Urban students who learn hands-on math in mixed-ability groups outscore wealthier peers in traditional classes, study finds

Jack Hubbard
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Associate Professor of Mathematics Education Jo Boaler says when teachers at a Bay Area urban high school created an innovative math curriculum designed to help all students excel, the teens outperformed peers at two wealthier schools that followed traditional math programs. The five-year study found that the disadvantaged students liked math more and reached higher levels of math than the better-off high school students. Despite this success, the urban students didn't do as well on state multiple-choice exams, which Boaler says test knowledge of English as much as mathematical ability. As a result, the reform-oriented program may have difficulty expanding statewide, she says, because public education in California is driven by a test-score system.