The beginning of a new school year is a great time to reflect upon practices in your school. Our attitudes about math as teachers and school leaders can have a tremendous impact on our students’ attitudes and views about learning mathematics.
Below are two ways that a math-positive culture can be promoted at your school.
Having a Growth Mindset About Mathematics
While some may believe that they are just not “math people”, there is no evidence to support the idea that we are born with fixed mathematical ability, or that some people have a natural “math gene” (Seeley, 2016). In fact, there is a growing body of research to support the idea that intelligence is malleable and the brain can grow new neural connections that form the basis of a person’s intelligence (Seeley, 2016).
Teachers and school leaders can have a significant impact on students’ mindsets about mathematics. If educators believe that students are limited in how far they can go mathematically, they may set low expectations and plan lessons that do not adequately challenge students. However, if educators promote and believe in the power of a growth mindset, it can change students’ attitudes about mathematics and also change how we plan our mathematics teaching. With a growth mindset, teachers recognize that there are many pathways to success in mathematics; and all students should have the opportunity to access and experience high-quality mathematics instruction.
Growth Mindset Resources
Having a High-Quality Mathematics Program
An effective mathematics program is not just about the materials that are used for instruction. It is also about having a culture where every student has the opportunity to become a “math person” (Seeley, 2016). A high-quality mathematics program has the following foundational components:
Content: Mathematics content that blends computation, concepts, and problem-solving for all students.
Habits of Mind: There is an emphasis on mathematical thinking and processes for all students, with a focus on student thinking and sense-making.
Teaching and Learning: All students have opportunities to productively struggle with engaging math problems and learn from mistakes to develop mathematical proficiency.
Assessment: Effective formative assessment strategies are used to help students improve their learning on a daily basis.
Outreach: Teachers and school leaders involve and communicate with families and community partners the purposes and intended outcomes of the school mathematics program, and offer suggestions for what families and the community can do to help all students become mathematically proficient.
High-Quality Mathematics Program Resources
Additional Resources for Promoting a Math-Positive School Culture
Instructional Practices Inventory: Focused on four key areas: learning environment, reasoning and sense-making, focus and coherence, and formative assessment, this inventory provides both teacher and student practices that are evident in high-quality mathematics environments.
An Administrator’s Guide to Mathematics Instruction: What does high-quality mathematics instruction look like? Sound like? What are the guiding principles for effective mathematics instruction? How can teachers structure their math block for maximum engagement and impact? These questions and many more are answered in this practical guide for school administrators. Classroom look-fors and observation tools are included.
Unpacking Standards to Get to the Heart of Instruction: This Quick Reference describes the process of unpacking standards by focusing on what students need to know, understand, and be able to do.
Seeley, C. L. (2016). Building a math-positive culture: How to support great math teaching in your school. Alexandria: ASCD.