Tag Archives: growth mindset

Week of Inspirational Math #3

Earlier this summer I wrote about an inspiring session at ISTE co-presented by Jo Boaler and Alice Keeler. Boaler is dedicated to spreading the word that anyone can be a math person as long as you have a growth mindset and appropriate learning opportunities.  As a Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford, Jo Boaler co-founded youcubed.org, and has presented a new “Week of Inspirational Math” curriculum on the site annually for free for the last two years.  Week 3 has just been published on the site, and is ready for educators from K-12 to use.  Having used the Week 1 and Week 2 curriculums in the past, I would highly recommend that you begin your school year with one or all three of these sets of math lessons.  The activities are broken down into grade-level strands, so there is no need to fear that your Kindergarten children will be asked to solve high school equations. 🙂

This year’s lesson include videos, PDF’s, and even access to a program called “Polyup,” which you can learn more about here.

I have personally witnessed students who believe they are “bad at math” be successful with these activities and become excited about doing more.  Those who have had negative experiences learning math can turn these around with thoughtful conversation and the passion of a teacher who believes in them.   Put Week 3 of “Week of Inspirational Math” into your beginning of the year lesson plans, and watch as your students learn to love math!

math
image from Clement.sim on Flickr
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Make No Mistake About It

I’ve become a bit concerned with how the word “failure” has been flung around lately – as though it is something we should strive for and flaunt.  I understand the sentiment behind this – growth mindset, stepping outside our comfort zone, taking risks, etc…  But “failure” will never have anything but a negative connotation to me.  To me, it is synonymous with “loser” or “quitter,” and features prominently in the speech of bullies.

What I do want my students to understand is that they shouldn’t be so afraid of making mistakes that they become fearful of attempting new adventures.  I am careful with how I speak about this in class, though.  I don’t want students to feel like mistakes are a goal; they are simply a possible by-product of learning. (Notice that I say “possible,” not “necessary.”  Learning can happen without mistakes in many circumstances – so I think it is wrong to tell students mistakes are required in order to learn.)

The truth is that not all mistakes are equally valuable.  There are different types of mistakes as well as different types of reactions, and I want my students to understand that. That’s why I was really excited when I came across this article from “Mindset Works”.  It includes this great visual that I think really explains the classification of mistakes.

Types-of-Mistakes-Chart_v3.jpg

As you can see, the potential for learning exists in all mistakes, but “sloppy mistakes” (what I usually call “careless mistakes”) are probably not going to yield as much benefit as “stretch mistakes”.  According to the article, “Stretch mistakes happen when we’re working to expand our current abilities. We’re not trying to make these mistakes in that we’re not trying to do something incorrectly, but instead, we’re trying to do something that is beyond what we already can do without help, so we’re bound to make some errors.”

So, as we teach our students about growth mindset and the “Power of Yet,” I think it is important that we avoid glorifying failure.  Instead, we should help our students to understand that, though they shouldn’t be steering straight for mistakes, they should recognize the types of mistakes and always reflect on lessons that can be learned.

Class Dojo Mindfulness Series

The Class Dojo “Big Ideas” series is growing.  Up until now you could find videos on: Perseverance, Growth Mindset, Empathy, and Gratitude.  The latest theme is, “Mindfulness.”  So far, only the first video has been released.  In the past, the schedule has been to publish one per week.  As with the other videos, there are discussion questions to use after viewing the short video.  There is an also an option to share the video through “Class Story” with parents.  The first video is a timely one for me as my students are currently practicing presentations of their Genius Hour research.  I’m kind of curious to find out how Mojo solves his problem of “The Beast,” one that I grapple with quite a bit!

By the way, you can find more Growth Mindset videos and resources here.

mojo
Screen Shot from Class Dojo’s “Big Ideas” page

FIAT Contest/Celebration

Fish in a Tree, the awesome book by Lynda Mullaly Hunt that I reviewed here, has just come out in paperback.  The paperback includes the main character, Ally’s, complete Sketchbook of Impossible Things.  In honor of this, Hunt has launched a nationwide contest for students in 3rd-8th grades to create their own incredibly unique writing or artwork, photos of which must be received by May 12, 2017.  You can find all of the details, including the list of prizes, here.

Also, if you have time, Mrs. Hunt recently did a live webcast for School Library Journal, and I think that you can view the archive by registering here.  My 3rd graders and I watched it today, and found it very inspirational.  Mrs. Hunt talks about her own learning difficulties, the many real-life models for her characters, and how her long-term goals helped to keep her on track.  If you have spoken to your students about growth mindset and grit, then you will find her speech will really resonate with them!

Screenshot 2017-04-04 at 5.22.15 PM
New in paperback here!

The Boy Who Learned to Fly

Ever since watching “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” I have been a huge fan of Moonbot Studios.  In this video for Gatorade about Usain Bolt, Moonbot once again captures the imagination with vivid imagery and animation.  In seven minutes, the story of Bolt’s journey from a young boy in Jamaica to a world champion unfurls.  It’s inspirational and a fitting tribute to a man who literally lives up to his name.

