Mindset in Math

“I can’t do math.” How many of us have uttered that statement as a student? As a parent? As a teacher? It is not unusual to have grown up believing this very statement. Unfortunately, some of our students today believe that and categorize themselves into one of two groups; those who are good at math and those who are not. What exactly does a student mean when they say they are not good at math? Usually it just means, “I don’t know how to solve this problem,” but they then get themselves into a fixed mindset that does not allow them to move forward.


We now understand that math skills are not something we are born with. They are something we can nurture and improve upon. As educators, it is our responsibility to foster this growth mindset. Like throwing a ball, strumming a guitar, or learning to read, math takes time and practice to be successful. More importantly, understanding why we solve problems a particular way helps us to compute in new situations.


Erma Anderson, a math consultant, spent the week of September 21st working with K-12 math and science teachers. She helped us understand how to help students think and communicate mathematically. Erma strongly believes that the correct answer is far from the only goal in math. Research has shown that all students can demonstrate their understanding of the how and why behind numbers. Not just the what.


“We tend to believe what is wrong is wrong and what is right is right.” This is a quote from Dylan Wiliam, author of Embedded Formative Assessment. From the growth mindset perspective, perhaps we should look at what is wrong and use that as the learning opportunity.  After all, where do we grow from already knowing what is right? In the attached article from Education Week, a teacher talks about how she uses her favorite wrong answer-of-the-day to engage the thinking of her students.


If you are interested in learning more about the growth mindset, visit your ISB library, Office of Learning, or your CPL’s office to borrow a copy of Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset.


Education Week article –Teachers Nurture Growth Mindset in Math

Ted Talk – Carol Dweck: The Power of Believing You Can Improve

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