How many of 13? (or, Which group do you want to be in?) 

Your students will have about 13 math teachers from K-12.  Will you be one who truly helps them develops growth mindsets? 

Most of us have heard about research (granted – it is based on standardized test scores) that says that if a student has ineffective teachers in mathematics for three years in a row, it is nearly impossible for the student ever to “catch up”.  I have been thinking about this same idea – not focused on test scores – but in the context of students’ mindsets in mathematics class (though I would argue that test scores are affected by mindsets).  What subtle or direct actions and words encourage all students equally, rather than favoring some and “rescuing” others?*  How many of 13 teachers does it take to convince a student that he is not capable of achieving much in mathematics?  How many of 13 does it take to convince a student otherwiseWhich group do you want to be in? 

*Here are 10 “easy” teacher moves — that any of us can use at any time — that are very powerful in terms of helping students to believe in their own mathematical thinking (and not rely on the teacher as the ultimate and only authority) — but we have to be consistent about these for them to be effective!

Choose students randomly to share their thinking — every day, as often as possible (e.g., names on popsicle sticks, index cards, or an app); remind students that you are doing this because everyone’s thinking is equally valuable and because we learn from each other

If a student isn’t sure what to share at a given moment, ask the student to call on a classmate with a hand raised for a thought or an idea (I prefer not to say “for help”), and THEN come BACK to the first student and ask this student to explain what was said — because it’s important that the first student learns in this moment

When a student shares an idea, DON’T show whether YOU agree or disagree — ask the class to show thumbs up/down/sideways to indicate their agreement/disagreement/uncertainty with the idea; then ask the student to call on someone who agrees/disagrees to ask why (and allow them to continue the discussion as appropriate)

When you ask a question that requires some extra thinking, ask students to think on their own for a moment (or longer) and then to turn and talk with a partner for an appropriate amount of time before you invite whole group discussion 

Ask questions like: “What do you notice?” “What questions could we ask about this?” “What do you see?” “How are you thinking about this?”

Don’t allow just a single word or number as an an answer from a student, and if you start a sentence for a student to finish, have the student restate the entire idea afterward (e.g., rather than saying, “The slope of this line is…?”, say, “Tell me what you know about the slope of this line” — and require more of an answer than “It’s 6”… rather: “The slope of the line is 6 because when the x-value increases by 1, the y-value increases by 6”)

Expect students to use visual/physical representations whenever possible, especially when new ideas are developing (err on the side of having students create them even after you think they "shouldn’t need" them) — these representations are a key part of mathematics, and they never go away!

Emphasize that our brains expand and develop when we make mistakes and when we are thinking deeply

Create, and have students help to create, written/visual records of students’ thinking and learning (both in individual notebooks/digital files and in classroom references for all)

Use the Standards for Mathematical Practice as a key basis for our planning for ALL students, every day 

This list could go on… The more we can consistently utilize the teacher moves above, the more likely it will be that ALL students develop autonomy and depth of understanding.  How many of 13?  Which group do you want to be in?

© Summit Mathematics Education Enterprises, LLC 2014