Thursday, February 2, 2017

Growth Mindset and Mathematics

What does a student's past expereince have to do with how they learn math today?  My past expereinces certainly shaped me and changed my mindset several times.

My  Math Story

I was told from a young age that I was gifted in math.  I learned math easily and was always ahead of my peers.  I can not ever remember struggling with a math problem until I was in fifth grade.  When I was a fifth grader, my teacher allowed me and another student to work on our own, starting at the back of the textbook and working our way to the front.  As a teacher, this sounds like a terrible idea in retrospect but it did lead me to develop some perseverance that had seriously been lacking. After that, I continued into middle school and high school continuing to do well in math.  I had a great memory and was really good at remembering procedures, formulas and rules.  Now I know I was getting by on this and not on a deep conceptual understanding of math.  
I knew I wanted to teach elementary school from the time I was in tenth grade.  I went to college as an elementary education major.  We had to pick a second major and I randomly picked sociology.  Luckily, someone convinced me that having a background in math would be much more marketable so I switched my second major to math.  This led me to taking 2 math classes per semester.  When I got a class on non euclidean geometry, I hit a major wall.  The content was challenging and required so much more of my focus and attention then I was used to.  I worked harder during that one class than I had on all the other math classes I had taken combined.  It gave me the experience of working hard and still barely keeping my head above water.  I don't remember much of the content of that class now, but I do remember what it was like to struggle and to work really hard to learn math.  
Despite a major in math in college, I still lacked the conceptual understanding of math that I needed to teach.  I started teaching sixth grade and really struggled with how to help my students who didn't have a good foundation in mathematics.  I spent a lot of time repeating the steps of a procedure louder and slower until my students could do it.  After a few years of teaching sixth grade, my position was cut and I moved onto a new school in a new role as a math specialist.  I got the job because I could do a lot of math, not because I knew a lot about teaching it.  I was given a lot of free rein to use my role anyway I wanted.  I spent a lot of time the first year just figuring things out.  I started listening to my students more and helping them develop strategies rather than teaching them.

From there, I delved into some of the deeper research available on teaching math at that time.  I read a lot of books and got involved in some really good professional development.  I took more math courses, these ones aimed at teachers and at developing a deep understanding of content.  I did a lot of group work and spent a lot of time learning from my peers.  I saw multiple approaches to solving problems and expanded my definition of what it meant to be good at math.  For the first time, I saw the connections between algebra and geometry and gained a valuable understanding of big conceptual ideas.  This conceptual understanding of mathematics led me to be a much better teacher.

Mathematical Mindsets

Nowadays, I am so much better at helping my students learn math.  I have so many more tools, strategies, ideas and a much better understanding than when I first started out.  Despite all this, I still have students who are struggling.  I know that I have the tools I need to help them but something big seems to be getting in their way.  Their mindset.  The research on the brain and mindsets has been moving quickly over the last few years and now their is so much available information to help students, teachers and parents with mindset.  My research on mindset last summer led me to Carol Dweck's Mindset book.  From there, I found Jo Boaler's Book Mathematical Mindsets and knew it was the next thing I wanted to work on.  I got the book in July and read it almost in one sitting. It got my wheels turning as I was starting to think about back to school season and I have made some big changes this school year based on ideas in this book.  Now that I have the basics down, I am reading this book again (a little slower this time!) and am going to go deeper into some of the ideas as well as share how I have used some of it in my classroom.  Over the next 9 weeks, I am going to take one chapter at a time and take a closer look at these ideas.  I would love for you to join me!

Book Study

I read a lot of math teaching books!  From time to time, I like to dive deeper into a new book or an old favorite by hosting a book study on my blog. I have done book such as Minds on Mathematics, Beyond Invert and Multiply, Mathematics Through Play, Number Talks, Children's Mathematics,Whole Brain Teaching For Challenging Kids, Teach Like a Pirate and Guided Math in Action. It is fun and easy to participate.  I will post my thoughts and share some ways I am using the ideas in my classroom each week and then you can share in the comments section.  If you have your own blog, feel free to post there and leave the link in the comments section. 

This book is easy to access and very inexpensive for a good professional development book.  You can grab it on Amazon, it ships free with Prime.

Here is the posting schedule
Friday February 17th: Chapters 1&2
Friday February 24th: Chapters 3-5
Friday March 3rd: Chapters 6&7
Friday March 10th: Chapters 8&9

What is your math story? How did your mindset change as you learned math? Please share in the comments below! 

29 comments:

  1. So excited for this! I bought this book a few weeks ago. I am currently reading Mindsets by Dweck and was planning on reading Mathematical Mindsets next.

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    1. Excellent! It is a good read with tons of information and things you can easily implement in your classroom! So glad you will be joining us!

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  2. Mathematical Mindsets is AMAZING. A game changer, for sure!

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    1. It really is! It is amazing that such a great book can be offered for under $13!

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  3. A fabulous book. I am looking forward to discussing it.

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  4. I'm in! Bonus: I already have the book!

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    1. Excellent! Sometimes that is the best time to join a book study!

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  5. I am so excited! I bought this book about 3 weeks ago and haven't had a chance to read it! I'm in!

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    1. Glad you can join us Susan! It is hard to put down once you get started!

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  6. I always struggled in math and it wasn't until university that I gained a better understanding of it. Now I am studying to be an elementary school teacher and enjoying my time teaching students strategies in math.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your math story! Good luck with your journey to become a teacher.

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  7. This is great! I have been connecting with Jo Boaler's work for a while now...even got to be the first in a long line of people at her book signing at NCSM. Her youcubed.org site is terrific! Also, I've used some of her math mindset lessons from there with my intervention students with much success. Looking forward to collaborating on this book! Thanks for hosting!

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    1. Awesome! I love meeting my math heroes at conferences. My husband picks on me terribly when I show him yet another picture with me and a math world celebrity. The youcubed.org site is a treasure chest of awesome ideas.

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  8. I'm doing a book study with my local ISD but i'd love to hear more!

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  9. This was a great read I can't wait to discuss it and even get more out of it. Do we just come back here or will there be a link?

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    1. You can come back here starting February 17th. I will also share a link on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Theelementarymathmaniac/

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  10. My 4th grade team is doing a book study on this but I would love to hear more!

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    1. We would love to hear how your team is implementing it! Please join in!

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  11. Excited to read this! Just got the book on my Kindle. Looking forward to discussions.

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  12. I wrote this post in the fall as I prepared to facilitate a B.Ed course on mathematics. I asked my students to write their mathematics story and I, in turn, wrote mine. Here's a link: http://learningandlovingmath.weebly.com/

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  13. Have had this book for awhile. Excited to read and discuss it with you all.

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  14. I loved math but during my 6th grade year we were introduced to a "box" for math -- no longer discussing and interacting in the classroom. I went from the top of the class to the bottom. During 7&8 grade I had a fantastic math teacher who could explain math concepts in more than one way. He took me from the bottom to the top of the class and later I went back to student teach with him -- he was the kind of math teacher I wanted to be!

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  15. I've had this book for a while but going to try to follow along and actually get it read!! Love the little that I have read!

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  16. I was starting this book and love the idea of being able to share ideas and thoughts with others!

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  17. Just checked this out from our local library. Can't wait to read it and be a part of this discussion group!

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  18. REady to start!! So much better when you can share a great book.

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  19. I'm looking forward to following your journey through the book. It sounds like a great one.

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