Jo Boaler (born 18 February 1964)[1] is a British education author and Nomellini-Olivier Professor of Mathematics Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.[2] Boaler is involved in promoting reform mathematics and equitable mathematics classrooms.[3][4] She is the co-founder and faculty director of youcubed[5] a Stanford centre that offers mathematics education resources to teachers, students and parents. She is the author, co-author or editor of eighteen mathematics books, including Limitless Mind,[6] Mathematical Mindsets,[7] The Elephant in the Classroom [8] and What's Math Got To Do With It?.[9][10]

Jo Boaler
Born (1964-02-18) 18 February 1964 (age 60)
England, United Kingdom
Alma materLiverpool University
King's College London
Scientific career
FieldsMathematics education
InstitutionsStanford University
Doctoral advisorPaul Black
Mike Askew

Early Life and Education

Jo Boaler grew up outside of Birmingham England. Her mother was a secretary, and her father was a technical draftsman. Boaler's early math classes were largely mundane until an iconoclastic teacher introduced her class to a more nurturing and collaborative way to learn math.[11] Boaler received a Bachelors in Psychology from Liverpool University in 1985.[2][10] Boaler then began her career as a secondary mathematics teacher in urban London secondary schools, including Haverstock School, Camden.[10] After her early career in secondary mathematics education, Boaler received a master's degree in Mathematics Education from King's College London with distinction in 1991. She completed her PhD in mathematics education at the same university and won the award for best PhD in education from the British Educational Research Association in 1997.[12]

Academic career

Early career

During the early part of Boaler's career, she conducted longitudinal studies of students learning mathematics through different approaches. Her first three-year study in England was published as "Experiencing School Mathematics: Teaching Styles, Sex, and Setting."[13] In 1998, Boaler became an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University in the Graduate School of Education.[10] She became an associate professor in 2000 and left as a full professor in 2006.[10]

In 2000, she was awarded a Research on Learning Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a longitudinal study in California.[14][11] Boaler's NSF funded study would come to be known as the Railside study and studies the outcomes acros three schools in northern California. The goal of the study was to compare the impact of traditional math curriculum with the reform curriculum. The findings were published in 2008.[15] The findings were promising and were used to support further reform efforts.[11]

Stanford mathematician R. James Milgram, CSULA professor Wayne Bishop, and statistician Paul Clopton investigated Boaler's claims and wrote an essay stating that her claims were exaggerated.[15][16] In 2006, Milgram accused Boaler of research misconduct. Stanford's investigation concluded by acknowledging ongoing debates in mathematics education and absolving Boaler of scientific misconduct stating that "Dr. Boaler's responses to the questions put to her related to her report were thorough, thoughtful, and offered her scientific rationale for each of the questions underlying the allegations. We found no evidence of scientific misconduct or fraudulent behavior related to the content of the report in question. In short, we find that the allegations (such as they are) of scientific misconduct do not have substance".[17][11]

Return to England

In 2006 Boaler left Stanford for the UK. She was awarded a posting as the Marie Curie professor at Sussex University by the Marie Curie Foundation.[18] While in England, Boaler authored two books, What's Math Got To Do With It? and The Elephant in the Classroom.[9][8]

Return to California

In 2010, Boaler returned to Stanford and resumed her position as Professor of Mathematics Education.[10] In 2013, Boaler taught the first Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on mathematics education, called "How to Learn Math".[19][20] Its purpose was to educate teachers and parents about a new way of teaching math to help students overcome their fear of math while improving their academic performance.[21] Over 40,000 teachers and parents participated, with about 25,000 completing the full 2-to-16-hour course.[22] At the end of the course, 95% of survey respondents indicated that they would modify their ways of teaching math.[19]"How to Learn Math". Stanford Lagunita. Archived from the original on 6 June 2019.</ref>

In addition to focusing on inquiry-based learning,[17] Boaler's research has highlighted the problems associated with ability grouping in England and the US.[23][24][25] In 2012, Boaler published articles on the links between timed testing and math anxiety.[26] Boaler had conducted research on mathematics, mistakes, and growth mindset.[27] In 2012 Boaler published an article on her Stanford homepage, accusing Milgram, Bishop (and others) of harassment, persecution, and suppression.[28] Bishop and Milgram each issued rebuttals.[29][30]

In 2013, Boaler founded with Cathy Williams, former director of Mathematics in the Vista Unified School District.[5] The mission of the site is to offer inspirational mathematics resources for mathematics teachers.[31]

