Tag Archives: growth mindset

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.


Project Based Learning Resources

An article I wrote called, “25 Creative Ways to Incorporate More Project Based Learning in the Classroom” has just been published. There are lots of great resources – even if you aren’t ready to try PBL  quite yet.  You can check it out here.

With Math I Can

Jo Boaler, Professor of Math Education at Stanford University, and Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology (also at Stanford) have teamed up with several industry partners, including Amazon, to launch an initiative called, “With Math I Can.”  Dweck’s name will sound familiar to those of you who have heard of “Growth Mindset,” and Boaler specifically promotes the importance of having a growth mindset in math.

I’ve mentioned YouCubed.org (one of Boaler’s many projects) on this blog a few times due to its great resources for teaching students how to have a healthy attitude about math.  With Math I Can has a similar purpose, but seems to be targeting a larger audience as it encourages you to take the following pledge:

Pledge from "With Math I Can"
Pledge from “With Math I Can

The site gives video resources for the classroom, your district, and home that include the recent set of “Big Ideas” videos from Class Dojo, along with the statistics and brain research that explain why we need to teach students that math is accessible to everyone.  The introduction video on the home page can be used to inspire teachers and parents to think carefully about the messages we send about our own attitudes toward math.

Hopefully, initiatives like “With Math I Can” will help young people to stop saying, “I’m just not good at math,” to “I’m just not good at math, yet.”

Class Dojo Big Ideas, Season 2

Class Dojo recently released a series of Growth Mindset animated videos that are great for elementary school students.  Last night, Season Two’s first video was published – “Katie Discovers the Dip.” Season Two continues to teach about Growth Mindset, showing students how to use a Growth Mindset to deal with disappointments and challenges.  For all of the Class Dojo Big Ideas videos as well as discussion guides, click here.

image from Katie Discovers the Dip by Class Dojo
image from Katie Discovers the Dip by Class Dojo

And if you would like even more Growth Mindset resources, check out this Pinterest Board.

The Magic of Mistakes

Class Dojo is creating a series of animated videos for young students to promote a Growth Mindset.  “The Magic of Mistakes” is the second video to be published, and I think it has a great message for your students.  While we don’t want our students to be afraid of making mistakes, we need to be careful about the way we emphasize the importance of mistakes.  Mistakes can be good – but only if you learn from them.  Mojo’s friend, Katie, helps to make that distinction in “The Magic of Mistakes.”

There is a short discussion guide that you can download for the video, which includes questions for parents and students to think about at home.  Class Dojo will be releasing a video for this series once a week for the next three weeks, so be sure to stay tuned!

For more Growth Mindset resources, check out this Pinterest Board, which includes videos that are appropriate for students of all ages (including adults!).

screen shot from Class Dojo's "Magic of Mistakes" video
screen shot from Class Dojo’s “Magic of Mistakes” video

Start 2016 with a Growth Mindset

Modeling and teaching my students about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset has resulted in huge shifts in thinking in my classroom over the past few years.  I have witnessed amazing changes in some of my students who often avoided risks because they were fearful of appearing unintelligent.  Those who have been on the same journey with me for the last three years now embrace challenges, learning from mistakes, and perseverance.

Teachers don’t often get to witness positive outcomes that result from their guidance, but it has been gratifying to see the effects of promoting a growth mindset in my classroom.  If you have not introduced this to your students, I strongly urge you to make a commitment to do it in 2016.

I’ve shared a lot of growth mindset resources on this blog, which you can find here.  Over the past couple of weeks I have run across some more:

  • Thanks to @shellterrell, I learned that Larry Ferlazzo shared this new RSA film that animates one of Carol Dweck’s fascinating speeches about the impact of having a growth mindset.  It is a good film to show adults and older students (I plan to show it to my 4th and 5th grade GT students).
  • This article speaks about “What Growth Mindset Can Teach Us About Our Brains,” and reminds us of some of the pitfalls some of us succumb to when we try to simplify the effect of a growth mindset.
  • Research shows how detrimental it can be to praise our students by saying, “You are so smart!”  Head on over to the Schoolhouse Divas blog to see a free downloadable poster of alternative phrases for giving students positive feedback.
  • Edudemic recently published an article by Sarah Muthler on, “Why a Growth Mindset is Crucial to Learning,” that gives a good summary about growth mindset for those who may just be beginning to learn about growth and fixed mindsets.

After looking at these resources, I hope that you will make the resolution to model and teach a growth mindset to your students and/or your own children.