As a former middle school math teacher, I've heard one or both of these phrases so many times I could scream. If I had $100 for each time, I'd have enough for a nice nest egg or to take a fantastic vacation. In any case, I would often find out that most of the time, a student's hate for math is in direct correlation to their math failure rate or the lack of understanding of a particular concept. For instance, a 7th grade Student named J hated math, particularly long division. J believed because he couldn't master long division, he would inevitably fail math. Therefore, he would not attempt challenging concepts. J had a fixed-mindset.
I worked hard to build a relationship until J trusted me enough to attempt a 5-grade long-division problem. As I watched J work, I never spoke. I observed what he knew; I also noticed his flaw. He knew multiplication facts, concepts of parts/whole, subtraction, and the importance of digit alignment. His mistake…he didn't understand the idea of subtraction regrouping of large numbers. So this is where we spent our tutoring time. Somewhere in elementary school, he didn't get it and locked in on "I'm not good at it." This young man didn't pass the 7th-grade STAAR; he didn't miraculously make A's or B's. However, he did learn to like math and learn to enjoy the challenge. J now has a growth mindset.
As teachers, we often gravitate towards students that enjoy the subjects we teach. Sometimes, thinking that one that doesn't try doesn't want to learn. My experience with J occurred in my last year in the classroom. Out of 180+ students, I had about 50-60 others just like J. I didn't have the time nor the energy to reach them all. I did do one thing: provide a safe environment and let them know it's okay to fail temporarily. However, it's not okay to "not try."
A fixed mindset can box and label us, our students, family, and our friends. I am 58 years old. The "fixed mindset" whispers in my ear that "you're too old for this" or "you're too tired." My growth mindset screams, "you have so much more to give"…" you got this, keep going."
So, I'm back for round 3 and open to possibilities.
~ Tami S.