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Mathematical Mindsets

Mathematical Mindsets
Mathematical Mindsets
Leo Yoon

By now your children have probably worked through most of, if not entirely, the math packets that were given out at the end of the school year. If they haven't started working on them yet, may this be a gentle reminder for you to encourage them to begin.

This summer I had the pleasure of reading Jo Boaler's Mathematical Mindsets. Dr. Boaler is a professor of Mathematics Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Her book offers practical strategies and activities that can be used to help students enjoy and succeed in math. Here are three points from the book that I found especially helpful:

1. Mistakes are valuable.

Making mistakes can be one of the best ways to come to understand a concept or problem. Many students think that math is all about getting correct answers, and getting them fast. But just as our students work through many drafts and revisions before handing in their final papers for literature class, they ought to work through their mistakes in math, learning from them, and making proper edits before they can expect to master concepts in math. "Math," she writes, "takes time to learn, and is all about effort."

2. Math is about creativity and making sense.

Many students also think that math is simply a set of formulas to be memorized. While there is obviously an aspect of math that entails memorization, "math," Boaler writes, "is a very creative subject that, at its core, is about visualizing patterns, creating solutions, and making connections that we can use to make sense of the world." Consider some interesting questions about the world that are of mathematical interests. How do dolphins communicate? Why do snowflakes have repeating hexagons? Is there a pattern to a spider's web? This brings us to the last point.

3. Questions are really important.

Research shows that asking questions is linked to high achievement. Encourage your children to ask questions as they work through their math packets:

Does my solution make sense? Why does it make sense?

Considering the previous point. Encourage them to ask questions about how and why things in this world work the way they do. Maybe this will lead to some great mathematical discussions around the dinner table!

If you or your children have any interesting questions (or solutions) of mathematical interest that you would like to share, we would love to hear from you!