Skip to main content


The elephant in the classroom: helping children learn and love maths (2009)

20 Jul 2018

With effort and support, everyone can be numerate.

‘The Elephant in the Classroom’ is a key text for National Numeracy. We constantly strive to fight negative attitudes towards maths, and the stereotype that maths is a ‘can or can’t do’ exercise. Challenging attitudes to maths is a core part of our work and the research within this book informs our approach.

Boaler, Jo. 2010. The Elephant in the Classroom: Helping Children Learn and Love Maths. Souvenir Press Limited.

elephant in the class room - helping children

Jo Boaler outlines the crisis in maths education and proposes ways to excite and motivate pupils about the subject. Concrete solutions include: classroom approaches, strategies for pupils, advice for parents and ways that parents can work with teachers. 

Boaler covers many aspects of maths – from why we need it, to what’s going wrong in classrooms, to gender stereotypes and suggestions for giving children the best start in maths. 

One of the biggest problems with maths teaching in England ‘is the desire of many maths teachers to label children, assign them a level, and prejudge their achievement’, additionally, teachers have been subject to many government directives telling schools to target, label, and test children endlessly. One of the results of our target culture is that maths has been reduced to a ‘can or can’t do’ exercise. 

Boaler makes many suggestions for teachers, particularly encouraging communication and group work within maths classes. Boaler also offers advice for parents, recommending puzzles, activities, websites and books, and encouraging parents to get involved at school and talk to their child’s teachers. Her advice and support for parents has heavily informed our parental engagement project, where we encourage parents to help their child see the maths in everyday life, and do problem solving activities with their child whenever possible. 

Buy the book