collaboration opportunities.  Very few opportunities for creativity, critical thinking, or communication.  These 4 Cs, are of course, critical skills for our students.  Creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.  The cool thing is that our teachers are already destroying that type of learning because they know it’s terrible for kids.

We get help from Jo Boaler.  Dr. Boaler flat takes on that old style of learning for kids.  In fact, she likely wouldn’t call it learning.  It’s the study of algorithms for their own sake. No understanding of why one is learning the algorithms or how one might ever use them.

Anyway.  Thank you colleagues.  I know it’s hard to bust through old ways of thinking and doing things, when we come from those very things.  But if we believe we can do better for kids, and research is on our side, we probably should try to better.  Your bravery and willingness to engage in a challenging study of a book is fantastic.  Your students will thank you!

Check out Jo Boaler’s website for more information.

What’s the deal with ants?

“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?” -Henry David Thoreau


I love this question.  We are all professionally busy.  What are we professionally busy about? Are we busy about the right professional things?  Have we taken the time to look at our full professional plates?  What might be scraped off the plate into the trash because it’s not really that important?  Is it simply sitting on the plate because it’s been on the plate for a long time and we haven’t thought about dumping it?

“When we know better, we should do better.”  As professional educators, it is our responsibility to continue to grow and learn.  Just like we want our students to do.  When we learn about better ways to do educational, learning type things…we should do them.  To say ‘we don’t have time’ should be appalling to us.  We wouldn’t accept this from a doctor when working with one of our own children.  If the doctor hasn’t moved her/his professional learning ahead after graduating…and there are clearly better methods and treatments to treat our children, we would never buy, “I just don’t have the time.” We’d find another doctor.

Let’s check to see what we are so so busy about.

Thanks Henry!