Computation and a Growth Mindset

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Encouraging growth

This past week my third grade class started to use multiplication and division strategies to solve world problems.  They’ve used arrays before and are now applying their understanding of multiplication and division.  That practical application can be a challenge for some and I feel like it’s partially because students aren’t yet fluent with their facts. In an effort to collect a bit more data on what particular facts students were struggling with I gave the class a short 17 question Kahoot! quiz. The quiz was related to multiplication and division facts.

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Click picture for actual quiz

In the past I’ve used Kahoot to review concepts and skills in a game-based format.  I’d estimate that the majority of Kahoot quizzes have a limited amount of time and points are scored.  This is fine and I’m not against using this format, but it didn’t work for my purpose.  I wanted students to take their time and diligently pick an answer.  So, each student grabbed an iPad and completed the quiz on Wednesday.  It took about five minutes or so and students reflected on how they thought they did on the quiz.  The class then reviewed multiplications strategies and connected how multiplication and division are connected.  The homework for that evening also reinforced some of the computation strategies that we’ve been practicing in class.

The next day students were given the same Kahoot quiz.  The question order was changed and students were allowed to take as much time as needed.  I printed out both the first and second quiz results for the students to see the difference between the scores.  Students glued both sheets in their math journal and were asked to respond to the journal prompt below.

“Was there a difference between your first and second scores?  If so, why do you think the results changed?”

Some of the responses are below.

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As you can see, some of the students are connecting the idea that improvement, effort, and growth is important.  I’d say this is a move in the right direction.  This year my school is emphasizing the idea of Dweck’s growth mindset.  Teachers are encouraged to use terms like persevere, not yet, and effort fairly frequently.  Students are hearing this type of speak and even being asked by administrators questions related to having a growth mindset.  By doing this activity I feel like students are starting to internalize that effective effort helps produce better results.  Instead of just talking about growth mindset and the benefits, students need to be able to make a meaningful connection between effort and achievement. I feel like preaching that effort alone will reap success isn’t the whole story.  I feel like students need to be able to document their journey and internalize the connections. I’m hoping to continue to use these types types of reflection activities throughout the year.

Assessments and Growth Mindset

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School has been in session for over month and many of my classes had a unit assessment last week.  The district adopted math program has 10-12 unit checkpoints (depending on the grade level) for the school year and each assessment covers specified math strands.  These assessments are designed to assess understanding and include an open response that emphasizes students’ conceptual understanding and math communication skills.  The entire unit assessment takes about 50+ minutes to complete.

I usually try to administer and grade all the tests on the same day.  This doesn’t always happen.  Before passing the tests back to the students the class generally has a discussion about certain problems that were missed more than others.

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What’s up with problem eight ?

We also have celebrations as a class.  During the class discussion we don’t blame, but reflect on what the numbers might mean.  This idea has taken time to cement and required a bit of modeling.  Based on the results I might even teach a brief mini lesson to help address and reduce misconceptions.  This is also an opportunity for students to analyze their own test and look for correlations.  Afterwards, students are given a sheet to reflect on their own analysis. Students are asked to review their assessment and give feedback on their own performance.

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Click for file

After the students fill out the above sheet they visit the teacher for a brief conference.  These last a quick 2-3 minutes and include a time to check-in with the student. We have a conversation about the student’s reflection and look for opportunities to improve in the future.  This is also a time to set some possible goals.  The sheet is glued into the student’s math journal and can be a document that the student will look back on as the year progresses.

I feel like the process of analyzing, reflecting and setting goals is important.  I believe it reinforces a growth mindset mentality, but it also has me wondering about the role of different assessments in the learning process.  I’d say about 95% of what is used at the elementary level is formative.  I could see how that changes as students progress through middle and high school.  Feedback and the possibility to make positive strides towards improvement can often be utilized with most assessments, regardless if you label it formative or summative.  If a school truly embraces a growth mindset model, what role do summative assessments play? I believe that summative assessments have a role.  I’m just thinking that they may be perceived a bit differently if a school emphasizes a growth mindset model.


image credit: Woodley Wonderworks 

Student Growth Mindset

Image by:  S. Miles


Students that have an intrinsic drive to learn often retain information and are able to apply their learning in practical situations.  When students develop a growth mindset, they become much more goal oriented, which is a valuable skill to learn at a young age.  When students take responsibility for their own learning and understand the pivotal role that they play, a growth mind set begins to set in.  How do we as educators promote a growth mindset?  I have provided a list of activities that can be used to inspire students to become more responsible for their own learning in order to nurture a growth mindset.

1.)  Students communicate how they feel about their learning …

  • Students  become more aware of how metacognition plays a role in learning
  • Students review their latest assignment/test and reflect on their performance
  • Students complete a plus/delta chart on their weekly performance
  • Students analyze classroom achievement data and set goals based on the results
2.)  What happens after reflecting via journaling is vital …                    


  • Students monitor their progress to ensure that they are making steady progress towards their goal
3.)  Next …
  • Look at specific areas of concern for continuous improvement

What do you do to encourage student responsibility in the classroom?