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The Mindset Revolution: Teaching mathematics for a growth mindset Jo Boaler Professor of Mathematics Education Stanford University.

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Presentation on theme: "The Mindset Revolution: Teaching mathematics for a growth mindset Jo Boaler Professor of Mathematics Education Stanford University."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Mindset Revolution: Teaching mathematics for a growth mindset Jo Boaler Professor of Mathematics Education Stanford University

2 Carol Dweck, 2006, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

3 The myth of mathematics Being good at math is a gift – some people are naturally good at math, some are not

4 Shake It Up Chicago

5 Hollywood



8 Brain Plasticity

9 When learning happens … A synapse fires

10 Synapses are like footprints in the sand – the brain follows the footprints and makes them deeper the more they are followed

11 Plasticity Learning creates and strengthens synapses The plasticity of the brain means that these connections grow into adult-hood If Pathways arent followed they may be discarded use it or lose it

12 Brain growth

13 London Black Cab Drivers

14 The Knowledge – 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks

15 Brain Growth London taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus than London bus drivers

16 A 6-year old girl Had half of her brain removed Amazed doctors and scientists - within months she had recovered functions from the missing side of the brain

17 Neuroplasticity refers to the life­long capacity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to learning and experience.

18 We know taking advanced math classes is the best predictor for success in college. Nothing would make us happier than being able to produce only graduates that have calculus on their transcripts! However, brain theory supports the reality that confounding student situations interfere with their ability to focus and succeed as they move through advanced mathematics in high school. We live in an affluent community. Most of our students are fortunate to come from families where education matters and parents have the means to support and guide their children in tandem with us their teachers. Not all of them. We are concerned about the others who for reasons that are often objective (poor math background, lack of support at home, low retention rate, lack of maturity etc) cannot pass our Algebra II regular lane course. Many of them are VTP students or under-represented minorities. Others are serious, committed special ed students (etc) From a local, public high school math dept in 2012

19 Brain research tells us: Every child can excel in mathematics in school, from elementary to high school

20 Ability? Each new learning experiences changes your ability. We use fixed ability language all the time – high and low kids etc

21 Laurent Schwartz A Mathematician Grappling with his Century..I was always deeply uncertain about my own intellectual capacity; I thought I was unintelligent. And it is true that I was, and still am, rather slow. I need time to seize things because I always need to understand them fully. Even when I was the first to answer the teacher's questions, I knew it was because they happened to be questions to which I already knew the answer. But if a new question arose, usually students who weren't as good as I was answered before me. Towards the end of the eleventh grade, I secretly thought of myself as stupid. I worried about this for a long time. I never talked about this to anyone, but I always felt convinced that my imposture would someday be revealed: the whole world and myself would finally see that what looked like intelligence was really just an illusion. If this ever happened, apparently no one noticed it, and Im still just as slow. (...)At the end of the eleventh grade, I took the measure of the situation, and came to the conclusion that rapidity doesn't have a precise relation to intelligence. What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other. This is where intelligence lies. The fact of being quick or slow isn't really relevant. Naturally, it's helpful to be quick, like it is to have a good memory. But it's neither necessary nor sufficient for intellectual success.

22 How important are the ideas that students hold about ability?

23 Carol Dweck: Mindset Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. (2007) Fixed - math ability is a gift Growth – math ability or smartness grows with experience Growth mindset behaviors – persistence, learn from mistakes, determination to keep going, encouraged by others success Affects students from across the achievement spectrum Role of parents in encouraging fixed mindset

24 7 th grade students with a growth mindset outperform those with a fixed mindset in math

25 The impact of a mindset intervention (same math teacher, same curriculum)

26 Research on Mindset and equity African American students show sharpest increase in grades and valuing school A growth mindset eliminates any gender gaps eg in highest SAT levels

27 Mindset and gender High achieving 5 th grade girls did not cope well with challenge The higher their IQ the more difficulty they had, in boys the reverse was true At the end of 8 th grade there was a gender gap but only among fixed mindset students

28 Mindset and gender Calculus at Columbia Stereotyping is alive and well Stereotyping only affected those with a fixed mindset, their confidence eroded over the semester and they abandoned plans to pursue STEM subjects

29 Implications Seeing math as a gift not only makes students vulnerable to lack of confidence but vulnerable to stereotypes too Having a growth mindset is what we want all teachers and all students to have

30 The big message Intelligence is malleable, but … Students, teachers, schools, parents treat math learners as though it is relatively fixed Brainstorm with others around you - which aspects of schools / math teaching encourage a FIXED mindset? Choose your top 3

31 Messages Mindset + Math Messages mistakes grading & feedback grouping tasks questions asked norm setting What has mindset got to do with my math teaching?

