Developing the Growth Mindset in Math

preschool math, primary school maths, secondary school maths

Developing the Growth Mindset in Math

Can everyone do math?

This is a question many students grapple with, especially when they face setbacks in trying to do well in math. Many people have the misconception that math is something you either can or cannot do. What more people need to know is about having a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, in terms of learning math.

Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset

Someone who has a fixed mindset believes that intelligence is inherent and cannot be changed in any other way. Success is being strived for, and one would avoid failure at all costs to maintain that sense of smartness. On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset sees challenges as opportunities to become better in what they do. They value effort and believe that the brain can form new connections. Watch the video below for a quick summary!

In one study, Carol Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation, and her colleagues offered a group of four-year-olds a choice: they could either redo an easy jigsaw puzzle, or try a harder one. It was observed that children with the fixed mindset did easier puzzles to affirm their existing ability. They told researchers that “smart kids don’t make mistakes”. Children with the growth mindset were perplexed that one would want to do the same puzzle and not learn anything new. In other words, the fixed-mindset kids wanted to make sure they succeeded in order to seem smart, whereas the growth-mindset ones wanted to stretch themselves, as being successful was becoming smarter.

How can we encourage a growth mindset in children?

The key thing to encourage a growth mindset in children is helping them understand that mistakes are valuable for learning math! Encourage mistakes and show your children that you value mistakes. Just like how you have encouraged your children while they learn to walk, learning math is pretty much the same concept. Making mistakes help their brains grow, and when brains grow, confidence in math grows as well.

Here are a few ways to encourage the growth mindset:

  1. Set achievable micro-goals through repetitive practice. Small, frequent wins achieved over a period of time encourages having the growth mindset.
  2. Emphasise on effort, not intelligence. Praise your child’s effort when they manage to complete a math problem. Explain to them that mistakes are important for brain growth.
  3. Guide children in focusing on and valuing the learning of math. Use their mistakes in the teaching so that children grow comfortable with sharing and learning from each other.

With consistent practice and encouragement, our children will be able to do math comfortably one day! If you are looking for a suitable math home tutor for your child, send us your request today! Here at Math Tutor Singapore, we have a selection of undergraduates, diploma holders, ex and current MOE teachers who are committed in helping your child grow.


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