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Growth Mindset in Math

Jan 24, 2019

Students arrive in our center with a wide variety of math experiences and beliefs about themselves as math thinkers. Their minds may be locked into false beliefs about their capacity to learn new math concepts and strategies.


What is the Growth Mindset?

Growth Mindset is a concept developed by Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, from decades of research on achievement and success in children and adults.

In a nutshell, growth mindset is the belief (based on years of research) that we are not born with a limited capacity to learn. But with hard work and perseverance, we can learn new concepts, skills, and strategies. Whereas a fixed mindset is based on the belief that we are born with a fixed intelligence, or capacity to learn.


Why is a Growth Mindset Important in Teaching Math?
If our mindset either encourages or discourages our effort to learn, then teaching the growth mindset has just become the most important thing to teach to the students.
 
It is vital for teachers/instructors/parents to guide them into understanding how to develop a growth mindset in math (as well as all other academic areas). It is vital because it will determine the amount of effort students will put into engaging and learning all those great math lessons, centers, and activities planned for them.
 
Teaching growth mindset creates the motivation and capacity to learn new things…
 
Helping our students develop a growth mindset is like helping them find the keys to unlock their brains. Here are some suggestions to help you give your students/kids the keys to unlock their brains.


1. Teach kids about their brain’s ability to grow

Dweck’s research shows that if students understand the workings inside their brains, they will actually learn more quickly.  They are more willing to put the effort into learning when they understand what is happening in their brains.

The book, My Fantastic Elastic Brain by Dr. Dweck is an engaging book about our brains and how we learn. It contains accurate information about the brain and how learning happens.

 

2. Model and praise mistakes as opportunities for brain growth

Another important aspect of developing a growth mindset is to view mistakes positively.

It’s important for kids to understand our brains learn more when we make mistakes. If we solve all the problems on our math homework correctly, without any struggle, we haven’t learned anything. We haven’t stretched or strengthened our brains at all.

Mistakes mean that we are learning! Our brains actually ‘light up’ with neuro-activity when we make a mistake.

3. Remove an emphasis on speed

Kids often have the impression that math is about one thing and one thing only: getting the right answer quickly. But if learning and teaching math was only about getting the right answer, there would be no point in it, because calculators can do that work for us.  

Evidence shows timed math tests increase kids’ anxiety and hatred of math. The pressure of finishing within a time limit can be so stressful, some kids develop severe math anxiety, which stays with them all their lives.

So instead of focusing on speed, focus on the process.


4. Be mindful of your own attitude towards math

Lastly, and probably most importantly, be especially mindful of your own views of math and the language you use to talk about it in front of your kids. Kids are watching and listening and learning from our example (whether we’re aware of it or not) and even subtle fixed mindset messages will come across to kids.