The vision of this project was to increase attainment in mathematics through the development of self efficacy focusing on exploring creativity and flexible thinking. Carol Dweck stated, “Love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning.” These words encompassed the purpose of the project which was to allow the pupils to explore numeracy through nontraditional methods allowing the children to build confidence and realise the importance of making mistakes and then using them to explore their learning further.
In guidance set by the Scottish Government (2016) all schools and nurseries should use a wide range of effective learning and teaching approaches to promote positive attitudes and develop high expectations, confidence and resilience in maths. The intention of the project was to ensure learners are given the opportunity to explore learning in a setting that will encourage them to take risks and explore numeracy whilst developing a growth mindset.
Throughout all the research and training there had been a large emphasis on the power of the word "YET" and the importance of that word was the focus that brought all the elements of the project together. The end goal was for the targeted pupils to develop their mindset allowing them to explore mathematics and to access more of the curriculum.
After analysing the data and reflecting on the interactions during the course of the project, the aim of the project has been achieved.
The pupils were instantly engaged with the idea that maths could be taught without textbooks and that concepts could be explored by using the environment. The biggest learning from the pupils took place during the outdoor learning section which enabled the pupils to explore the concept of multiplication by only using the environment. The pupils’ attitude and engagement was extremely high as they were able to confidently explain their thinking without a jotter or textbook in sight.
The group worked hard to establish an environment that allowed pupils to embrace mistakes, however, there was some resistance at the beginning from some pupils. As the children explored the meaning behind the word ‘yet’ there was a shift in attitude to sharing when and where mistakes had been made and how to move forward.
One section of the project was exploring paired and group problem solving, however, this section of learning had to be rearranged and came earlier in the project than planned. The reason this section was planned at the end of the project was to allow the pupils to use all the knowledge they had gained throughout the project and to really challenge the pupils and encourage the groups not to give up. The problem solving activities were set to encourage exploration and the pupils exceeded expectations, even so early on in the project. At the start, the children returned to using negative comments but they persevered and by the end, they were not wanting to finish and wanted the session to continue as they were so focused. The pupils supported each other and showed a great example of growth mindset.
The data shows that there has been a shift towards a growth mindset and the way they perceive their own maths ability. All children increased their mindset profile score and all bar one child increased how they view how good they are at maths. Along with data, pupil voice, was extremely important in analysing the impact of the project. Children’s feedback to peers and teachers during the project showed that the pupils were proud of the work they had achieved and wanted to teach others about the word ‘yet’. Class teachers commented on the difference they saw in the pupils during maths lesson and they were intrigued to learn how to incorporate strategies into their daily teaching.
The project exceeded expectations but the results unfortunately don’t show case the enjoyment on the children’s faces or the grit determination shown when not wanting to give up.
The intervention was delayed by 2 weeks at the beginning due to other teaching commitments which resulted in classroom observations having to be cancelled. The pre assessments and discussions took place to allow for a baseline to be identified before the intervention began.
The continued support of the management team enabled the intervention to take place on a weekly basis with the flexibility of days. The two class teachers were also very accommodating and flexible as they had previously read the research behind the intervention and the aim of the project and were both keen to support the group of pupils to allow for maximum impact.
The projected timeline had factored in additional weeks to accommodate any missed weeks due to other commitments in both the classes' timetables and the project leader's. This allowed for the project to be completed and evidence gathered within the required timeframe.
The project had been split into several sections of focused learning and due to weather conditions, there had to be movement to accommodate suitable weeks for outdoor learning.
The initial plan was to create a wall display with the pupils and enable them to record their feelings and progress through the intervention. Due to limited spacing within the school, the group were unable to have an area to consistently use every week and the sessions had to take place in a variety of classrooms and learning areas. A wall display was created in an area beside the pupils’ classroom exhibiting examples of positive language including the statement “The most powerful addition, the word yet”. The children referred to the wall when talking to peers and explaining the meaning of the words but it unfortunately wasn’t appropriate to display their progress.
