Thursday, January 20, 2011

Free Online Class for Parents and Teachers on the Psychology of Math Learning

Can psychological theories, such as personality type and learning style, help explain why some students take naturally to math while others struggle?  This is a subject of a FREE online class that I will be leading for the next six weeks through the School of Math Future in Peer-to-Peer University (called P2PU).

Actually, while it is called a class, it is more like a technology-facilitated discussion group.  The philosophy behind P2PU is that people with common interests all have something to share with each other, even if some have more experience or schooling than others.  So I am setting up the structure of the classes and giving us all some exercises and/or reading so we have some common ground to talk about, but all the participants will be equally involved in coming up with answers, or at least suggestions, to the discussion topics.

The structure of the class is that each week we will focus on one type of psychological theory and see if it can help to explain why some of us find math to breeze while others just don't seem to "get it."  The proposed theories we will be exploring are:

  • Myers-Briggs Personality Style
  • Left-brained/Right-brained Learners
  • Learning Modalities
  • Gender Differences
Participants will take online assessment tests and post their results to the group, along with a written reflections whether they think that assessment has any baring on their success or failure in math.  Thus, most of the class will take place asynchronously through sharing written statements on the class forum.  However, there will be one "real-time" web discussion each week, which will take place on Tuesday evenings at 9:00 PM Eastern time.  Class members who are available at that time will pose questions and exchange thoughts on that week's assignments; the other members can review the discussion at their convenience, since the "live" sessions will be taped.  I expect that participating in the class will require approximately 2-3 hours per week (doing the assessments, writing posts, engaging in the "live" discussion, etc.).

Here is the official description of the class:


  More than almost any other discipline, mathematics can cause real angst for those students who just "don't get it" (have you ever heard of "history anxiety" or "art anxiety"?). But why do some students find math to be a fun, natural, and creative discipline, while others struggle and just can't seem to figure it out, no matter how hard they work on it? To answer this question, educators tend to focus on the "nurture" factors, such as the parents' abilities and feelings about math, whether the student lives in a math-rich environment, the quality of the math teachers, or the type of curriculum followed. But in this class, we'll be exploring the "nature" side of the question. We will look at psychological theories, such as personality style, learning style, and gender differences, to see if they can illuminate why some of us think math is joy, while for others it seems more like a nightmare.

Learning objectives

The objectives of this course are:
  • to learn some basics about psychological theories such as personality styles, learning modalities, and gender differences;
  • to assess our own styles within these theories and consider whether they had an influence on our experience with math;
  • to share our assessment with each other to see if we can find any general trends that relate specific psychological traits to math success or failure.
If you are interested in joining us, please follow the signup instructions on the P2PU website at: .  But the class starts next week (this session runs from January 26 - March 9, 2011), so be sure to respond soon if you are interested.

The School of Math Future also has some other free classes running on P2PU.  They include
All are free and still have space available as of this evening, although space is limited.

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