There is no doubt that the mindset of parents can profoundly impact a child when it comes to learning mathematics. The term mindset refers to your internal beliefs and assumptions and has been coined by Stanford University professor Carol Dweck. Your mindset dictates how situations are handled in daily life, and it can substantially impact mathematics.
When learning, there are two predominant options: a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.” A fixed mindset involves believing that one intelligence does not change from birth. Children with a fixed mindset in mathematics often repeat comments such as “My parents were bad at math and so am I.” Or, “I have never been good at math.” Children can often become very discouraged and buy into the idea that you are either “smart,” “average,” or “dumb” in math.
It isn’t just children that may have this type of mindset. Parents are often also heard using fixed mindset sayings as well. Many times when a child asks a parent for help with their math homework, parents may often say, “I have never been good at math.” The problem is that kids hear what parents are saying and internalize it.
Individuals with a fixed mindset often look for something or someone to blame for their failures. Children with fixed mindsets may say things like, “the teacher picks on me,” or, “You made me angry, so I couldn’t study.” It is important to understand that blaming others does not improve performance. Only a growth mindset can help to improve performance.
A Growth Mindset
In stark contrast to a fixed mindset, a growth mindset is a belief that your intelligence can be continually improved upon. Children with a growth mindset see learning as a great challenge. They also believe that they can improve if they put in enough effort.
Children with a growth mindset in mathematics can often be heard saying things such as “mistakes helped me learn.” Or, “I can’t do this problem yet, but I will persevere through it.” Parents can use a growth mindset when speaking with their children by complimenting a child’s intelligence. They may say phrases such as, “You did a great job working through that problem. Your effort will pay off.”
People with a growth mindset know that hard-working effort will pay off in success. They can think reflectively about the changes they can make to be successful. Children need to understand that growth does not mean earning all A’s in school. It means pushing themselves beyond their current capabilities and always doing their best. Part of having a growth mindset is the want to do better and to take risks. Children should be encouraged to explore possibilities, dream big, and back up those dreams with the tools necessary to succeed.
Fear Of Mathematics
Unfortunately, we live in a world that has become acceptable for people to believe that being bad at math is genetic. It has become socially acceptable to be proud of our fear of mathematics. Parents need to be vigilant and aware of their own mindset as it can significantly influence their children. Children always hear what you say and will mimic your behaviour. Helping your child with their growth mindset can be as easy as letting them know that making mistakes is part of the learning process. By instilling a love of learning in your child, you could help them become better problem solvers to persevere and work through their challenges.
A recent study involving middle school students looked at the impact of fixed versus growth mindsets on achievement in math. Students with a growth mindset were shown to understand math operations better and have higher math grades overall than students with a fixed mindset.
Moulding The Brain
The human brain can be moulded much like plastic. It can shrink or grow depending on how we take care of it. This means the more you train your brain to be open to new ideas, the better the chances are that your brain will actually do so. Rewiring the brain to become more familiar with the growth mindset can be challenging, but it can also be done. A great way to help a child with their growth mindset is to encourage them to spend time at night growing their brain. This could include establishing a time frame in your household where everyone works on a math puzzle. Parents need to provide an environment that values learning, first and foremost.
Children who know that a brain can get smarter will do better in school as they become aware that they can take charge of their own learning. Children with a growth mindset will start to understand that failure is all a part of the learning process. However, children with a fixed mindset may focus on how others perceive them, and they may avoid situations in which they might have to work through a challenge.
Overall, the best way for your child to develop a growth mindset is for you, the parent to model one. At Dropkick Math, our math help services work with the parent and child to help build confidence and overcome any learning gaps in mathematics. Our program offers a unique take on math tutoring by focusing on relationships and engaging the parent/guardian. Visit our website today to learn more about our programs.