How a Child's Mindset Influences Performance
The Lower Division is off and running! Students have formed new friendships and are deep in study. At curriculum night we shared our initiatives for the 2017-18 academic year, which include a focus on new ways to approach math, as inspired by Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler’s work on mindsets.
The recent research makes clear that a child’s mindset directly influences his or her performance in a given field or task. Mindsets are classified as either fixed or growth. A fixed mindset is when a child attributes mistakes or shortcomings as a reflection of his or her ability. “I can’t write a story because I’m a bad writer.” A growth mindset is one that sees mistakes or challenges as learning opportunities. “I may not get the correct answer, but I’m going to keep trying.”
Having a growth mindset is important in all aspects of life. However, Jo Boaler’s recent publication, Mathematical Mindsets, addresses how mindsets in math are not only the most fixed, but also the most difficult to change. The idea of having a ”math brain” is still pervasive thinking today, but it is far from the truth. Dr. Jo Boaler’s work at Stanford University proves that everyone can achieve math at high levels. In fact, we now know that “brain differences presented at birth are eclipsed by learning experiences we have from birth onward.” (Wexler, 2014)
Encouraging and fostering growth mindsets, regardless of content area, is at the core of what we do here at Avenues. Therefore, this year we decided to change our approach to mathematics, putting Singapore math to the side while focusing instead on fostering those sought-after growth mindsets.
Inspired by Dr. Jo Boaler’s work for her youcubed website, we kicked off the school year with a variety of creative, open-ended math tasks. Students employed strategies such as drawing, teamwork, starting with a smaller case, experimenting, and looking for other resources while solving these tasks. Because the activities were accessible to all students, the results were higher levels of engagement and an increase in positive mindsets. And because students were asked to seek patterns and make mathematical generalizations, their work even extended to higher levels of mathematics. Not one of the questions was easily answered and often generated incorrect responses, but mistakes were certainly celebrated!
Throughout their math journey at Avenues, we will continue to emphasize these important mindset messages:
Speed is not important,
Brains grow and change,
Believe in yourself
Mistakes are powerful.
Whether building shapes out of a loop of string or finding combinations while creating block towers, I am thrilled to share that first through fifth-grade students started the year with a more positive disposition in their mathematics work in English, Chinese and Spanish. I look forward to all of the future mistakes and rewards to come, and certainly encourage all families to reinforce these messages at home. With the power of positive thinking, just about anything is possible.
3rd Annual Family Community Day
Saturday October 21
Upper Division Fall Parent Meeting
Tuesday, October 24 | 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. | Black Box Theater
ELC & Lower Division Fall Parent Meeting
Thursday, October 26 | 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. | Black Box Theater
ELC & Lower Division Book Fair
Sunday, November 5
Upper Division Book Fair
Monday & Tuesday, November 6 & 7
Evenings at Avenues Presents Warren Berger
Wednesday, November 8 | 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Tables for Relief to Benefit Victims of Recent Natural Disasters
Friday, November 17 | 5:00-7:00 p.m. | Food