In 2014, the San Francisco Unified School District updated its math program, including removal of algebra from their public middle schools. The effort removed honors classes and accelerated math, placing all students into the same curriculum based on grade.[32] The replacement curriculum was heavily based on Boaler's work, and had groups of students work through a series of math tasks.[32] In an Op-Ed signed by Boaler and several colleagues, the group praised the effort, claiming the repeat rate for 9th grade algebra dropped from 40% to 8%.[33] However, a school district spokesperson reportedly later clarified that those numbers were not related to curriculum changes, but rather it was a "one-time major drop" that occurred when placement tests were removed.[11]

As Common Core was being launched in 2015, Boaler pointed out that fluency is often taken to mean memorization and speed.[34] This ignited a controversy in England, prompting Charlie Stripp, director of England's National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics to respond in an op-ed.[35][36]

2023 California Math Framework

Boaler is one of the original authors[37][38] of the California Department of Education's controversial Mathematics Framework.[39] Based on the work Boaler and Youcubed, among others,[11][40] the framework faced considerable criticism and pushback.[41][42] Following years of delays[43] the framework was finally approved in July 2023 by the state board of education[44] after changes recommended by WestEd were integrated into the document.[38]

In March 2024 an anonymous complaint was sent to Stanford's dean of research alleging Boaler had violated the research policies of the university.[45] Boaler's work on the 2023 revision of the California Math Curriculum Framework was alleged to contain numerous misrepresentations and inaccuracies. In response, Boaler said that the accusations demonstrated "a lack of understanding of educational research protocols and processes."[46] As with the earlier complaint from 2006, the university declined to investigate the matter, stating that the allegations were reviewed and they "reflect scholarly disagreement and interpretation."[47]

Awards and honors

  • 2000 – 2004 President: International Organisation of Women and Mathematics Education (IOWME)[citation needed]
  • 2014 NCSM (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics) Kay Gilliland Equity Award[48]
  • 2016 The California Mathematics Council Walter Denham Memorial Award for Leadership[49]
  • 2019 The Nomellini-Olivier Endowed Chair[50][2]


  1. ^ Birth year from Library of Congress authority control file. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c GSE News 2019.
  3. ^ Boaler 2002.
  4. ^ Stanford 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Our Team". youcubed. Stanford Graduate School of Education.
  6. ^ Boaler 2019.
  7. ^ Boaler & Dweck 2015.
  8. ^ a b Boaler 2010.
  9. ^ a b Boaler 2009.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Faculty profile for Jo Boaler". Stanford University. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Lee 2023.
  12. ^ "Jo Boaler". Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. Stanford Graduate School of Education. 8 October 2012. Archived from the original on 11 December 2015.
  13. ^ Boaler 1997.
  14. ^ NSF 2000.
  15. ^ a b Boaler & Staples 2008.
  16. ^ Bishop, Clopton & Milgram 2012.
  17. ^ a b Jaschik 2012.
  18. ^ Boaler, Jo. "Profile Page". University of Sussex. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  19. ^ a b Boaler 2013a.
  20. ^ Johnston 2014.
  21. ^ Rabinovitz 2013.
  22. ^ Stanford 2013.
  23. ^ Boaler 2013b.
  24. ^ Benn 2011.
  25. ^ Boaler 2005.
  26. ^ Boaler 2012a.
  27. ^ Rushowy 2013.
  28. ^ Boaler 2012b.
  29. ^ Bishop & Milgram 2012.
  30. ^ Milgram 2012.
  31. ^ "Our Mission". youcubed. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  32. ^ a b Sawchuk 2018.
  33. ^ Boaler et al. 2018.
  34. ^ Scott 2018.
  35. ^ Barshay 2015.
  36. ^ Stripp 2015.
  37. ^ Hong 2021.
  38. ^ a b Fensterwald 2023.
  39. ^ Aleksey 2022.
  40. ^ Reich 2024.
  41. ^ Fortin 2021.
  42. ^ Blume & Watanabe 2023.
  43. ^ Fensterwald 2022.
  44. ^ Miolene 2023.
  45. ^ Lee 2024.
  46. ^ Grossman & Lencki 2024.
  47. ^ Reich 2024b.
  48. ^ "Kay Gilliland Gallery of Awardees". NCSM. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  49. ^ "Walter Denham Memorial Award". California Mathematics Council. Archived from the original on 4 December 2022. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  50. ^ "Carnegie Announces the Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Chair". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 23 May 2017. Retrieved 4 December 2022.


Further reading