Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mathematical Mindsets: Chapter 2

Welcome to Week 2, Chapter 2 of Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. This week the chapter was on mistakes. Thank you to Kathie from Tried and True Teaching Tools for hosting this book study.

In Chapter 2, The Power of Mistakes and Struggle, Boaler puts the spotlight on the importance of mistakes. For some, this is a whole mind shift on how parents, students, and teachers should perceive mistakes. Mistakes are evidence of learning.

Key Takeaway: According ot Carol Dweck, "Every time a student makes a mistake in math, they grow a synapse."  Yes, mistakes cause the brain to spark and grow. When the brain is challenged, the brain grows the most (11-12).

Classroom Connections:
  • Mistakes happen to the best of us. It is important for students to understand this. Sharing famous people and athletes who have made mistakes/failed and how they overcame those obstacles can be tangible evidence that it takes mistakes/failure to be the best. Two quotes I often share with my students are these associated with Thomas Edison and Michael Jordan. 
    • Thomas Edison: I've not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that won't work. 
    • Michael Jordan: I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been and trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed. (Here is a YouTube video for this quote: Michael Jordan video.)
  • Creating posters of Peter Sims's Habits of Successful People (14) can help to remind students to play with math and approach math differently. It would be important to explicitly talk about each habit so students know what each "looks" like and "sounds" like.
    • Feel comfortable being wrong
    • Try seemingly wild ideas
    • Are open to different experiences
    • Play with ideas without judging them
    • Are willing to go against traditional ideas
    • Keep going through difficulties 
  • Mistakes happen. Having students analyze their mistakes can be helpful. Was the mistake a silly mistake, a math mistake, or a process mistake? Here is an image of an anchor chart similar to one students keep as a reference: Math Mistakes.
Ultimately, we want our students to feel comfortable with making mistakes and learning from them. Mistakes are opportunities for learning! Come back next week for Chapter 3, The Creativity and Beauty in Mathematics.


  1. I LOVE that math mistakes anchor chart!! And I also use quotes by successful people to teach my students that success comes after perseverance!

    1. Sometimes I think students see successful people as only being successful. They sometimes don't know or hear about the times/years of struggle/failure those people had before their success came to light. I think about authors who have been rejected multiple times before getting a best seller published or singers who were turned down by recording companies who are now famous.

  2. That's a great idea to put the "Habits of Successful People" on posters to remind students regularly that mistakes are good. I also LOVE that anchor chart with silly mistakes, math mistakes, and process mistakes. I wanted to make something like that last year and never got around to it...thanks for the summer reminder while I have time! :)

    1. I like the anchor poster because I do feel some mistakes can be minimized if they are the result of rushing. I think there needs to be a distinction between those types of mistakes that help our brain to grow and those mistakes that can be minimized. This is not an easy thing to do sometimes.

  3. I love your ideas! I think I might steal them! :)

    1. Go right ahead! Collaboration helps us to add to our teacher toolboxes.

  4. I enjoyed reading your post! I especially like the mistakes poster. What a great way to help students recognize and be able to classify their mistakes. I also think those quotes and stories about well-known people is a great way to help students connect the concept to people with whom they are familiar. They begin to think that if a famous person can make a mistake, it's got to be okay for them too.

  5. As important as mistakes are with challenging tasks and new learning, I do think there are mistakes that students can work to minimize as a result of rushing or carelessness. By using the anchor chart, it might help to show this.