Tag Archives: mindset

Not a “Math Person”? Wrong!

When it comes to math and mindset, there are two #eduheroes I refer to on a regular basis:  Dr. Jo Boaler, who is a professor at Stanford and the genius behind the YouCubed website, and Alice Keeler, who many know to be a Google wizard but also has a published book called, Teaching Math with Google Apps: 50 G Suite Activities.  You can imagine my excitement, then, when I learned that they would be presenting a session together at ISTE. (Dr. Boaler joined us through Google Hangouts).

Dr. Boaler wrote the book, Mathematical Mindsets.  Not surprisingly, it includes a foreword by Carol Dweck, the leading expert on growth and fixed mindsets.  Dr. Boaler’s main points are that we need to value the different ways that people see math and have more class discussions about math – rather than repetitive questions on worksheets. According to her research, people become proficient in mathematics when their brains have the opportunity to make connections between visual and numerical representations – not because they are born “math people.”  The least effective way to teach math is through lecture, while the most effective is with Project and Problem Based Learning.

Both Boaler and Keeler agree that we need to dispel the myth that those who can do math quickly are better thinkers than those who reason through problems.  In fact, Boaler says, “I’m unimpressed that you worked through it quickly because that tells me that you are not thinking deeply.”

Another controversial topic we all agree on – homework.  Recent studies have shown that assigning elementary students homework is ineffective.  Boaler and Keeler (and I agree) both believe that this is true for all ages, particularly when the homework is a worksheet of repetitive practice.  A better way to think about math is to do an activity like the one below, where students think about one problem in multiple ways.


When an audience member asked about the problem of spending time on conversing about math when there is a scope and sequence to follow, both Keeler and Boaler expressed the feeling that it is actually a waste of time to “plow through” topics despite lack of understanding.  In Boaler’s words, “Pacing guides are the worst evil in education.” Amen!

Keeler shared several “Googlized” adaptations of activities from Boaler’s Week of Inspirational Math, including a nice Slides template for the Four 4’s challenge which includes links to individual slides for students to explain their work.  You can find links to more of Keeler’s templates in her presentation here.

Overall, I was so energized by this session that I was tripping over my words when I debriefed with my colleagues that evening.  I had stayed later just to attend this session, and it was definitely worth my time.  Thank you, Alice Keeler and Jo Boaler!

I want to close this post by helping Alice Keeler to honor her book’s co-author, Diana Herrington, a passionate math teacher who recently passed.  You can read more about Diana and her influence on Alice Keeler here.   One of many great quotes from Diana Herrington on Twitter collected by Alice Keeler is, ““I teach students not math.”

Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Fish in a Tree

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program.  Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.


When a new student entered our 3rd grade gifted and talented class this year a few weeks after we’d begun classes, I thought we might need to spend some time filling her in on what she had missed so far. I was wrong.  Growth mindset, the importance of stretching your brain, systems thinking – she had already covered these topics at her previous school.  One day, we were talking about how, if you don’t learn about how to deal with challenges you might begin to avoid them altogether because you don’t want people to think you aren’t smart and she said, “This reminds me of Fish in a Tree!”  She was so excited about the connection between this library book that she was reading and our discussion that I said, “I would like to read that book, too!”

“There’s extra copies in the library!” she exclaimed!

“Well, let’s all read it, then!” I said, completely caught up in her exuberance and not at all concerned that I had just committed our small class to reading a book that I hadn’t previewed yet and that the “recommender” hadn’t even finished.  We went straight to the library and checked it out.

My student was right.  Fish in a Tree is the perfect supplement to our classroom discussions.  In the story, the main character, Ally, covers up her difficulty with reading.  She eventually finds out, due to a dedicated teacher, that she has dyslexia.  Along the way, she learns that making good friends is more worthwhile than trying to fit in, and that her imagination, perseverance, and courage are truly admirable.

The other young characters in the story, especially the new friends that Ally makes, remind me of many of the students I’ve taught over the years.  Ally’s teacher exemplifies so many of the caring colleagues I have had the honor of working with during my career.

