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October 11, 2019

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MRH Alum: Math Doesn't Have to be Daunting

Author Clark Hickman, "Learning Mathematics Successfully.""I'm just not a math person."

How many times have you heard that, or said it about yourself? Educational psychologist Clark J. Hickman aims to eliminate that attitude in his new book "Learning Mathematics Successfully." Hickman, MRH Class of 1971, cowrote the text with longtime math educator Helene J. Sherman, an emeritus professor in the College of Education at the University of Missouri St. Louis. Hickman is an associate research professor emeritus and associate dean emeritus at UMSL. His lifelong research interests have centered on the role of self-efficacy -- or, loosely, confidence -- in how teachers operate in the classroom. 

The book outlines four primary influences of self-efficacy on math learners:

- Enactive mastery: giving students the opportunity to solve the problem successfully. 

- Vicarious experience: demonstrating how an operation is performed (ideally, student-teaching-student.)

- Verbal persuasion: giving encouragement through positive words and reasons why math is important.

- Physiological states: looking for signs that a student is physically distressed or agitated.

Hickman and Sherman note that learners are posing a legitimate question when they ask "Why do I need to do this?" or, "so what?".  Boosting self-efficacy, they argue, hinges in part on a teacher's or parent's ability to convince a student that math concepts are useful tools in everyday life -- whether they realize it or not.   

"By providing skills in goal setting, awareness of strengths and weaknesses, tying success to effort and persistence, and valuing learning for learning's sake," writes Hickman, "we position our students to become self-directed lifelong learners empowered to meet whatever cerebral challenges lay ahead and whatever their future workforce or career demands of them."

Three years in the making, "Learning Mathematics Successfully" is Hickman's first book, but he has published more than a dozen articles and book chapters on teacher professional development, educational technology, and evaluation. 

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.