• January, 2016     -    How can parents help their children to be successful in math? by Jo Boaler, Stanford Math Professor

    Here is some advice adapted and excerpted from information on the youcubed website:
    1. Encourage children to play math puzzles and games. … Puzzles and games – anything with dice, really – will help kids enjoy math, and develop number sense, which is critically important.
    2. Always be encouraging and never tell kids they are wrong when they are working on math problems. Instead find the logic in their thinking … .
    3. Never associate math with speed. It is not important to work quickly, and we now know that forcing kids to work quickly on math is the best way to start math anxiety for children, especially girls.
    4. Never share with your children the idea that you were bad at math at school or you dislike it – especially if you are a mother. Researchers found that as soon as mothers shared that idea with their daughters, their daughters’ achievement went down.
    5. Encourage number sense … having an idea of the size of numbers and being able to separate and combine numbers flexibly … .
    6. Perhaps most important of all – encourage a “growth mindset” – let students know that they have unlimited math potential and that being good at math is all about working hard… use growth praise such as “It is great that you have learned that;” “I really like your thinking about that;” “You have worked really hard to learn that.”
    For more information on this topic: http://edsource.org/2016/stanford-professor-urges-teachers-to-rethink-math-instruction/93376

     October, 2015

    Shifting Students from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset in Math

                In this article in Education Week, Evie Blad reports on how students’ mindsets can have a direct impact on achievement in mathematics. “A blend of family attitudes, cultural ideas, and frustration often leads students to believe that math ability is a fixed trait like eye color,” she says. “They believe they are either born with the skills necessary to succeed in math class or they’re not.” Researchers say teachers can attack this deep-seated problem in three ways:

                • Explicitly teaching the growth mindset. Students need to be told repeatedly that math is no more difficult than other subjects, that mistakes are a normal part of learning, and that they haven’t failed if they can’t quickly solve a problem using a prescribed algorithm. Stanford University’s Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS) has released a series of online courses about mindset for teachers and parents with videos, exercises, and sample lesson plans (https://www.mindsetkit.org). A key mindset-shifting concept is that if something feels hard, that’s a sweet spot for learning, and persevering through the difficult part will yield big gains. “When you just focus on getting to the answer,” says Palo Alto teacher Mari Montoy-Wilson, “you really rob kids of grappling and working on that sweet spot. You don’t want to scaffold or carry the load too heavily for your kids.”

                • Teaching math differently. An essential companion to weaning students from the fixed mindset is presenting problems in a way that develops conceptual understanding versus speedy solving of problems using memorized algorithms. This dovetails nicely with the Common Core emphasis on sense-making, abstract reasoning, developing strategies to use math concepts, and critiquing others’ reasoning. This kind of math helps students escape the I-got-it-wrong-and-therefore-I’m dumb-at-math syndrome and prepares them for success in the upper grades – as well as for using math in their everyday lives. An example: a traditional perimeter problem asks students to find the perimeter of a rectangle 10 inches long and 6 inches wide. A conceptual problem asks students to draw two rectangles that have a perimeter of 32 inches and explain how they arrived at their answer. Another “open” problem for high-school students: figure out how many baseballs it would take to fill a classroom. Mariel Triggs, a San Francisco teacher who has used this problem, says, “I get these students and they will say, ‘I am not good at math,’ and I began to realize that what they were really saying was, ‘I don’t know how to do the problem in front of me.’ I frame it like a fun puzzle.”

                • Teachers exploring their own mindsets. “Teachers love the idea of mindsets as almost a panacea,” says University of Texas professor Philip Uri Treisman, “but they themselves have very fixed ideas of their own learning.” Many learned math the traditional way and need support to shift to a more conceptual approach. Teachers should practice their own sense-making and model it for their students. If math were music, says Treisman, the traditional approach would be learning scales and the new approach would be playing songs.


    “Teachers Nurture Growth Mindset in Math” by Evie Blad in Education Week, September 9, 2015 (Vol. 35, #3, p. 1, 10-11), www.edweek.org

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