Five years ago I had the privilege of participating in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Stanford University Online on teaching and learning math. My time as my children’s primary teacher had passed. Even though it was a completely new concept to me, I vividly remember crying as I watched some of the video segments on mindsets. These videos made me realize I had promoted a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset in my children.
3 Ways to Encourage a Growth Mindset in Our Kids
1) Identifying Your Mindset
As mentioned in the previous blog on mindsets, before you can become intentional about encouraging a growth mindset in your own children, you first need to identify your own mindset. Think about your answers to the following questions:
What happens when you are facing something challenging?
What happens when you experience criticism?
What happens when you witness success in others?
Do you recognize a pattern of either negative (fixed mindset) or positive (growth mindset) reactions to these situations? Did your answers vary? Perhaps you tend to have growth mindset in some areas but a fixed mindset in others. If you have discovered that you have a fixed mindset, there are still ways to change it.
2) Mindset Messages
Once you have identified your general mindset tendencies, you can begin to focus on specifics. The words we speak into our children’s hearts and mind are powerful in forming their mindset. As my children were growing up, I thought I was contributing to their self-confidence by telling them how smart they were or praising them for finishing their schoolwork so quickly. Try to avoid fixed mindset trigger words like “smart,” “quickly,” or “easy.”
Fixed mindset vocabulary often shows up when praise is focused mainly on results. Focusing on the effort instead will begin planting the seeds for a growth mindset. For example, you might tell your student, “I really liked the way you didn’t give up on that math problem you were struggling with and tried different approaches to figure it out.” Now I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to get a participation certificate for just showing up. Empty praise can potentially detract from a growth mindset by discouraging hard work and perseverance. The goal is to encourage effort and tenacity rather than just going through the motions.
In addition to providing growth mindset feedback to your children in your verbal communication with them, it is important to help them develop growth mindset vocabulary in their own self-talk. If you hear them say something like, “I’m so stupid!” after a mistake, help them take a step back, evaluate what went wrong, and formulate a plan to lessen the likelihood of it happening again. Then highlight the opportunity the mistake provided for learning. Keep in mind that you are also modeling mindset language for them constantly in your own self-talk.
Teach your child the power of “yet.” Consider the subtle but powerful difference between the following:
Can you play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano? “No.”
Can you play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano? “Not yet.”
While “no” suggests the inability of the respondent, “not yet” conveys the expectation of the potential. I may not be able to do it right now, but I will some day! The power of “not yet” is a concept that Demme Learning has incorporated into the placement process for the Math-U-See program and into our employee training as well.
Mindset messages are not limited to verbal communication. It has been said that it takes ten positive messages to offset just one negative. Since society tends to hammer us with fixed mindset messages, we need to use every opportunity to provide growth mindset messages to counter this. Place sticky-notes with growth mindset messages inside the cover of a book your child is reading. Put notes on a memo board or the front of the refrigerator. Write them on the bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker. If you have trouble coming up with messages of your own, get inspired by our list of growth mindset quotes.
Teach kids to love learning! Help them to value learning for learning’s sake alone and not for the grade on the assignment or passing a test. Fostering this love of learning will not only help develop your child’s growth mindset, it will be your helping hand as a parent educator. A child who is passionate about learning needs little motivation to do so!
Challenge your children. Once they’ve completed a math problem, encourage them to see if they can find a different way to solve it. Provide challenging puzzles to complete. Ask them open-ended questions that require them to dig deeper into their thinking.
3) Beyond Your Home
While your role in fostering a growth mindset in your children may begin at home, it certainly doesn’t end there. As mentioned previously, fixed mindset messages occur throughout society. Actively work for change in the programs and extracurricular activities involving your children. Educate coaches, teachers, and family members about the impact of fixed mindset messages and ways to encourage a growth mindset.
What growth mindset inspired next step will you commit to today? Let us know in the comments.
“So many times people end up fixated on doing things right that they end up doing nothing at all.” – The Wright Brothers
“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard
“An obstacle is often a stepping stone.” – William Prescott
“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible!’ – Audrey Hepburn
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. ” – Albert Einstein
“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
“Hurray! You made an A on your test! You’re so smart!”
“It’s a good thing you like to write because it’s obvious there is no math gene in this family!”
“She is such a gifted singer, but her whole family is musical, so it just comes naturally.”
“Great! Derek pitched a perfect game! Now I’ll never get a chance to be starting pitcher again.”
