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Help students develop a growth mindset in maths through investigations

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Help students develop a growth mindset in maths through investigations

iMaths 1/3/22

Note: iMaths is in its final year and will be discontinued at the end of 2024. If you’re looking for a primary maths resource written for the Australian Curriculum Version 9.0, explore Maths Trek.

Are there students in your class who believe they are simply ‘not good at maths’? Investigations are an ideal platform to foster a growth mindset. Use these tips to encourage students to reframe their thinking and focus on growth and learning.

1. Encourage students to ask questions

Even if students are unsure or don’t understand something, they may not have the confidence to ask questions to get clarity. Let students know that no question is a ‘silly’ question and instead regularly demonstrate how asking questions is a great tool to help learn and improve knowledge and skills.

To encourage students to feel confident to speak up and ask questions, throw some absurd or ‘silly’ questions at your class. For example, when introducing the iMaths 3 Investigation Sprouting Surprises, ask your students ‘What if we water plants with olive oil instead of water?’ This creates a sense of fun and openness to asking questions.

2. Provide multi-step challenges

Often the difference between embracing a challenge and backing away from it comes down to mindset. Developing a growth mindset can be easier to foster and maintain when students can see just how far they’ve come. Investigations are an engaging challenge for students because they involve multiple steps and a layered approach to learning. First they must learn specific maths concepts, then they apply this maths to a real-life context. Investigations often involve trial and error, collaborating with other students and reflecting on the outcome. This combination and multi-step approach provides students with a real sense of satisfaction about how much they’ve learned and how each step of the learning journey was an integral part of the process.

3. Foster a risk-taking classroom

Taking risks and making mistakes often go hand in hand. A common reason why many students feel incompetent at maths is because they’re disheartened by repeat failures. To combat this thinking, reinforce the idea that it’s safe to take risks and make mistakes. Encourage students to share ‘outrageous’ ideas about how they can apply their maths learning in real-life contexts. Help to build a sense of trust by encouraging them to support one another as they take risks.

Fostering a risk-taking classroom involves modelling how to take risks and, as part of that, showing the class how to fail. You might like to model how to fail with a light-hearted task, such as juggling, doing a yoga pose or drawing an animal you’ve never attempted to draw before. Explain to students that you’re happy to fail because that’s how you learn, improve and grow your skills.

When it comes to maths lessons, investigations can offer a conducive environment to apply risk-taking in order to learn and grow. Try one of these iMaths Investigations where experimentation, taking risks and failure are integral to the process.

iMaths 1: Investigation 5 Ramp champ

Length and measurement using informal units are the key themes in this scientific investigation, which looks at ways of making toy cars move faster and therefore travel further when placed on a ramp. This process will include trial and error and manipulating variables that affect the distance the car will travel, such as the inclination of the ramp, mass of the car, and type and size of wheels.

iMaths 2: Investigation 1 Marble ramp

Maths, technology and science come together as students plan, sketch and construct a ramp that will allow a marble to travel more than two metres. Students will select suitable resources and techniques, using trial and error and manipulating variables to improve their ramp design and outcome.

iMaths 4: Investigation 9 Marble mash

This investigation lets students explore the relationship between net size and 3D objects, developing an early understanding of the concept of volume. Students will use trial and error and deduction to create net designs that, when completed and constructed, will hold the maximum number of marbles.

What are some tips you use in your classroom to help your students develop a growth mindset? Share your ideas on social media and tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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