Let’s talk growth mindset.  Last week in the Math TA PD we discussed our OPA Mathematics Mission statement that is tied to the idea of growth mindset.  The Statement is:

We are working to help students understand how Mathematics can be flexible, and achievable for all students.  We learn from our mistakes, we make corrections where we need, we seek understanding when we struggle, we use positive language, and WE DON’T GIVE UP!

Growth mindset is a much talked about topic in education these days, and has been for a while.  There is some excellent research behind the beliefs associated with growth mindsets.  In mathematics the growth mindset is challenging, as the fixed mindsets related to mathematics are woven in the threads of society.  Almost everyone out there has had a negative experience with math, and they will tell you about it.  Most people see math as a subject that is bogged down with quick math facts, rigid rules, theorems, and processes. If you happen to not be fast with facts or you don’t know the rules or processes, you are doomed to fail in math. This is an example of what we call a fixed mindset. Why try? We are just going to fail anyway.  We are really working on trying to move away from this type of attitude in our mathematics classrooms, and in education in general.   Mathematics instruction should be less about processes, and more about discovery.  Research shows us that when mistakes are made brain activity spikes.  This is the best time to learn.  I would encourage you to try to create opportunities for students to make mistakes, and discover things about the math they are learning.  Here is an example of a problem given in a 6th grade math supplement (We also did this in our Math TA training.):

Here are two math sentences:  5 + 3 x 2 + 10 = 26    and     5 + 3 x 2 + 10 = 21  Tell me if both answers are reasonable, and if you come up with another reasonable answer, we will put it on the board.

What was interesting is that most of the students did not engage at all at first.  They, like many of our students, were waiting for me to teach them some process by which to solve the problem.  However, that was not the question.  I was not asking for a correct answer, I was asking about reasonable answers.  This led to a rich discussion in the group.  Once everyone was engaged and agreed they had all done math correctly, but had also came up with different answers, their brains were ready for growth about the subject of Order of Operations.  Curiosity was sparked, and we capitalized on the conflict to learn.  Not all math subjects lend so easily to this type of discussion; I get that.  Still, I challenge you to create these type of opportunities to learn the mathematics you are trying to instruct.  Click the link below to learn more about growth mindset.




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