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The Importance of Growth Mindset

July 13, 2020

Earlier this year, several of our volunteers joined Heart staff to participate in Heart Tutoring’s first-ever book club. The selected book was Limitless Mind, Jo Boaler’s most recent research of fixed versus growth mindsets and the impacts those different notions have, not only in the perceived abilities of students, but also in the attitudes of adults.

Concurrently, Sarah Cover, one of our program managers, completed an online course led by Jo Boaler and based upon the classroom research found in her book, Mathematical Mindsets. As we continue to engage in discussions around the importance of our role as tutors and the support we offer to students, she shared a few takeaways from the course.

“Creativity, exploration, and interpretation – these are three ideas central to Jo Boaler’s methods to encourage mathematical mindsets in students. We know that math phobia is real in both children and adults, many of whom view math as an abstracted collection of confusing equations and endless word problems. However, math is everywhere around us and more accessible than we are led to believe. To help students recognize this, Boaler first presents situations for students to consider and solve. In one lesson, students working in groups created sugar cube structures, and were tasked with answering the question, ‘How many sides of your structure will be visible when it is complete?’ With a fun and engaging hands-on task, along with a question and classroom set-up that encouraged active math conversations, students were finding the surface area of objects without realizing they were working on the concept of surface area. Only after students had fully explored the question together did Boaler introduce the concept, as well as the equation and theory behind it. The application of a concept in an environment where students feel safe to pose questions, to pursue inquiries, and to make mistakes is essential to encouraging students’ inquisitiveness and excitement about math.”

The elements of a growth mindset classroom – creativity, ingenuity, intuition, and willingness to make mistakes – are essential to students’ development as they explore new and challenging math concepts, and also to teachers as they challenge their students with new mathematical queries. However, these ideas are also essential to us at Heart, especially in today’s shifting educational landscape and as we work to adapt our curriculum to virtual learning. Although we know there are many unknowns ahead for our organization, for our volunteers, and for our students, we take heart in Boaler’s lessons and are excited to continue supporting growth mindsets in our students.

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