Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Growth Mindset Maths is a Must

Well, I don"t care what Alfie Kohn says, and I do usually agree with him, but I think  Mindset Theory is the best thing I've added to my teaching repertoire since I discovered John Dewey's ideas of Inspired Vision and Executive Means back in 1969.

I've now introduced it in both my undergraduate and graduate math courses and the results have been great. This is especially true in my undergraduate math class where we've been exploring teaching everyone's seemingly least favorite maths topic, fractions. For some reason, my students nearly always seem to enter this topic with very little relational understanding of fraction concepts or fraction sense. It's as if they've slogged through endless hours of learning nothing but how to add, subtract, multiply, and maybe divide, using archaic, instrumental strategies such as "you can't add apples and oranges", or " invert and multiply"or "cross multiply" to name but a few.

They seem to have one revelation after another when they realize the power of the ONE or referent when when working with fractions. The idea that you can count like fractions the same as you can count anything else and the remarkable patterns fractions make like these two 1/2 2/3 3/4 4/5 5/6 6/7 7/8 8/9 9/10 and 2/1 3/2 4/3 5/4 6/5 7/6 8/7 9/8 10/9. Each forms a pattern approach ONE but never getting there.

Frequently, during class-time, we refer back to the Mindset class we had near the beginning of the course and they all remember Carol Dweck's maxim of "yet".  This idea seems to work well with the Learning Communities in the class where each member of the community bears a responsibility for making sure that every one in their group of 4 or 5 students is developing an understanding of the topic, fraction concepts and skills in this case,

The more I try to develop my Mindset language the more I see the students responding in a positive way. I feel like I am even more "on their side" so to speak than I thought I was before. My job is clearly to help them all succeed in developing the relational understanding of maths  required of being an elementary school teacher. 

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