For my math students, having a growth mindset—the belief that intelligence can be developed through application—removes the idea that some students are good at math and some students never will be. This is crucial in math classrooms, especially as students progress through their academic careers. When their mindset shifts, their approach to math changes. They see a challenge or a new learning experience as an opportunity. Rather than simply giving up, students will plan out their approach and use their background knowledge to find a way to solve the problem.

It’s no secret that math can be challenging for everyone, so mistakes should be celebrated. This way, students can embrace and overcome math challenges rather than fixate on their inabilities. Just because a student is in a low-skilled small-group lesson doesn’t mean that student can’t persevere.

If educators instill a growth mindset in students at an early age, they’ll use this approach for the rest of their lives. The good news is that you can start teaching a growth mindset at any point in a student’s academic career. Here are three ways I make sure my students are developing a growth mindset.

How to instill a growth mindset in your students

1. Establish a common language and understanding

At the beginning of each school year, I fuel a discussion with my students about the differences between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. We talk about these differences before we even discuss a growth mindset in terms of math education. This pushes them to ask themselves which path of learning they’d rather go down: a path of growth or a path of fixating on challenges.

About the Author:

Ashleigh Ziehmke is a fourth-grade math teacher at Spring Hill Elementary School in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

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