Both parental guardians and educators have a profound impact on the mindset of children and teenagers as well as their beliefs about teaching and learning mathematics.
Those who value and praise performance
as opposed to effort can inadvertently be promoting a fixed mindset in our learners. The type of
feedback given to students - written, verbal and non-verbal - can also influence their attitudes and mindsets. Parental guardians and educators play a central role in demonstrating to children that everyone can learn, and that learning is
the result of effort and application, not an inherent quality that some possess and others do not.
What Is A Growth Mindset?
Growth Mindset is a belief system that suggests that one’s intelligence can be grown or developed with
persistence, effort, and a focus on learning. Learners with a growth mindset believe that they can learn just
about anything they set their mind to. The focus of a growth mindset individual is on learning, not on looking smart.
- Every word and action send a message. It tells children how to think about themselves.
Praise effort, resilience and hard work – not intelligence. An example of growth mindset
praise is, “I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies on that math problem until you finally
- Feedback, Persistence and Effort
- A growth mindset means that a child will be open to feedback and welcome it. Parents and
educators should use feedback to help students concentrate on improving their own
performance, in small achievable steps. Remind students that if the work is not hard, they are
not learning. Stress that intelligence is improved by effort and hard work and that we all learn
in different ways and at different rates.
- Learning from Mistakes
- Help students value mistakes. Let students know that you appreciate mistakes and it’s
through mistakes that our brains grow. Thomas Edison said, “You must learn to fail
intelligently. Failing is one of the greatest arts in the world. One fails forward to success.”
Fixed Minset vs. Growth Mindset
Here are some common characteristics of both a fixed vs. growth mindset is shared in the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck:
|Leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendancy to:|
- avoid challenges
- get defensive or give up easily
- see effort as fruitless or worse
- ignore useful feedback
- feel threatened by the success of others
As a result, they may plateau early and achieve less
than their full potential.
|Leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendancy to:|
- embrace challenges
- persist in the face of setbacks
- see effort as the path to mastery
- learn from criticism
- find lessons and inspiration in the success of others
As a result, they reach even higher levels of
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset The new psychology of success. How can we learn to fulfill our potential?
USA: Ballantine Books.
Tips For Developing A Growth Mindset
I'm not good at this.
What am I missing?
I give up.
I'll use a different strategy.
It's good enough.
Is this really my best work?
I can't make this any better.
I can always improve.
This is too hard.
This may take some time.
I made a mistake.
Mistakes help me to learn.
I just can't do this.
I am going to train my brain.
I'll never be that smart.
I will learn how to do this.
Plan A didn't work.
There's always Plan B.
My friend can do it.
I will learn from my friend.
Dweck’s research illustrates that a fixed mindset student believes their basic abilities, their intelligence, and
their talents are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to
look smart all the time. A growth mindset student understands that their talents and abilities can be
developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same
or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it (Morehead 2012). It is
important to note that we all can possess each mindset in different situations and these terms should be
applied to behaviours, actions, and attitudes rather than people.
If you are interested in reading further about Growth Mindset so you can develop this mindset for yourself and the children you surround yourself with, consider these books:
Beliefs About Teaching and Learning Mathematics
For the implementation of effective teaching and learning of mathematics, we must ensure a collective agreement in the
belief that mathematics lessons should be centered on engaging students in solving and discussing tasks that promote
reasoning and problem solving (NCTM 2009; National Research Council 2012a). Lessons should encourage student
interactions and discourse, with the end goal of students being able to make sense of the mathematical concepts and
procedures presented. An educator’s own beliefs about the teaching and learning of mathematics will directly influence
the decisions they make about the manner in which they will teach mathematics. Educators need to reflect on their
own beliefs to examine if their beliefs are productive or unproductive. Unproductive beliefs hinder the implementation
of effective instructional practice or limit student access to important mathematics content and practices.
The table below summarizes productive and unproductive beliefs about the teaching and learning of mathematics:
Mathematics learning should focus on practicing
procedures and memorizing basic number
Mathematics learning should focus on developing understanding of
concepts and procedures through problem solving, reasoning, and
Students need only to learn and use the same standard
computational algorithms and the same prescribed
methods to solve algebraic problems.
All students need to have a range of strategies and approaches from
which to choose in solving problems, including, but not limited to,
general methods, standard algorithms, and procedures.
Students can learn to apply mathematics only after they
have mastered the basic skills.
Students can learn mathematics through exploring and solving
contextual and mathematical problems.
The role of the teacher is to tell students exactly what
definitions, formulas, and rules they should know and
demonstrate how to use this information to solve
The role of the teacher is to engage students in tasks that promote
reasoning and problem solving and facilitate discourse that moves
students toward share understanding of mathematics.
The role of the student is to memorize information that
is presented and then use it to solve routine problems
on homework, quizzes, and tests.
The role of the student is to be actively involved in making sense of
mathematics tasks by using varied strategies and representations,
justifying solutions, making connections to prior knowledge or familiar
contexts and experiences, and considering the reasoning of others.
An effective teacher makes the mathematics easy for
students by guiding them step by step through problem
solving to ensure that they are not frustrated or
An effective teacher provides students with appropriate challenge,
encourages perseverance in solving problems, and supports productive
struggle in learning mathematics.
Principles to Actions (2014), page 11.