My thoughts, reflection on Mathematical Mindsets Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Message and Innovative Teaching By Jo Boaler

To start this book was a quick and easy read. I want to start implanting a growth mindset in my math classroom next year so I am reading all that I can. This book is geared to K-12 classrooms.

The first chapter beings with the brain research and mathematics learning. If you have listened to any of Jo Boaler’s videos a lot of what is mentioned in the videos is also in the book. One of the quotes I liked from this chapter was, “Every second of the day our brain synapses are firing, and students raised in a stimulating environments with growth mindset messages are capable of anything”. I think this is very true if a student is just sitting in a classroom where they are taking notes and then doing what the teacher does over and over they are not growing as a student, instead they are robots not thinking for themselves.

The second chapter talks about mistakes and allowing students to struggle in the classroom. A quote from this chapter that I liked was, “When you got that answer wrong your brain grew, but when you got the answer right, nothing happened in your brain; there was not brain growth”. Students are afraid to make mistakes in the classroom as they are afraid of what their peers will say and think. Students also think they are stupid if they get something wrong. I constantly tell me students it’s okay to make mistakes and that we will learn from them.

Chapter four is a chapter that I think all teachers should read. It starts off by saying, “that successful math users know that math is a subject of growth and that they know they need to learn and think about new ideas.” It goes on to talk about number sense. This quote toward the beginning of the chapter really hit home with me, “The low achievers did not know less, they just did not use numbers flexibly”.

I think with the Common Core now there is less emphasis on memorizing facts and more of an emphases on students learning to use numbers flexibly. Meaning that instead of memorizing or doing 50 problems as homework students are being shown with manipulatives how facts come to be with more conceptual engagement. By not allowing students to learn through conceptual engagement we are making students think that you are only good at math if you are fast. This is also causing stress for the students and making them HATE math.  I know this can be a heated topic in my district. We can’t just ask students to memorize facts and formulas we need to show them and they explore how they came to be for the students to have understanding and be able to use them flexibly.

So, Jo Boaler says, “One of the best things that we can do for students is to help them develop mathematical mindsets, whereby they believe that mathematics is about thinking, sense making, big ideas, and connections – not about the memorization of methods”. I mentioned before about memorizing facts but the same goes for memorizing formulas and not knowing how they came to be, for example the Pythagorean Theorem.

Through chapter four Jo gives examples on how to create number sense and also mentions number talks a method developed by Ruth Parker and Kathy Richardson.

Also, in chapter four Jo talks about homework. She mentions that instead of giving the homework that is required in let’s say your textbook to give reflection questions instead. Jo gives a list of those questions in the book.

Chapter five talks about rich mathematical tasks. Many of the tasks that she talks about are similar to the ones you will find on her website, but with more information.

Chapter seven is another chapter that really hit home with me. This chapter talks about tracking and grouping students one of those subjects that I just hate. Jo gives reasons and research that backs not tracking and grouping students. Instead she suggest that teachers give low floor, high ceiling tasks to students so that the task is accessible to all.

Chapter eight deals with assessment. There is this quote in the second paragraph of the chapter that states, “Google have declared they are no longer interested in students’ test performance, as it in no way predicts success in the work place”. I really wish the government would listen to that. I can’t tell you how much assessments cause way too much stress in teacher and students’ lives. Also, if we predicted how successful a students was just on tests I would not have be where I am today. I am terrible at tests because I stress myself out over them. Does that mean I can’t be a teacher or be successful? NO! This chapter gives nine of Jo’s favorite strategies for encouraging students to become more aware of their mathematics (self-assessment, peer assessment, reflection time, traffic lighting, jigsaw groups, exit tickets, online forms, doodling and students write questions and test). The chapter ends with talking about giving comments to students and advice on grading such as allowing students to resubmit work or assessments for a higher grade.

The final chapter, chapter nine, talks about setting up your classroom and creating a growth mindset classroom. One thing that is mentioned that I already do is set up classroom rules with the class at the start of the year. Jo also talks again about the value of depth over speed. This chapter along with all the others has many examples that can be used in the classroom.

The book ends with two appendixes that are huge with all the examples that Jo gives throughout the book.

I have done a lot of research on creating a problem based classroom and a lot of what I learned through that research is the same as what I learned in reading Jo’s book with a little added information. This book helped me feel good about what I am doing in my room already but also gave me some ideas to try out next year. It also reinforced my mathematical beliefs/philosophies.





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About martinsarah

7th grade math teacher in Iowa

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