Summer is upon us and you are considering how to best spend this time preparing for next year. My mentor teacher advised me to pick just one book to read over the summer and make a plan for how to implement its ideas in my classroom. I am actually a very avid reader so I want to provide some recommendations for other math teachers whether you teach elementary school or high school.
I have read all of these books cover to cover so they are genuine recommendations. I hope you find one or two of them useful.
#1 Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler
If you have not read this book yet, you must move all other books off your night stand and make room for Mathematical Mindsets. If you want to teach math the way it is meant to be taught, this will become your new classroom bible. I first read this book as part of a book study my first year teaching. If you can find some other teachers who want to join you, I highly recommend doing a book study since there is just so much information in here you’ll need to process! I have a post coming soon that reviews the first two chapters of the book.
#2 Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys & Ruth Parker
Once you make a commitment to making student thinking visible and cultivating a mathematical community in your your classroom, Number Talks are an amazing strategy to see through that commitment. What I love about this book is that it says it is for grades 3 through 10 and I really believe that. My hope is that third grade teachers implement this to build a strong mathematical foundation for students and that high school teachers implement number talks to strengthen a foundation that may be waning. Learn the strategy and the theory behind number talks in depth and get started day one next school year!
#3 Connecting Mathematical Ideas by Jo Boaler & Cathy Humphreys
You can tell who my go to researchers are based on this list, and it’s because they have a holistic and meaningful approach to both mathematics and teaching mathematics. I like this book because it comes with video case studies so you can see the ideas in action. It’s not just some researcher talking at you. They show you how it’s done. One of the most impactful parts of the book is their table on teacher questions on page 37. It is so easy to fall in the routine of basic question and response in the classroom: “what does __ mean?” “what is the value of x?” This book will push you beyond that by teaching you eight other questioning methods
#4 What's math got to do with it? by Jo Boaler
I read this back in graduate school. Our professor gave this book to us to prepare us to talk to students and to parents about the importance of mathematics. This is a good book if you want to support parents support their children in learning math. If you are like me, you have parents who love to tell you how bad they are at math or how they barely passed Algebra so their kid will be the same. This book can help you navigate those murky waters to help parents challenge those negative assumptions without alienating them.
#5 A Mathematician's Lament by Paul Lockhart
I read this during my fourth year teaching as part of a professional development book study with an English teacher. He said it was the only book he’d ever read about math and opened his eyes to some of the unique challenges in mathematics education. Keep an open mind as you read. He is very critical of the math curriculum in American public education. But if you read it entirely, your perspective on teaching math should shift (for the better). A favorite quote from the book: “The only thing I am interested in using mathematics for is to have a good time and to help others do the same.”
Get reading! Let me know what other books you consider essential reading in the comments below.