The project aimed to develop a growth mindset around maths and build an ethos of using mistakes to shape our learning in school. It was important to the vision of the project that children were given opportunities to experience maths in different ways, building a bank of strategies that they could use. A number of changes to our approach to maths lessons were therefore made:
The project gave us the opportunity to look at teaching practise in class, to see if we could do more to aid the mindset of the children. We focused on the language used, to try to ensure the children became more confident to try and embrace their mistakes. During our Number Talks lessons, the children began to discuss how they reached their answer more openly but remained reluctant to show their working on whiteboards or to pick a strategy to use. When speaking out in class, the children became more confident in using maths vocabulary and reviewing their answer at length. If the timescale had been longer and the learning was more frequent, we might have seen the children more fully bought into the strategies we were using.
Previously, due to covid restrictions, the class had experienced less active maths teaching. When working on the concrete, pictorial and abstract resources, the children now worked in mixed ability groups. This was planned to allow conversations around learning, scaffolding the knowledge of other pupils as well as embracing mistakes and discussing how they could be rectified. When observing these sessions, it was evident that the children held critical discussions around their learning, and by not stepping in, the children steered discussions to areas that were more important to them. Whilst the children did show evidence of working together and becoming more confident in their discussions, it would take more time for this to take hold across all learning.
Unfortunately, we were unable to stay within the timeline for the project. Due to staffing and restrictions, classes within the school had to be reconfigured which meant that class teachers changed. After this delay, when we started the project, we had less time with the new class and the project went on for longer. This did not impact delivery, however, the fortnightly lessons planned might not have given enough exposure to the experiences planned for the project. Even though the timeframe was extended, it is important to note, that the children did make progress and the benefits of the project were still evident.
As previously stated, the main change in the project plan was the change in class. This did not mean that the content of the plan changed too much from the written proposal. The initial proposal was to work with addition and subtraction in a P3/4 class. We then shifted to focusing on a P4 class, which had two teachers and gave less direct teaching time. The extra teachers in the class also meant that we had to ensure that all staff had the same level of understanding in terms of the language to use and the observations to make. The timescale had to be extended to ensure that the children still had ample time to access the experiences.
One of the changes from the project, is the way that teachers ask questions and get answers from the children. We took a step back to allow more conversation to take place within groups, rather than closed questions from the teacher. We now focus more as a class on the strategy used and less on the answer, as well as looking at mistakes as a way to learn and holding discussions on what we could do differently. This has improved the confidence of the children using the strategies and we hope this will continue over time.
The groups have also got better at staying on task. At the beginning of the project, the observations showed more discussion around random things rather than the learning or the experience. Throughout the project, the mixed ability groups began to discuss the tasks quicker and in more depth. The language around the discussions also changed, with the children using more mathematical language and positive interactions around mistakes or changes to be made. Discussions around the steps or strategy used also increased, as the groups worked together more to find the answer or challenge themselves.
The use of concrete, pictorial and abstract resources was a welcomed change as the restrictions lifted. The children had not experienced this as much, so it was important to promote this in the learning experiences. Allowing the children to show their understanding in a variety of ways was essential to promote the development of growth mindsets in the classroom. The children were observed taking the strategies and using them in different learning experiences, allowing the groups to scaffold each other, discuss the strategy they would use and help to rectify mistakes or discuss next steps.
The language used during maths lessons improved, with the children using more positive language when taking on challenges and using topic specific vocabulary. The “I can’t” attitude was replaced with groups looking at the challenge and working together to find the solution. The children also began supporting each other more and working better as a group. They were observed saying things like, “you only have £1, you need some more here” and “you have £6.24 and we need £6.29” “ok so I need to get more”. The class worked more positively during Number Talks sessions too, speaking more confidently about their idea or strategy and picking the “hot” Chilli Challenges.
When looking at the pre and post questionnaires, the 10 focus group children did move up at least 1 level in their growth mindset score. Some children moved up from a score of 1 (fixed mindset) to 6 (growth mindset). The children who were more reluctant at the start of the project, became more confident in sharing their thoughts and opinions as well as giving ideas to help solve problems. The children overall were able to openly discuss challenges more confidently and try to find solutions to problems. Through the observed conversations, the children were found to stay on task more and became better at working together. Children were even observed using different mental agility strategies like clapping together to help complete a question.
The mental agility sessions using Number Talks were also observed and showed an increase in confidence in both trying a challenge and using mistakes to help find the correct answer. The project class were more confident at sharing ideas if someone had made a mistake, giving someone help or giving their opinion on how they solved something differently. In terms of written mental agility, the class did become more confident, however, they were not yet independent in picking a strategy and showing the relevant working without prompting. With a longer timeframe, we believe this would have developed.
Below are several quotes from the children during observed tasks and Number Talks:
“Wait but that doesn’t make 5p, we need to make 5p”
“It’s not telling her the answer, it is helping her”
“We need to make 60p so put another 10p on”
when self-correcting “I was actually really close”
“that is only £4.70 and I have coppers, we have the pence covered”
“So, you need to take the 30 and take 18 from it”
when doing a chimney sum “what does the 3 become?” “2 it looks like this its 2”
“its 50p ok so I need 50p, no you have 30p and we need 50p, we have enough 10ps to do it”
“You only have £1 and you need some more, here”
“You have £6.24 and we need £6.29”, “ok I need to get more”
“I have 5 on my hand and my other hand, we need 5 on yours too”
“if we add them its £10” “I’ve got £10.10, that’s the change”
“We need to divide it by 2 it says that” “so he doesn’t have enough?” “No, he does, he has £18 to spend and that’s cheaper than that”
“I think its £10, we round to the nearest 10”
“Well, that’s £20” “So £18 change” “No its per litre, how many litres did he use?” “I think he can get 18 litres”
The staff within our setting have been working on developing a growth mindset with the children for a few years. The staff became aware of the Mindset course and the different resources we could use to provide different experiences and opportunities for children to extend their knowledge. Colleagues introduced more active rotations into their maths lessons and worked together to highlight the timings and key elements of a maths lesson. Thus, staff worked together to embed some of the project elements into their own classes. Feedback from staff did state that it was difficult to observe or evidence any impacts, given the day to day working of a class teacher.
Next term, we hope to highlight the importance of having a growth mindset from the outset. We will focus on what this looks like in practise and in more depth. We will have daily Number Talks sessions, giving the children the opportunity to challenge themselves, pick a strategy and show their working. This will extend as the year progresses to promote the importance of showing their working and discussing the answers and steps aloud. The concrete, pictorial and material aspect of teaching will also continue, ensuring that children can show their learning in a variety of ways in all aspects of maths. This will extend into “focus groups” in maths, where children have a set mixed ability group that they work in for a set amount of time, to develop groups who can work together to scaffold each other’s knowledge and work through mistakes and challenges.