Growth mindset is more than just a catchphrase. It’s a powerful shift we can help students make so they can feel, and be, successful. And there are direct correlations between mindset and achievement.
What exactly is growth mindset?
Carol Dweck, the leading researcher in this groundbreaking work, defines growth mindset as “when students understand that their abilities can be developed,” (Dweck, 2014). It’s not about grit or effort. It’s about seeing learning as a process and recognizing that skills are developed over time.
When students (and adults) have fixed mindsets, we hear phrases like:
And when students start internalizing these beliefs, learning becomes an uphill battle. They create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our students believe they aren’t any good at math, don’t develop the ability to persevere, and unproductively struggle with the complexities of math as a result.
It’s not that they can’t do the math. It’s that they don’t believe they can.
This mindset becomes glaringly obvious when we present students with story problems. If there’s one thing all math teachers can agree on, it’s that story problems are the bane of their existence!
In last week’s blog, we looked at the Standards for Mathematical Practice and how they show up when students are using Structures of Equality to solve word problems. We know for students to engage in the behaviors of proficient mathematicians, mindset is key.
One of the reasons I created Structures of Equality is because I was tired of seeing kids internalize their struggles just because they weren’t given the proper tools to succeed. I knew there had to be a way to allow all students to access and comprehend word problems. A tool that could help students develop a growth mindset if they didn’t already have one.
I tried all the traditional approaches and had seen key words fail students time and time again. I watched students who had been excited and eager to learn become defeated over time. Their mindsets became fixed.
As a teacher, I look back on some of the mistakes I made. I wanted to see my kids succeed, so I gave them tips or tricks to get the “right” answer. Then told them how smart they were when they solved a problem correctly. Many teachers, with the best intentions, unknowingly hinder their students’ growth (like I did) by offering shortcuts and praising intelligence over effort.
In a study by Mueller and Dweck, they found the following:
If you are a Jo Boaler fan (I am), she talks about growth mindset a lot. The good news is that it’s never too late to develop it. But the longer we have a fixed mindset, the harder it is to overcome. And it’s particularly pervasive in math.
Luckily, there are loads of resources available. On Jo Boaler’s site, you can explore a plethora of tools to help you get started. When it comes to solving word problems, you can engage students in using Structures of Equality to comprehend and successfully tackle word problems. To help you get started, there are resources available on my website and more coming in my emails.
In closing, fostering growth mindset isn’t just an educational philosophy; it’s a fundamental shift in the way we approach learning. The path may be challenging, but with tools like Structures of Equality and the wisdom of researchers like Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler, we can guide students to view challenges as opportunities for growth. The first step is to embrace the potential in every student.
Renaissance. What is growth mindset? EdWord. URL: https://www.renaissance.com/edword/growth-mindset/#:~:text=without%20effort.%E2%80%9D%20(-,Dweck%2C%202015),essential%20for%20great%20accomplishment.%E2%80%9D%20(
Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 33–52. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.168