Let’s play with the elephant

Posted by Marjan on Feb 16, 2016

I enjoyed watching the video and the animations are amazing. However, when watching it again I tried to focus on what was said instead of the animations. I have recently read Jo Boaler’s book and reread chapter 1. I would definitely recommend reading the whole book.
I found both the article and the video interesting and thought provoking. My first thoughts: this is daunting. Both video and article are about the need for change and I am still getting to grips with the system as it is? So lots to think about here. Maybe growing up in the Netherlands, gives me a different experience. Several times last week, a tutor commented on how my generation was taught maths the wrong way. Maybe the system in the Netherlands is different or maybe I just had the luck to have a brilliant teacher at secondary school. The Dutch primary system starts later with formal teaching in reading, writing and maths. There is a lot of emphasis on letting young children learn through play. Maybe we should let our big children play more too. Find out about the fun in maths. This comes back in the book too. Points I want to remember for teaching are to allow at least some time for problem solving, to encourage children to explore a problem themselves, conjecture, make guesses and discuss. A main point I agree with from book and video is the need for discussion and collaboration.
Reflecting on both items, I felt the book to have a more positive approach. Although there is criticism of the current system, the author tells us a lot about how positive changes can be made. And how you can implement these yourself as a teacher or a parent. I felt the video was very negative about the current system without offering alternatives. The analysis of our current system, the historical context and the ideas about convergent thinking are interesting. But I felt it just stopped there. There was no conclusion. Maybe that is they only way to try to revolutionize something. But for me, trying to become a teacher, not very helpful.
I disagree on the video’s sweeping general comments about ADHD. My best friend was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. The recognition, support to understand what this means and yes, the medication have helped her. She describes ADHD as having chaos in her head. Medication helps her create an order in this chaos which I, not having ADHD, have always taken for granted. It does not work as an anesthetic for her, quite the opposite. It is a lifelong disability and she is always confronted by it in how it limits her to achieve what she wants. Whether it is over diagnosed and/or overmedicated is debatable but the way this is presented in the video is insulting to those who suffer from it. The video states that the cases of ADHD have increased with standardized testing but does not give any statistical validation.


  1. pball1
    22 February 2016

    Some hugely valid points Marjan, I think a deeper discussion on how much the education system differs from the Netherlands and the UK would be a useful insight to us all. But how can we measure the relative successes of each system. As I have mentioned on some other comments, the difficulty is balancing efforts to build a teaching platform which can focus on our individual traits, but doing so in a cost effective manner. Whilst considering the Netherlands vs UK debate, it would be interesting to also compare methods within the private system.

  2. Charli
    22 February 2016

    Marjan, I’m so glad to hear somebody else not just assume ADHD as a excuse for naughty children. I feel that the video missed the point that maybe there were less diagnosed cases of ADHD as there wasn’t a formalised test. Much in the same way as dyslexia, which has much less of an argument against it, is much more accurately diagnosed and acknowledged. I was glad to see someone question the generalisations made, as you did. Good point- well made!!

  3. Ray
    22 February 2016

    It was interesting to hear about the Netherlands approach to teaching. I think you make valid points about the article being more positive than the video and the need for more discussion and collaboration.

  4. pepsmccrea
    23 February 2016

    Strong response to the articles presented. Great to hear you’ve already read Boaler!

    I agree that Sir Ken’s presentations lack any kind of advice on ‘what to do about it’, and it’s encouraging to see you be critical both of this and the general discourse being peddled here.

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