For more inspirational videos, click here.

Screen Shot from The Boy Who Learned to Fly
Screen Shot from The Boy Who Learned to Fly

Week of Inspirational Math 2

I posted last year about the Week of Inspirational Math resources provided on YouCubed.org.  I used these with my 3rd grade class (there are versions for K-12), and the students really enjoyed this approach to math.  The set of activities and videos promotes a growth mindset in math, and I felt that it really set a great tone for the rest of the school year as we worked on challenges.

I’m happy to see that professor JoAnn Boaler and the team at YouCubed.org have produced Week of Inspirational Math 2, which looks just as promising as the WIM1.  The videos provided with this new WIM are a bit more fun, while still remaining faithful to the theory that anyone can be a math person.

Having personally experienced my own metamorphosis from “not a math person” to someone who excelled in math in high school, I am a firm believer that too many of us get caught in the myths and stereotypes that make us believe only a pre-determined group of people can understand math.  I have witnessed in my own classroom students who have given up on the subject and, with effort on both our parts, turned this fixed mindset around to become students who enjoy math.

If you have the opportunity to start your year with one or two weeks of Inspirational Math, I think you will find it is an excellent use of time that will pay off for the remainder of your school year.

from Week of Inspirational Math 2
from Week of Inspirational Math 2

The Bravery Deficit

In yesterday’s episode of TED Radio Hour, “Nudge,” one of the featured talks was by Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code.  In her TED Talk, Saujani speaks of our nation’s bravery deficit, saying that, “Our economy, our society, we’re just losing out because we’re not raising our girls to be brave.”

I listened to Reshma Saujani with interest, but froze when I heard her relate this anecdote from her experiences with Girls Who Code, “During the first week, when the girls are learning how to code,a student will call her over and she’ll say, ‘I don’t know what code to write.’ The teacher will look at her screen, and she’ll see a blank text editor. If she didn’t know any better, she’d think that her student spent the past 20 minutes just staring at the screen. But if she presses undo a few times, she’ll see that her student wrote code and then deleted it. She tried, she came close, but she didn’t get it exactly right.Instead of showing the progress that she made, she’d rather show nothing at all. Perfection or bust.”

The reason this example electrified me was because I had just witnessed the same phenomenon last week, but hadn’t recognized it.

During the “Undercover Robots Camp” session I held last week, the teams were tasked with programming their robots to “save” three plastic figures at various locations on the floor.  The groups immediately headed for the craft table to design augmentations for the robots to help pick up the plastic figures.

As I observed the groups, I noticed that a few of them felt the need to add more to their robots when they noticed their designs didn’t work.  They didn’t take things off – just kept adding things.  A couple of them began to look like robot anteater hybrids because the teams kept adding longer “scoopers” to the front, and I found it very intriguing that they never reflected on what might need to be changed or subtracted – just that they needed “more.”

Those groups, interestingly enough, were comprised almost entirely of boys (1 girl out of 7).  I had one all-girl group, who seemed to have the opposite strategy – do nothing.  They looked like they were doing something every time I strolled by the table, but nothing stayed on their robot, and they had not even begun the programming part of the task.

After a break, where I talked to all of the groups about really thinking about what might need to be changed instead of just randomly selecting new things to add to the robots, the other 3 groups took my suggestion to heart and began to modify their constructions.  The all-girl group continued to struggle.  I was concerned that they weren’t getting along with each other, and encouraged them to discuss their ideas, or maybe delegate tasks.   Nothing I could say seemed to help, though.

When time was up, the girls had nothing on their robot, and only a few lines of code.  I felt like I had failed in helping them, and I’m sure they didn’t feel too happy, either.

All weekend, I wondered how I could have handled the situation differently.  And then I heard Reshma Saujani.  I realized why my advice to those girls had been useless; I wasn’t addressing the real problem.  Although communication may have been a factor, the true issue was that they just couldn’t figure out how to do the task perfectly.

Now, I don’t believe that every girl strives for perfection and that boys never do.  But I have seen students of both genders who don’t know how to adjust to making mistakes; they treat errors like kryptonite.  As Reshma Saujani states, it is quite likely our society contributes to this type of mindset in girls – particularly by raising boys to be “rough and tumble” and girls to be “safe.”

If I could rewind back to last Friday, I would sit with those girls and ask for their ideas.  I would ask them to choose one to try, and we would try it together.  We would reflect on it afterward and make some changes to make it better.  I might even tell them about Reshma Saujani’s talk, and ask them what they think.

Just to be clear, I am not advocating for us to teach children to deliberately make mistakes or fail.  What we need to do is to teach them to deliberate thoughtfully, and to learn from imperfection rather than to be paralyzed by it.

Brave