Thursday, October 2, 2014

Math Attitudes: Vaccination Booster Shot

Tracy Zager at Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had wrote a recent post about her daughter that gave me an epiphany. Go read this story (I don't ever . . .) and then come back.

What I realized is that misconceptions about being good at math are so widespread and entrenched, it isn't enough for us to model good attitudes. At some point, they will meet a teacher or classmate (or teachers and classmates) who get it wrong.  To prepare for that event, we need a proactive vaccination for our kids.

In Tracy's post, she models some useful ingredients:
- explicitly discuss other people's feelings about math as a subject and being good at math
- talk explicitly about fixed and growth mindsets.
- talk about what it means to be good at math
- role play scenarios
- give them positive mantras (both about math and about reactions to other people's comments)
- acknowledge the emotions involved and make sure they have a safe place away from the spotlight to sort through what they really think and feel

Some other ideas:
- talk about examples where well respected people got something wrong or struggled (there should be a list of these somewhere . . . I will link if I find a good reference)
- label this peer pressure
- talk about your own experiences with peer pressure
- identify a helper/defender (someone who is likely to be nearby and can be counted on to have the right attitude)

Of course, a lot of this applies to peer pressure more broadly.

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