What do all these quotes have in common? They all represent a fixed mindset.
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
Stanford University professor and researcher Carol Dweck coined the term mindset to reflect how we tend to think about ability. Simply stated, it is how we view potential in others and ourselves.
Those with a fixed mindset believe that talent, intelligence, and ability are set and unchangeable—genetically determined or a gift that you either have or you don’t. This was definitely the prevailing thinking of the previous generation! However, research in the field of neuroplasticity has demonstrated that the brain has the ability to strengthen synapses and change over time.
Building on the concept of neuroplasticity, those with a growth mindset believe that through effort and perseverance we have the ability to improve and grow in any area to which we set our minds. Growth does not discount the existence of innate talent. Instead, it recognizes that natural talent undeveloped due to lack of effort will never reach its full potential. In general, those with less “natural ability” that work diligently will ultimately achieve more than those “gifted” who do not cultivate their skills.
A dichotomy does not exist between those that are completely fixed and completely growth-oriented. The reality is that we are all on a continuum and are some combination of the two.
Why Growth Mindset Is Important
It has a significant impact on how we view and react to a variety of situations throughout our lives. Those with a fixed view tend to avoid challenges while those with a growth view tend to embrace them. People with a fixed mindset view mistakes as failures while those with a growth mindset view them as opportunities to learn. A fixed view causes us to become defensive when receiving criticism, but a growth view helps us learn from the feedback of others. Those with a fixed mindset feel threatened by the accomplishments of others while those with a growth mindset find the triumphs of others inspirational.
The research on the impact is encouraging to say the least! Academically, those with a growth mindset perform substantially higher, showing greater success in both math and science (Source). In the workplace, employees in growth mindset organizations feel more empowered, tending to be more innovative and collaborative (Source).
So, what is your mindset? Are you mainly focused on looking smart and talented, or are you more focused on a desire to learn? Do you praise the result of your child’s work (the grade or the medal) or the effort? As you encounter situations involving ability, try to pause and reflect on your reaction. Identifying your own is the first step toward encouraging growth in yourself and your children.
It’s week three of a new school year. You purchased your Math-U-See Geometry curriculum months ago at your area convention, and you’re sure you have everything you need.
You begin reading the Lesson 3 information on angles, and you’re suddenly seized with panic as the bolded words rulers and protractors leap at you from the page! While you’re sure you can find a ruler somewhere, a protractor just isn’t something you have tucked away in the arts and crafts cabinet.
So how is a homeschooling parent to know what additional materials might be needed with the upper levels of Math-U-See?
Generally, information regarding additional materials is located in the front matter of the Instruction Manual. In the case of Geometry, under Step 1 of “The Suggested 4-Step Math-U-See Approach” it states:
For this book, you will need a straightedge or ruler, a protractor, and a compass for measuring angles. I do not encourage calculators for most work at this level. However, they may be useful for a few concepts. These are noted in the lessons.
In case you prefer a broader view of what additional supplies might be needed across multiple levels, they are:
|Calculator||Scientific Calculator‡||Ruler||Protractor||Compass||USA Map||World Map†|
*These items are optional.
†World map should show longitude and latitude.
‡Scientific calculator should contain trigonometric functions, inverse trigonometric functions, logarithmic functions, and be able to convert between degrees and radians.
Online Calculation Tools
You may be able to find websites or apps that will be an acceptable (or even superior) substitute for some of the items listed. These resources have excellent calculator options, as well as other valuable resources:
These resources can serve as useful references for some word problems:
Here are some additional resources you may find helpful across multiple levels:
1. The Resources by Level page on the Math-U-See website contains record-keeping forms, various graph paper, and additional problems for some levels. The Math-U-See Worksheet Generator also provides options for creating additional Pre-Algebra worksheets.
2. A flashcard/quiz application allows students to review important terms and definitions while taking a break from the physical books. Plus, inputting the information into the app alone may help with learning! A couple of resources you may find useful are Quizlet and StudyBlue.
3. While never required, a graphing calculator can be a useful supplement to any of the courses Algebra 1 and above. While it should never be a substitute for manual graphing and required calculations, it can be a useful check of completed work. The practice will help the student gain familiarity prior to college entrance exams or future courses requiring its use.
For now, close up the books and break the day up with a little unplanned field trip to the store for that protractor. Oh, and while you’re there, you might want to grab a compass, and not the directional kind. You’re going to need it very soon!