32 Today - mindset Grouping Classroom Math Tasks Assessment & Grading Mistakes Messages

33 Ability Grouping Burris, C., Heubert, J., & Levin, H. (2006). Accelerating Mathematics Achievement Using Heterogeneous Grouping. American Educational Research Journal, 43 (1),

34 Ability Grouping In England researchers followed children through years 4 and 6 comparing those taught in sets with those grouped heterogeneously over the period of a year. Nunes, Bryant, Sylva & Barros, 2009

35 Classroom Math Tasks How do you maintain a growth mindset when math class is a series of closed questions that you get right or wrong?

36 Most math classrooms offer math as a performance subject not a learning subject. Rachel Lamberts 6 year old son: Math is too much answer time and not enough learning time Tasks need to give students the space to learn.

37 Growth Mindset Task Framework Task focuses on learning: opportunities to learn something rather than demonstrate what you know Openness - Ways of seeing - Multiple entry points - Multiple paths / strategies Clear learning goals and opportunities for feedback.

38 An example Comes from a 5 week algebra class I taught with graduate students in summer school Our goal: to teach algebra as a problem solving tool Underachieving 7 th, 8 th grade students Tasks – Ruth Parker, Mark Driscoll, SMILE, Points of Departure

39 How many blocks are in case 100? \

40 Sarah Kate Selling

41 Luke Jorge Carlos

42 Case n has ( n +1) 2 blocks Recursive pattern: +5, +7… Jorge Carlos Luke Case 1 Case 2 Case 3

43 Recognizing different ways of seeing

44 Explaining different ways of seeing

45 Resolving through connecting

46 A case: mathematical practices & heterogeneity Gauss What engages the students so strongly and for so long? And what does it have to do with growth mindset teaching?

47 3 boys video

48 When math tasks are opened for Different ways of seeing Different methods / pathways Different representations The opportunities for learning and developing a growth mindset are increased

49 1 ÷ 2/3 Cathy Humphreys, 7 th graders Connecting Mathematical Ideas – video cases Mathematics as sense-making which encourages: Different ways of seeing Different methods / pathways Different representations

50 Assessment &Grading Grades Diagnostic Feedback Diagnostic Feedback significantly higher Grades Diagnostic Feedback & Grades Diagnostic Feedback significantly higher (Butler)

51 Timed Tests?

52 From 1 st to 5 th grade A Timed Test of 50 questions to finish in 3 minutes

53 From neuroscience.. Math should never be associated with speed

54 From Sian Beilock:

55 no relation between stress and prior achievement Math stress cuts across the achievement spectrum –particularly affecting girls

56 From Sian Beilock:

57 4 th grade:






63 2 nd grade:







70 Every time a student makes a mistake in math they grow a new synapse (Carol Dweck) Mistakes

71 Every mistake grows a synapse Mistakes are good They are the time your brain is growing Students should be making mistakes Students hate making mistakes – because they have been brought up in a performance and not a learning culture Students & most teachers view them negatively

72 Reposition mistakes In classroom norms In 1:1 interactions

73 Messages (Geoff Cohen) I am giving you this feedback because I believe in you Resulted in significant achievement gains, again especially for minority students. My freshmen

74 What is the big messages or message(s) that the students took away?

75 Stanford freshmen

76 To conclude It is critically important that teachers and students are encouraged to develop a growth mindset The ideas I have shared for teaching and assessing are not new but the reason for implementing them – to develop growth mindsets - is an important impetus for change, and an idea that many teachers and schools understand The ways teachers teach math has huge implications for students mindsets

77 Udacity & Stanford MOOC Teaching Mathematics for the Common Core Talk no longer than 90 seconds before engaging the learner

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