Picture this: a student enters your classroom, a negative attitude at the ready. They are distant during class, uninterested in engaging with the material, and their beliefs confirmed every time they get a question wrong – “I can’t do math.” How can teachers combat this belief?
The culture that schools foster through the messages, beliefs, and behaviors that educators promote can help create a positive attitude among students that leads to better math achievement. Furthermore, research suggests that having a positive attitude toward math can boost math achievement.
In my 40-year tenure, where I concluded my career as a math specialist at New Caney Independent School District (ISD), I employed the following five strategies to help educators foster a strong math culture that leads to greater success for their students.
1. Make math relevant.
Connecting math to the everyday world that students live in helps them understand the relevance of what they’re learning, which can be very motivating. In addition to driving engagement, this approach can also help students build confidence.
For instance, if a student who is a basketball fan knows that a player who’s six for 10 from the free throw line is a 60-percent free throw shooter, that student already understands the concept of percentages without even realizing it. This awareness might convince students that they can, indeed, succeed at math.
2. Develop a growth mindset.
Fostering a growth mindset, in which students believe their abilities can be developed through hard work, is critical to overcoming the myth that some people are just better at math than others.