The pupils were going to showcase their learning at the end of the project to parents and feedback was going to be gathered. However, the pupils did not want this to happen and only wanted progress to be shared with the group and class. Their wishes were adhered to and parents were not invited in to the school.
The growth mindset made an impact within the school and for some children it has also impacted their personal lives.
During initial discussions the pupils shared their thoughts on maths and the majority of pupils did not have a positive attitude towards the subject. Pupils stated that they did not like having so much written work and that they were told how to lay out their working and were given no freedom to explore ideas. After this discussion, the format of the sessions was explained and that the aim of the project was to allow for creativity and to explore maths learning in a variety of ways and instantly the pupils were more optimistic and keen to find out more about the different sessions.
As part of the first section of learning, the group explored famous people, for example, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Lionel Messi, who had failed in earlier years, but as a result of their growth mindset, they were able to succeed in life. Using these examples of people in the public eye made it more relatable to the children and they were eager to find out about others.
At the beginning of the every week, pupils would ask their class teachers when the session would be on and were eager to participate in the project. Class teachers were very keen to participate in further learning to understand the importance of growth mindset and the different teaching and learning strategies used throughout the intervention as colleagues acknowledged that the pupils involved in the intervention had made significant changes in their attitude during not only numeracy lessons but across the wider curriculum.
For the first half of the project, two pupils were reluctant to participate fully and they were discouraging others and didn’t give their full effort. The other pupils were trying so hard and were fully engaged in learning and wanting to explore their thinking. After a discussion with the two pupils, they were given the option to withdraw from the project, however, both declined and this was a turning point in their commitment to the project.
During every sessions the pupils were able to share when they had had a growth mindset moment out with the group sessions and all learners were able to share examples. One child was so inspired by the word ‘yet’ that she asked her mum for swimming lessons as she had always been afraid and was unable to swim. By the end of the intervention the pupil had not only increased her growth mindset in maths but was able to swim without arm bands.
At the end of the project, the post intervention questionnaires were repeated and all children’s score increased in the maths mindset profile and seven out of eight pupils’ MALS had improved. During the final discussion the pupils commented on how enjoyable maths could be and they would always like their learning to be structured in a way that allowed them to be creative and explore concepts in different ways. Pupils shared that they felt a sense of relief to know that mistakes should not be seen as a sense of failure but as a way to improve learning.
The pupils did not want the project to finish and wanted their class teachers to adapt the way maths is taught throughout the school. Even with the success of this project there is a lot more work to be done to establish a comprehensive programme to the rolled out throughout the establishment.
During the research phase pupils that would benefit from the intervention had been identified by class teachers, learning support teachers and management. Before the initial sessions, all pupils in the upper school were asked to complete the pre intervention measure, the Maths Mindset Profile. This allowed a comparison between previously identified pupils and their peers and to establish if the correct pupils had been selected for the project.
The results from the Maths Mindset Profile identified that 7 out of the 8 children fell into the category of F1 & G1 (Appendix 1) which indicates learners “haven’t really decided for sure whether you can change your ability to learn maths” (Mindset Works 2016) and one child was in the F2 category that stated learners “lean toward thinking maths ability doesn’t change much.”
After completing the intervention, all children had increased their mindset profile score and 75% of the pupils were now classified as believing that intelligence and maths ability is something that you can increase. The other two pupils had increased their score, however, they still fell into the category of not being sure whether you could change maths ability.
Learners completed the Myself As A Learner Scale and before the project, scores ranged from 2 to 7 (See Appendix 2). After the project, seven out of the eight pupils increased their perception of how good they thought they were at maths and one pupil’s view stayed the same.
