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"Math Path" -- The Discovery Files

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A new study is the first of its kind to show the impact of an online course in changing students' mindsets and beliefs about mathematics and their achievement, with the potential for more widespread dissemination. This free "massive, open, online course" (MOOC) designed to change students' attitudes towards mathematics makes them more engaged in class -- leading to less math anxiety and significantly higher test scores.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Mathematical solution.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Ok everybody, who's up for doin' a little -- Math! (Sound effect: mad scramble for the door, crickets) I guess you're not math people. Think back. As students, we all sorta believed there were two types: math people and non-math people. A new project out of Stanford shows that may be the issue: how young people see themselves when it comes to mathematics. The researchers say there's a connection between kids' mindsets and learning outcomes. When students struggle in class they think it means they don't have a math brain and might give up.

The team recruited a thousand students from schools in California to take part in the study, which gave them access to a free, open online course designed to change students' perceptions about learning math and their own potential. Over several months, the course covered ideas such as: "Math is all around us;" "Everyone can learn math to high levels;" and "Drawing and talking are good ways for learning math."

The study showed the old beliefs could (Sound effect: glass shatters) indeed be shattered. After taking the online course, test scores were significantly better, and the experience left the students with less math anxiety and feeling more positive about the subject. Their mindsets about math had been changed.

Trending: Math. Go figure.

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