One of my areas of passion as an educator is helping students develop a growth mindset. I first stumbled across the idea of fixed vs growth mindsets when I read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Since then, I have tried many different strategies in my classroom to develop an awareness and educate my students about the importance of having a growth mindset. As both a science and math educator, I have felt a strong need to educate mathematics students about fixed and growth mindsets. In my experience, it is much more common for students to have a fixed mindset in math than in my science courses.
A fixed mindset occurs when someone thinks that their ability or intelligence in an area is static. For example, they may feel that they are not a “math person” and therefore are not interested in putting forth much effort. Or, they may feel that they are “smart” when it comes to math and may actually be fearful of being challenged or making a mistake as it may challenge their identity as a strong math student and/or make them appear less “smart”.
In contrast, students with a growth mindset understand that they learn when they make mistakes. They also understand that the more they challenge themselves, the more confident and capable they will become.
If you are interested in learning more, here are some great resources:
- I show this video to my math classes on the first or second day of school: A Math Major Talks about Fear. I think it sets the tone for developing a safe classroom in which students can take risks and ask for help.
- I also have my students complete this free online course offered by Stanford: How to Learn Math: For Students. It is also a great course to recommend to interested parents. It is made up of the following short modules: Knocking Down the Myths About Math; Math and Mindset; Mistakes and Speed; Number Flexibility, Mathematical Reasoning and Connections; Patterns and Representations; and Math in Life, Nature and Work.
- There is also a teacher version of this course: How to Learn Math for Teachers that is more comprehensive. It used to be free but now costs $125 (or less if 5 or more teachers sign up together!) It is worth the cost – I was so inspired by this course.
- In general, I have been incredibly inspired by Jo Boaler, who is the professor in the Stanford online course. I LOVED her book What’s Math Got to do With it?: How Teachers and Parents can Transform Mathematics Learning and Inspire Success. She has a newer book that I have not read yet, called Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching.
- youcubed is a site that Jo Boaler started. It is a growing site with great resources, including the Week of Inspirational Math.
- If you like TED talks, Carol Dweck talks about The Power of Believing That You Can Improve.
- Very cool Star Wars posters about the 8 CCSS Math Practices and Growth vs Fixed Mindsets have been appreciated by many of my students.
- Edutopia has a great article called Resources for Teaching Growth Mindset that is full of amazing links.
If you are new to the idea of growth mindset, I highly encourage you to educate yourself so that you can start to make small changes in your classroom. I work at an international school where math is highly valued. Even still, every year, there are at least 1 or 2 students who seem to really transform; they become more engaged and much more confident in math. Encouraging growth mindsets in my math classroom inspired me and has improved learning for ALL of my students. I hope you have the same experience 🙂