“I can’t do math.”
“I hate math because I can never get it right.”
“You better pay attention in class and take good notes, because I can’t even help you with this math homework.”
“Wow, you’re a math teacher? Whew, thank goodness for ya! I could never do math.”
As a math teacher, there is nothing more disheartening than hearing these feelings about math. When students hear this (especially from adults) they begin to think, “It’s okay if I don’t try, no one else can do this either" and it lessens the importance of learning math over time.
During the summer of 2016, I read Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. It confirmed my belief of how one’s mental approach to math dramatically affects one's performance. Several studies have been conducted about mindset in relation to mathematical achievement. Results were dramatic in showing that academic achievement increased as students worked on developing positive mindsets in math (Blackwell et al. 2007).
It was this research that inspired me to create a youth math camp designed to focus primarily on building the math esteem of each student. The plan: to dissolve fixed mindset thinking, develop growth mindsets, and create an excitement for learning math.
The goal: to help change the way people think about math.
From “I can’t do math."
To “ I can do math but I prefer some math topics over others.”
From “I hate math because I can never get it right.”
To “I can always improve. I’ll keep trying to work with math.”
From “You better pay close attention in class and take good notes, because I can’t even help you with this math homework.”
To “When you work on your homework, write down specific questions you have. Then, review your notes and see what strategies or approaches you can take to solve the problems.”
From “Wow, you’re a math teacher? Whew, thank goodness for ya! I could never do math.”
To “You're a math teacher? Wow, cool! I respect that!”
Changing our perceptions of math as a society is critical to #MathEsteem. People are so comfortable openly "hating" certain subjects without realizing the affect it has on the youth.
Campaigns like With Math I Can flood my timeline and I am overjoyed! With programs like this and more government funding going into math programs, we are making strides in changing the perception of math.
But even more than exposure to math, we have to implement programs to address "mathitude" -- the math growth mindset -- for everyone, not just those interested in STEM. Similar to slogans like Reading is Fundamental or The More You Know, the program could be called: Critical Thinking Makes Me Grow or The More You Problem Solve. Okay- lol, those examples are awful. But you get the idea. 😉
Suggestions? Please leave them in the comment section below. Want more information about my future math esteem camps? Subscribe to the mailing list by filling out the box on the bottom of the home page.
Boaler, J. (2015). Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.
Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development, 78(1), 246-263.