In the book, Ally’s use of figurative language – particularly similes – offers a lot of opportunities for discussion along with great mental images that make the story come to life.Fish in a Tree

If you are a parent, I encourage you to buy this book for your child, and read it together.  If you are a teacher, read it along with your class (and here are some classroom activities to go along with it).  It’s a heartwarming novel that emphasizes kindness, understanding, and individuality.


Don’t Try this With a Car

Thanks to my friend, Suzanne, for sharing this awesome video with me!

In this video from Smarter Every Day, the host, Destin, demonstrates what really happens when you actually try to change your mind.  I don’t mean when you switch to pizza instead of a hamburger.  I mean when you try to change something your mind has done the same way for decades, like riding a bike.  You will see the neuroplasticity of the brain in action, and realize that it takes a lot more work when you’re an adult than a child to create new paths in the brain.

Of course, you will immediately want to take the challenge of riding a backwards bike as soon as you watch the video.  If you are so inclined, you can buy your own for $500 at the Smarter Every Day shop.  There is a disclaimer, of course, that you will basically be paying a lot of money for a bike you won’t be able to ride…

Brain Bike Disclaimer from Smarter Every Day
Brain Bike Disclaimer from Smarter Every Day

I’m adding this video to my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board, and I’m going to use my left hand to click on the mouse. Baby steps…

Growth Mindset Memes

When I take a look at the stats for this blog lately, I see that my posts about growth mindset are getting more views than usual.  My hope is that this means that many teachers are getting ready to teach their students about having a growth mindset.  It’s important to read Carol Dweck’s recent statements, however, about how the message she intended to deliver regarding her studies on this subject can sometimes be diluted or even completely misrepresented.  Students may learn the language of growth mindset without really understanding the practice, especially if we don’t model it ourselves.

That being said, I came across a fun blog called, “Growth Mindset Memes,” by Laura Gibbs (@OnlineCrsLady).  She has taken some popular meme images and added her own captions, often paraphrasing or using famous growth mindset quotes. One of my favorites is this one:

from Growth Mindset Memes blog
from Growth Mindset Memes blog

Students love memes, so they will definitely be interested if you hang a few of these around the classroom.  You might also want to allow older students to make some of their own – perhaps after watching the Class Dojo mindset videos to summarize their learning.

If you need more ideas for teaching Growth Mindset, here is a link to my Pinterest board.

Austin’s Butterfly

My friend, Donna Lasher (@bdlasher), shared this video with me on Twitter earlier this week.  I was blown away by watching how constructive feedback from his peers was used to improve a student’s work dramatically.  In this video, you will see the power of a good critique as well as an excellent argument for giving students more time and options to do multiple drafts until they achieve mastery.  This is what Growth Mindset is all about.  (For more videos about Growth Mindset, click here.)

Screen Shot from Austin's Butterfly
Screen Shot from Austin’s Butterfly

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.”

You Know You’ve Succeeded When…

  • You run into a student who transferred to another school, and she says, “I love it. But there’s no Mrs. Eichholz.”
  • A Kinder who rides the bus you monitor finally remembers your name after 9 weeks of school and says with a big smile, “I was up all night thinking about your name. I didn’t go to sleep until eleven!”
  • A student who isn’t even in your class runs to hug you every time she sees you  – because you once told her teacher how polite she was to hold the door open.
  • Two 2nd grade students who think they’ve finished a project but still have time left, decide to add more details instead of just sitting there.
  • “Wait – we’re adding more details, that was my goal for today!” “Mine, too! We both went above and beyond!!” And they high-five each other.
  • You fall out of your chair and say, “That darn long skirt keeps getting caught in the wheels, ” and one of your students quietly observes, “It’s not a very good growth mindset to blame something else for your mistakes, Mrs. Eichholz.”
  • You go to bed at eleven thinking about all of the students who will eventually find a way to use your own teaching against you.
  • And you’re glad.

Every Moment