Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mathematical Mindsets: Chapter 1

Today marks the start of a collaborative book study I am participating in with 12 other bloggers focusing on the book Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. This idea of mindset has sparked a lot of discussion in the world of mathematics education since the book's publication earlier this year. 

This work began with Carol Dweck's research detailed in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success published in 2006. Dweck's work revealed that we all have a mindset-- a core belief about how we learn. (Boaler, 2016). People with a growth mindset believe that smartness increases with hard work, whereas those with a fixed mindset believe that you can learn things but you can't change your basic level of intelligence" (Boaler, 2016, p. x). This idea of mindsets, then, becomes incredibly important for educators because the research conducted by Dweck and Boaler reveal that different mindsets "lead to different learning behaviors" and, in turn, "different learning outcomes for students" (p. x). 

The driving force behind this book pushes us to understand the power of mindsets and how we, as educators, can use them to change our students' learning pathways and allow them the opportunity to achieve higher levels of success. Join me each week as I, and my fellow bloggers, explore each new chapter of the book. And, if you're really interested, grab a copy and read along with us! Happy Reading!

Chapter 1 Summary

As we encounter new ideas, electric currents begin to fire in our brains making connections between the various areas and regions-- the more complex and intense the new learning, the more lasting the connections will be. This lays the foundation for our work with students; if we provide them with the tools they need to successfully accomplish more complex tasks, they will foster a growth mindset and believe that they can be successful mathematicians. 

My Big Takeaway

There are two types of mindsets: fixed and growth. Students who shut down when they reach their frustration point because they foster a belief that being good at math is an intelligence which you obtain at birth have a "fixed mindset." On the other hand, students with a "growth mindset" believe that the intelligence needed to be successful in mathematics can be gained through effort.

Ways to Use this New Knowledge to Support Our Students in the Classroom

1. Provide short, prolonged opportunities to interact with new skills so that students' brains have the opportunity to make connections and change structurally. 

2. Foster a belief that no one is born "good at math." Rather, emphasize the idea that making mistakes is part of the learning process and how we growth as mathematical thinkers.

3. Provide feedback that is related to actions and not student characteristics. For example, say, "Your work shows that you thought a great deal about how to approach this problem" instead of, "You are so good at this!"  

As teachers, understanding mindsets is a powerful way to begin a new year with our students. Not only will it help us understand our own mindset about mathematics, it will help us understand how the way we think about and teach mathematics can play a deeper role in what our students take away with them at the end of our time together. 

       Sound Off! How will this idea of a fixed/growth mindset change your classroom for this next school year?
  • Boaler, J. (2016). Mathematical Mindsets. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass 
  • Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House. 


  1. Love your post! I hope the more I read about the same topic (mindset), the deeper it will become ingrained! I'm going to be much more conscious and intentional about my feedback to students!

  2. Love your post! I hope the more I read about the same topic (mindset), the deeper it will become ingrained! I'm going to be much more conscious and intentional about my feedback to students!

  3. Great post! I dabbled in fixed/growth mindset last year at the beginning of the year, but this year I really want to work on it intentionally in all areas and especially in math!

  4. I enjoyed reading your post. Fostering a belief that no one is born "good at math" really resonated with me. I know how important this is, but, oh boy, this is sometimes tough to change especially with the messages students get from so many different outlets.

  5. I really like this post. It has made me think about how to foster this in my classroom right as we head back to school! I will be checking out your other posts on this as well! Thanks for sharing and I'll be sharing it on my Facebook page next week too!

    Julie from The Best Days!