The general aim of this project was to develop growth mindsets in mathematics with primary 2 pupils, using Number Talks and the support of parents. This two-month project aimed to target the full class, since over 90% of the children live in SIMD 1 and 2 areas and feedback from a previous teacher highlighted poor attitudes, low maths assessment results and lack of engagement towards maths. The study had two main aims:
Overall, this study aimed to increase the pupil’s confidence, attitude, resilience and their ability to take part in deep learning. Research has clearly demonstrated that this has the potential to close the poverty related attainment gap (Scottish Government, 2016).
Overall, despite not getting the parental response anticipated, this study did achieve expectations. We did dispel some of the myths around speed and making mistakes with the children. They also had greater knowledge and understanding of the benefits of having a growth mindset and developed greater confidence when participating in maths lessons. The children were more willing to have a go and share their thinking on how they reached their answer. Unfortunately, due to low attendance at a parent workshop, we were unable to establish the perceptions of parents to maths and their own mindsets. This might have been due to the poor timing of the workshops, which were arranged for the busy month of December.
If implementing this project in the future, we would consider commencing at the start of a school year when parents might have been more responsive to attending the workshops. We would also use Survey Monkey to get parental responses to the questionnaire. Interviews could also be used with the children, saving time needed to adapt the questionnaire.
Originally the project was due to run from October to December. Whilst this was an appropriate amount of time for implementation, it was not an ideal time of year. This did impact parental engagement with the workshops. We were able to stay within the proposed timelines for the Number Talk lessons and pupil interviews, despite some unexpected changes in class. Overall, we found that the two-month timeline was successful, but the time of year was challenging.
A number of changes were made to the project plan following the start date:
Pupil questionnaire – it became clear, after testing numerous versions of the questionnaire, that the questions and format were too difficult for the children to complete themselves. Instead, we interviewed the children and completed the questionnaires individually. Although far more time consuming, this was more effective in eliciting responses from the children.
Parental questionnaires - unfortunately, we did not get the opportunity to use these questionnaires, but time had been spent adapting them after the pilot phase to make them less personal for parents to answer.
This project has had an impact on the class and across the school as set out below:
My understanding of growth mindset has improved after embarking on this project. I now fully understand the difference between a growth and fixed mindset and know different strategies to use to promote a growth mindset within class. I understand that helping pupils to develop a growth mindset will lead to different learning behaviours and ultimately the pupils will “…achieve at higher levels.” (Boaler, 2016, p.ix).
My professional knowledge and understanding of mathematical mindsets has also vastly improved. Awareness of maths anxiety and the myths surrounding being ‘good at maths’ have made me a more reflective and effective practitioner. I now emphasise to the children that speed is not important in maths and give them much more thinking time/time to work together to solve mathematical tasks in different ways. We emphasis in class that mistakes are an opportunity for learning and help to grow our brain (Boaler, 2014). I also have a much better appreciation of the benefits and theory behind Number Talks and why we get children to discuss their strategies. Overall, as a result of this project, I would say that my teaching ability has vastly improved.
This project has greatly benefitted the pupils in my class. They now have a more informed teacher who will always encourage them to have a growth mindset in all areas of the curriculum. The children’s confidence and enjoyment in maths has already greatly improved since this project commenced. They are more willing to have a go at maths tasks and are not afraid to discuss their mistakes. They like using different resources and strategies to explain their answers to their peers and realise that there is more than one way to work out an answer. The pupils are more relaxed when completing maths problems since the element of speed has literally been taken out the equation. This project will hopefully benefit all future pupils who will be taught in my classroom.
The parents still benefitted from this project, despite not attending the workshops. Pupils had to tell them about growth mindset as part of their homework and explain some of the myths associated with being clever at mathematics (Boaler, 2014).
Many of the school staff were very interested in the project and have engaged in discussion to develop their own understanding of growth mindset.
Evidence demonstrating the impact of this project is taken from the interviews held with pupils, at the start and end of the study. Overall, the findings show a real impact and changing perceptions of the pupils around maths and mindset. The main points to note are:
The information below shows the collated perceptions of pupils before and after the project.
Most colleagues were interested in the growth mindset project and study findings. The pupil’s previous teacher was extremely interested and commented that the children seemed “… more engaged in their learning” after a visit to a maths lesson. Another teacher, seeing the mindset posters, remarked that she hadn’t realised that teaching children about speed not being important and mistakes making your brain grow, were part of growth mindset. This led to professional dialogue about growth mindset being much more than just having a positive attitude and the important role that Number Talks can play. Overall, there was very positive feedback and engagement from colleagues around the project.
Following the project, the class will present on mathematical growth mindsets to the parents of primary 1-4, at a curriculum night. This has the potential to increase parental knowledge and understanding in this area, since this event is always very well attended. The pupils in primaries 1, 3 and 4 will also be in attendance on that night and will gain valuable information on this extremely important topic. The senior management team has been extremely supportive during this project and are keen to understand the findings and consider rolling out growth mindset to the full school. A decision will depend upon the new Head Teacher appointed and other priorities within the School Development Plan. We will make sure that all staff and parents are informed on how to develop a mathematical growth mindset and appreciate the huge benefits this brings.