Getting students to approach learning math with a growth mindset can be a challenge for many teachers. Failure breeds frustration which turns into apathy and an otherwise engaged student does just enough to get by, or worse, fails to master even basic skills.
Sandy Miller believes it doesn’t have to be that way.
The Penn Central teacher recently gave a presentation at the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics Regional Conference designed to give her peers the tools they need to encourage their students to embrace a growth mindset when it comes to learning math. Using a combination of data and creative hands-on activities, Miller’s presentation left about 80 teachers in attendance with new ideas, strategies and lessons to put in place in their classrooms.
Miller said her presentation could not have gone any better.
“They enjoyed the brain research and the ‘what to say in the classroom’ portion of the workshop,” said Miller, who has been at Pennridge for 15 years. “But they totally enjoyed the hands-on activities. There were rich math conversations, feelings of success and at times frustration.”
The hands-on activities included building shapes with ropes, “painting” sugar cubes, and a “four-fours” challenge. In each case, teachers worked in groups to come up with solutions, often engaging in mathematical conversations and spirited debate.
“Group work is beneficial to a growth mindset,” said Miller.
Miller recalled one teacher who said she gained insight into how a student frustrated by a task might feel and then the satisfaction of success after persevering to find the solution.
“They assured me they would take these activities back to their classrooms,” said Miller.
While she wasn’t presenting, Miller attended several workshops to pick up more tips for making math relevant for her students.
“I came home feeling physically worn out but emotionally energized to reenter the classroom,” she said.
Superintendent David Bolton thanked Miller for representing Pennridge on the national level for the second time in three years. In 2015, she teamed up with Deanna Januzzi on their “Go for the Gold” workshop to show teachers how to connect the Golden Ratio with the real world to make math fun and relevant for youngsters.
“Conferences are often a wonderful opportunity to learn new ideas to improve our classrooms,” he said. “Pennridge is proud to have teachers like you who are willing to present at the national level.”