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Rote learning times tables 'one of the worst things we do to kids' - maths professor

Rote learning maths should be a technique of the past, and instead multi-dimensional learning should be incorporated in the classrooms to create a deeper understanding, Stanford University Professor Jo Boaler said. 

Professor Boalar, who has spent her career studying the best way to learn mathematics, told TVNZ1's Q+A rote learning times tables "is one of the worst things we do to kids". 

She has upended traditional thought on the best way to teach maths, and is visiting New Zealand at the end of the month. 

"We should encourage kids to struggle and make mistakes. When you’re making mistakes, those are the best times for your brain," she said. 

"Nothing tells us rote-learning is good. One thing it does is turn kids off. One of the worst things we do to kids is make them memorise times tables and then test them in speed tests. That’s the beginning of maths anxiety for millions of people."

Professor Boalar said on a collaborative problem solving test, New Zealand jumped in maths ranking from its usual place of about 21st to 9th.

"That’s assessing something much more valuable. Kids had to interact with a computer agent to solve a complex problem, so they weren’t doing it with other students but they were interacting with the ideas presented to them.

"We know if we teach maths in this mutli-dimensional way our brains are pathways are communicating and we’re getting a really good maths understanding. Usually in classrooms it’s pretty one-dimensional, most countries' books are filled with numbers, not asking kids to think visually or with movement."


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    We ask Stanford University Professor Jo Boaler if rote-learning times tables should be a thing of the past. Source: Q+A