California: Study shows for first time that a free, online course can change students' mindsets towards their mathematical abilities, leading to increased academic achievement. It is the first of its kind to show the impact of an online course in changing students' mindsets.
The study lead by Professor Jo Boaler, professor of mathematics education at Stanford University, was published in the Frontiers in Education (an open access journal).
From an early age, children are exposed to the belief that people fall into two categories: 'math people' - those who naturally have a way with numbers; and non 'math people' - those born without it. Professor Jo Boaler says that this way of thinking has a damaging impact on children throughout their school experience.
"There is a connection between students' mindsets and their learning outcomes," says Boaler. "When they struggle in class, they think this means they do not have a math brain and they give up." With the aim to change students' perceptions about math and their own mathematics potential, Boaler and her team conducted the study with more than 1,000 students across four schools in California, USA. Over several months, these students participated in a free math MOOC designed to change their ideas about learning mathematics and their own potential. Some of the key ideas covered in the course were that mathematics is all around us in life, everyone can learn math to high levels, and that drawing and talking are good strategies for learning math.
Once the students completed the online course, the results of the study showed that the students could perform better as they didn't feel the pressure to 'learn' it, rather it came in a flow to their mind without any manual effort.
Boaler believes it was their innovative approach to the online course which led to such impressive results. "Our study centered on changing these ideas and teaching students how to learn mathematics well -- specifically targeting student's beliefs about mathematics. The course was also designed and taught by educators so that students would be actively involved, not just watch videos."
Boaler believes it was their innovative approach to the online course which led to such impressive results. "The US and many other countries have widespread mathematics underachievement and anxiety, which threatens the development of science and technology. I really hope that the impact this online class had on students' mindsets and achievement shows the importance of the class itself, but also of changing students' attitudes towards mathematics," Boaler concludes.
(Indebted to various sources)