Developing Student Growth Mindsets [#NCTMDenver] #mathrecap

I attended David Dockterman’s April 18th session at NCTM Denver titled “Developing a Growth Mindset in Struggling Math Students”. Dockterman is an adjunct lecturer of education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and works for Scholastic Education as well.


Dockterman walked us through what the fixed mindset versus the growth (or incremental) mindset were, based on Carol Dweck’s research. He referred to one particular quote from Dweck: “The brain is a muscle. Giving it a hard workout makes it stronger.” He then emphasized that shifting students from a fixed to a growth mindset was critical to improving their learning.

He shared how we need to shift our language around mistakes. “You learned that quickly, I’m sorry I wasted your time” and “You really struggled to understand that, but you persevered and got it – can you tell me how you figured it out?” both support the growth mindset rather than making failure a dead end.


He discussed how gaming environments are growth mindset driven, with rewards for effort not just correct answer (stars etc), and highlighted one example of an app that rewards effort: the “Slice It” app (which focuses on geometrical figures, symmetry).

He showed a slide discussing how the “zone of proximal development” is where we want to have our lessons and questions for students, rather than the lessons and questions be too easy or too difficult. (Apologies for the fuzziness of the picture of the slide below.)


He then took session attendees through a quick multi-question quiz to determine how much of a growth mindset we have. He said that the questions and the final rubric which used a point system for answers to the questions (to determine levels of fixed or growth mindset in quiz participants) was available at MindsetWorks.

He spent a bit of time showing 2-3 slides on Math 180, a Scholastic product. “Digital games, simulations, visual models provide immediate feedback and can be incredibly failure tolerant” (Dockterman, April 18th). He also said that telling our students that a topic is important for them doesn’t work, and can lower performance. He recommended having students share/write why something is important to them – this provides meaning and context and makes the learning “stick”.

During the session, I tweeted quite a bit, finding many of the points Dockterman made were statements that resonated with me. I always pause to check out any recommended apps, websites, resources after sessions are over to see if they are worthwhile for my district. It is this after-the-session exploration that led me to become a bit frustrated and rethink my opinion of the session. I will reserve opinion comments for a separate contemplative blog post, however I will highlight that both the “Math 180” program/site and the “MindsetWorks” program/site highlighted in his session are (in my mind) cost prohibitive.

Despite (and to some extent because of) after-the-fact frustration, the session provided me with opportunity to think critically on pedagogy and resources.

To date, I am unaware of any uploaded session resources other than pictures tweeted during the session.

Note: “Test Your Mindset” quiz that was used in this session is available at Dweck’s Website.


About tjthiessen

explorer, administrator, consultant, student, leader
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One Response to Developing Student Growth Mindsets [#NCTMDenver] #mathrecap

  1. Pingback: Student Growth Mindsets Part 2 [#NCTMDenver] #mathrecap | Joy of Education

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