"Becoming is better than being," says growth mindset guru, Carol Dweck.
Your students believe that they can become better at reading and writing, more knowledgeable about historic events, and superior musicians and athletes. They understand that consistent effort, practice, and the ability to learn from their mistakes will allow them to grow.
Yet, this belief in one's own abilities seems to fall short in the math classroom.
Why do we fall, Master Wayne?
Bruce Wayne was not born as Batman; he became him.
It was only through years of hard work, persistence, training, and effort that he was able to grow into becoming Gotham's caped crusader.
And he had help.
Under the guidance of his butler and mentor, Alfred, Wayne learns that his mistakes should never discourage him, but only make him stronger.
In moments of discouragement, Alfred reminds Wayne of the purpose of falling down in life: so that we may learn to pick ourselves back up.
With the right mindset, Bruce Wayne is able to learn from his shortcomings and unlock his highest potential of becoming a superhero.
But what would have happened if Bruce Wayne was never taught to believe in himself or to see value in his mistakes?
Would he still have become Batman?
What does mindset mean for math students?
Like Bruce Wayne and his aspirations to become a super hero, our kids have amazing potential to achieve math at high levels.
Yet, many students never come close to reaching this potential. Why? Because beliefs about learning math are often based on harmful myths and stigmas.
What you believe about your ability to learn affects how you learn new things, according to recent brain science highlighted by Stanford Professor, Jo Boaler, via YouCubed.org.
"Students with a fixed mindset are more likely to give up easily, whereas students with a growth mindset are persistent and keep going even when work is hard" says Boaler, who is a leading voice in supporting a growth mindset in the math classroom.
Sadly, many students believe a damaging myth that there is such thing as a "math person" and that mindset and effort do not matter when learning math.
We tell kids that only certain people have a brain for understanding mathematics. If a child believes that she is not a "math person," then she becomes stuck in a fixed mindset that will forever impede her ability.
There is no such thing as a "math person" or a "math brain."
Anyone can learn mathematics to high levels.
"Study after study has shown the incredible capacity of brains to grow and change within a remarkably short period of time," says Boaler in a recent report on brain plasticity.
The truth is that there is no such thing as a "math person" and, with a strong effort, the right mindset, and a belief in one's own abilities, every student is capable of understanding math.
If you are not tending to your kids' beliefs about their own abilities, then you are not helping them to unlock their highest potential.
What can you do to help kids' develop a growth mindset for math?
Praise effort over outcomes.
Carol Dweck suggests that "praise should deal, not with the child's personality attributes, but with his efforts and achievements." If we continue to teach mathematics as a practice in solving hard-lined right-or-wrong questions, students will continue to adopt the belief that they can never be successful.
Celebrate mistakes as learning opportunities.
Michael Jordan once said, "I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone reacts to them in the same way. Successful math students are persistent and resilient problem-solvers. They are not afraid of making mistakes because they value them as opportunities for growth.
Encourage students to embrace challenges.
If it doesn't challenge you, then it doesn't change you. If students are afraid to make a mistake, then they will avoid challenges out of fear of looking inferior or unintelligent. But, when students approach learning with a growth mindset, they embrace challenges and enjoy taking them on (a practice know as productive struggle).
Give students time to engage in deep mathematical thinking.
The idea that you have to be fast at math to be good at it is another component of the "math brain" myth. Emphasizing speed only leads to increased math anxiety and lower achievement for many students. In fact, speed and time actually block working memory and impede a students' ability to recall math facts, according to a recent study.
Tend to students' beliefs about themselves.
It may seem obvious that kids will perform at higher levels when they believe in themselves, but this kind of mindset is less common than you may think, especially in mathematics. Teachers must help their students to develop a growth mindset for learning math and dispel harmful myths and misconceptions.
For a library of helpful resources to promote a growth mindset in your home, your classroom, or your school, you can visit the website for Amazon Education's "With Math I Can" initiative, which aims to change students' mindsets about learning mathematics.
How else can you support a growth mindset with your kids? Join the conversation and share your thoughts in the comments below.
By Anthony Persico