Mathematical Mindset Books Study – Chapter One

July 7, 2016

Today is the first day of our collaborative online book study on Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. I am so excited to be reading this book and to hear/read what others are thinking!

Have you ever picked up a professional book and immediately started nodding your head at everything you were reading and/or furiously started scribbling sticky notes? That is exactly what happened when I began reading. I was even reading passages out loud to my husband while I was reading. (I’m sure I wasn’t annoying him, AT ALL.)

I want to start out by saying that math is my THING. It wasn’t always my THING but it is now. I can relate to so many things in this book simply because I feel like I have lived them myself! My mathematical journey hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding and I’m glad that I get to share that with my students every year, and now with you! You can read a little bit about my math journey here.

Ok, let’s get on to the book!!!

Chapter 1 – The Brain and Mathematical Learning

This chapter focuses mainly on giving a short overview – the author discusses new research about the brain, as well as gives a little heads up about what to expect in the upcoming chapters. She also talks about how we can use the new information scientists are learning to inform and change instruction for the better.

My Big Takeaway

I think what really struck me from this first chapter was damage that can be done when teachers and students have a fixed mindset about mathematics, BUT that when the right conditions exist – when we CREATE the right conditions – that our brains CAN change and grow. My favorite quote from this chapter:

This quote actually gets me a little teary-eyed. EVERYONE. This is the message I desperately want my students to hear every single day. “You can do it. You are a hard worker. I believe that you can learn this!” Even though many of the statistics quoted in the first chapter are pretty scary and sad (40% of students surveyed believed that intelligence was a gift – you either have it or you don’t), I have hope that we can all do a better job of helping each and every student that walks through our door be successful in mathematics.

3 Ideas to Bring This Chapter To Life

1. Choose our words wisely. Students, especially girls according to the chapter, are looking to connect with their teachers. When we say things like “I was bad at math in school” or “I never liked math either” we are inadvertently giving them a pass on being a successful math student. Just being aware of our words could have a huge impact. We can also work on how we praise students – instead of telling them how smart they are, praise them for the hard work they put in. {More on this in future chapters!}
2. Be open to change. I think that the rest of this book will be eye-opening and I need to be ready for some big ideas to come my way. As teachers, we need to be open to thinking about things differently. We need to give up the idea that some kids are “wired” for math, while others just don’t have “it,” whatever that means. We might have to expand our thinking to new ways of doing business in our classrooms, and that means an open mind to new ideas.
3. Learn more about the brain. I found the research in this first chapter fascinating! I had no idea how our brains’ plasticity worked. Boaler cited several studies where individual’s brains were able to grow and change – even adults – when they were learning new things and creating new pathways in their brains. Check out this story about Cameron Mott for a pretty amazing look at how the brain can learn and develop new connections in order to grow.

Wrapping It Up

This chapter just barely scratched the surface! I can’t wait to read more and learn strategies to be a better teacher for my students. I can’t wait to help them discover everything that lies within them, just waiting to be tapped into! 

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts on the first chapter? Did you see something different? I’d love to chat about your thoughts in the comments!

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  • Reply Shametria Routt July 7, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    First of all, as a blogger side note, I like the idea of presenting a favorite quote and love how you made yours with a stock photo. I'm just learning how to use those in my blogs rather than pictures with clipart. Super classy! Second, I agree with you about choosing words carefully. Sometimes a innocent comment can do so such damage. Looking back, I often wonder how many of my innocent comments were taken to heart in the wrong way. If we could turn back time . . .

  • Reply Kathie @Tried and True Teaching Tools July 7, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    I agree about choosing our words wisely. The story on Cameron Mott brings tears to my eyes. Thanks for posting it. I love that although we all read the same chpnter, we all highlighted different aspects. I'm so excited to read next Thursday!!

  • Reply The Teacher Crafter July 8, 2016 at 4:13 am

    Shametria hit the nail on the head with how beautiful your quote is! I need to figure out how to do that!! Great insights on the chapter, can't wait to keep reading with you! Also, there's a great book called How the Brain Learns by David Sousa to help you with #3! We used it in my masters program and it was amazing how much I learned about brain-based teaching and learning! He also has a version about the special needs brain. Happy reading!!

  • Reply mrs. hebert July 8, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Great post! I can't wait to dig into the rest of this book! I'm ready to "be open to change" and get some real ideas for how to transform math in my classroom.

  • Reply mrs. hebert July 8, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks for the resource! My professional reading pile keeps growing and growing and growing… 🙂

  • Reply PamsPlace July 10, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    I enjoyed reading about your math journey. Thank you for sharing. I so agree with your statement about being open to change. Change doesn't necessarily mean what we have done in the past was wrong, but with new information we learn what might be better.

  • Reply Anonymous July 17, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    interesting post! I love Math and felt the same way before I really got into it.

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