This web site continues to develop in various ways, thank's to everyone who takes the time to send in feedback, material, and even corrections. For example, users recently sent me student valentines to post and a pi-video to to watch.
Other users react to the content itself. For example, first re-read the News post of News Post on December 9, 2007. That same day, D.E. (Seattle) questioned the veracity of the study's results (and my spin on them), so I asked him to write a justification...and he did:
I’d have to look at the data, but the problem with the conclusion (“Make the students nervous…raise their scores”, or make the students confident and watch their scores go down), is that it’s assuming cause and effect. There are many possibilities:
Thanks, D.E. and others....
(1) Perhaps confidence affects student achievement.
(2)Perhaps student achievement affects confidence (once you really understand what’s going on, you realize how interesting and intricate mathematics is. Kind of the Socratesish “the wise man knows the least” idea.
(3) Perhaps there is a lurking variable that affects both. I think there’s a strong cultural/familial component at work which affects both confidence and the drive to be successful at school. In this instance, teachers who tried to make their students less confident would butt up against the familial messages and find it very challenging for the lack of confidence to take hold…and would probably confuse the students (or perhaps get the teacher fired).
If you want to show causation, you need to do an experiment. Take a group of students. Randomly assign them to one classroom where they are told they are doing well or another where they are given the opposite message. Keep it going long enough. Test them before the experiment, then test them afterwards. See if there’s a difference between the two groups in math improvement.