The Power of "Yet"
Teaching middle school mathematics can be a daunting task! So many adults and students believe that they are either good at math or not--that their intelligence is fixed. Many students will give-up once they begin to struggle. It is something that I often saw until I was introduced to the work of Stanford Psychologist, Carol Dwek, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
In her work, Dwek explores the psychology of having a fixed vs. growth mindset. A person with a fixed mindset assumes that their character, intelligence, and ability can not change in any meaningful way. Their success is directly attributed to their intelligence compared to the intelligence of others and will passionately defend the status quo. Many people with a fixed mindset are afraid to take risks, or try new things because of significant fear of failure.
Those with a growth mindset, however, believe that effort and persistence will lead to great things. They view failure as an opportunity to learn, grow, and expand their knowledge. A person with a growth mindset will say, “I will use a different strategy” instead of simply giving up.
This mindset can be cultivated and produces remarkable results with students and adults. By changing the way we offer praise we can begin transitioning to a growth mindset and open up ourselves and others to limitless possibilities. By focusing on effort, persistence, and struggle we reinforce the idea that intelligence, creativity, and ability are not fixed. Instead of saying, “You are so smart, you got X correct.” try saying “Wow, you got X correct! You must have worked really hard!”