Mathematical Mindsets

Mathematical Mindsets book by Jo BoalerThis year, as a parting gift, my principal handed out this book to all returning and new staff members. We were invited to participate in a Summer Book Club. One in which we read, post thoughts, videos, questions, and ideas. This made me so happy! I had thought about buying the book earlier this year when my principal told me to hold off and that he was buying one for all of us. So for the last 2 weeks of school, I hounded him to let me take my copy. He wouldn’t give it to me until I signed out of my room. Tricky man! (NOTE: I NEVER ask to read a book. I have some reading disabilities that make ‘heavier’ readings difficult for me)

So a few of us have started the book and are making our notes/comments in the provided document; my principal created a shared doc in Google. I appreciate this way as I can read what others have written and get a general sense of what’s to come. The most recent chapter, Chapter 3, really caught my attention. In it, the author talks about how students view math vs. mathematicians view math. Students tend to view it as procedures, rules, and/or calculations. However, mathematicians tend to see it as creative, beautiful, and full of patterns. It was the sentiment that math is a study of patterns that made me take notice.

I have, for years, told my students that math was about patterns. That it was like a puzzle one needed to solve. I have always viewed math as a series of patterns and puzzles. I remember when I was in Kindergarten, a friend and I were talking. She was bragging how she could count to 100 while I could only count to 20. This irritated me. I wanted to count to 100 too. I remember going home and working this problem out in my room. Why I didn’t ask my mother is beyond me. But I was a stubborn kid (and for those of you who know me now, I’m still pretty stubborn). I remember looking at the numbers and ‘analyzing’ them. I thought, “If I can count to 20, then I can figure out how to count to 100.” And as I looked at the numbers, I saw a pattern. The numbers repeated. I began to realize that once the numbers in the one’s place (although I didn’t know place value at the time) were done, they started over again. And the numbers in the ten’s place began at 1, then went to 2 when all the numbers in the one’s place had been used. I had figured out the problem and went to school the next day bragging that I too, could count to 100.

Part of my success with math has come from A) a reading disability, so I gravitated towards math, and B) the fact that I was able to play and manipulate numbers on my own, okay and C) just being a plain old stubborn kid! We need to help students view math as patterns. We need to get over our own fear of math. We need to explore and allow conversations to happen in math. This is where the learning happens and a love of math will develop.

This is such a great book! Full of inspiration. I’m so glad we are reading it as a staff.

One final note: From grades 2 – 6 I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a mathematician. While that’s not my occupation, I’d say that I am one! We all are!

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