Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mindset

My How to Learn Math class is going very well - I'm halfway through the sessions and feel like it has been very worthwhile. A good portion of the first part of the class was built around the ideas in Carol Dweck's Mindset. As a result, I decided to create an "assignment" for the parents and students of my incoming freshmen. Here's the email I just sent to them:

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Algebra Parents and Students,

I hope your summer is going well. We'll be starting school in just under three weeks (woo-hoo!) and in a few days I'll be emailing some more information about our class and some tasks for the students to do. In the meantime, however, I wanted to give both the parents and the students a joint "assignment." Now, just to be perfectly clear, this assignment is optional, but I really, really, really (did I mention "really"?) think it would be helpful for each one of you to do this assignment between now and the start of school.

Okay, so here it is. As your student is about to begin high school they likely (and naturally) have a lot of fears. Many of those fears are social (we've never had freshman stuffed in a locker, although I've wanted to a couple of times), and many of those are academic (we've never had a freshman's head explode from doing too much homework, although a few have cracked a bit).

This assignment tries to address some of the academic fears that many students have. By the time they start high school, many students have decided that they are "smart" at some things, and "dumb" at other things. While this is true of all subjects, it seems to be especially true in math. The thing is, those students are wrong, and not just the ones who think they are "dumb" at something, but also the ones who think they are "smart" as well.

We know from brain research that people aren't "smart" or "dumb" at things, but that everyone can learn, and that it turns out students' attitudes about learning have a surprisingly strong effect on how well they learn. This is referred to as "mindset" in the research, and the assignment I have for you to do involves learning a bit more about how your brain works in order to perhaps change your mind(set).

Again, this is optional, but I really, really, . . . (oh, you get the idea) . . . think you should consider doing this. Ideally this assignment will be completed by a parent(s) and student working together, at the same time. I've divided it up into three "sessions" as a way to break it up a bit (perhaps even over several days or weeks), but you are welcome to do it however you'd like. Simply visit this website and work through as much or as little of it as you'd like. I think you'll find this assignment very worthwhile and I hope you consider completing it.

Either way, enjoy the next few weeks and I look forward to meeting all of you soon. Again, look for another email from me in a few days that will have additional information about our class as well as some specific tasks for students to do.

Thanks for your time,

Karl Fisch
Arapahoe High School

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It will be interesting to see if any of them take me up on it. I'd also love any feedback you might have on the mindset assignment itself.

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