During initial discussions pupils commented on their thoughts of maths
Pupil 1 – Math is boring, all you do it write calculations in a jotter
Pupil 2 – You just sit writing calculations
Pupil 3 – I don’t link being told how to lay it out
Pupil 4 – I want to be able to work with my friends to work out answers
Pupil 5 – It’s boring
Pupil 6 - I want to do different activities
Pupil 7 – I like maths when I get to play games
Pupil 8 – I agree with Pupil 7 – I like maths but not all the stuff in jotters
After the project, the pupils’ comments were far more positive.
Pupil 1 – I liked how we didn’t use a jotter
Pupil 2 – If you see calculations in different ways, it can help
Pupil 3 – You don’t always know everything YET
Pupil 4 – It made maths much funner
Pupil 5 – I can do maths now
Pupil 6 – I use the word ‘yet’ a lot
Pupil 7 – Maths is much easier to understand now
Pupil 8 – I don’t want to give up in maths
When asked whether the project should be changed or adapted in any way if it was to be completed again the children unanimously said no they would not change anything. The results and feedback are encouraging and indicate that the learners that participated in the project have made a positive step towards having a growth mindset.
Having analysed the results, pupil feedback and professional judgements taken throughout the intervention, the increase in scores and learning attitudes exceeded expectations. The pupils' daily maths learning with class teachers did not change during the project so it would believed the increase in growth mindset and self perception would be a direct result of the intervention.
Pupils 2,6,7 and 8 embraced the project from the beginning and whole heartedly wanted to learn how to become a more successful learner in maths and as a result had the most significant increase in mindset scores. The different learning approaches opened up new ways of thinking and where they would have once shied away from sharing answers or explaining thinking, these pupils felt comforted by the group and accepted the benefits of learning from mistakes. These pupils were the first to explain when they used the word 'yet' and were able to give examples in different learning contexts with in and outwith the school day.
As previously stated, two pupils were disengaged at the start of the project and as a result their mindset scores did increase but not significantly like others. Their attitude to learning and group involvement changed when ask if they would like to leave the group and they started to open their minds to how the project could help. Had the intevention continued for another term, the likelihood would be that there would have been a more dramatic shift in their self belief and post intervention scores.
For growth mindset to change, learners would need direct experience of learning a new concept which they had initially found challenging, time to explore learning and finally time to persevere and engage in self belief. The project enabled the pupils to have plenty of these opportunities and created an environment where the pupils felt secure in allowing themselves to fail but have the support to build inner confidence to continue with their learning. Maths was developed through a range of different creative approaches which certainly increased enthusiasm and the pupil voice showed the difference between pre and post intervention thoughts. Taking this into account, it would, however, be the change of mindset language, the secure environment and the power of 'yet' that had the biggest impact in changing the pupils' self perception and mindset scores allowing them to develop the understanding that mindset can be adjusted to help impact their learning.
The target group included pupils from across two Primary 6 classes, therefore, the two class teachers were fully informed of the project aim and both were very supportive. Throughout the intervention, the teachers commented on the daily discussions of the pupils and in the language they used and the change in their attitudes when tackling numeracy work in the classroom. Colleagues recognised that pupils encouraged other learners when completing paired and group tasks and were keen to share their knowledge of growth mindset and the power of the word ‘yet’.
Colleagues were very keen to participate in professional learning to enable strategies to be incorporated into daily teaching.
Having recently taken on an acting management role in a different school, the proposed plan of targeting another group of learners this academic year has been postponed. With the success of the initial project, on return, additional learners will be identified and a similar intervention will be implemented, factoring in the changes that had to be made during the initial project.
Not only will a small group of learners complete the repeated intervention, there will be a course of team teaching to allow for staff to see the different learning activities available to develop a growth mindset classroom and to explore ways of embracing mistakes.
In addition to a growth mindset intervention focusing on maths, during curriculum development sessions, common growth mindset language will be explored allowing for staff members to implement the ‘power of yet’ with individual classes across all curricular areas.
Wall displays with a common theme will be development throughout the school with a large growth mindset focal display at the entrance. A growth mindset award will be added to the monthly achievement assembly to celebrate pupils that have embraced their learning.