# Do We Really Understand What Math Is?

What would you or your students say math is? Some common answers could be numbers, addition, subtraction . . . Below are the posters a group of AIMS trainers created answering that question.

Most people don’t understand what math really is. If you have read some of my previous posts, you know my elementary and high school experience with math was very procedural. After attending Fresno Pacific for both an undergraduate and graduate degree, I understand that math is so much more!

Common Core Content Standards and Mathematical Practice Standards give us the opportunity to teach what math really is, but it will require an important mindset. Carol Dweck, a psychologist who had done decades of research on achievement and success, found that people have one of two mindsets: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Characteristics of a fixed mindset are avoiding challenges, giving up easily, and seeing effort as fruitless. Characteristics of a growth mindset are embracing challenges, persisting in the face of setbacks, and seeing effort as the path to mastery.

What kind of mindset do you have?

What kind of mindset do your students have?

How can you create a classroom that is a safe place for students to do math?

AIMS is here to help you change how you and your students think about math. There are countless testimonies of people who understood more of what math really is through an AIMS workshop or activity.

How do your students define math? Here is a pdf you can download and have students put in their math journals. After brainstorming individually, I would have a group of 4 students make a graffetti poster to brainstorm ideas. A graffetti poster is a poster where they write words or draw images that fit with the given statement. (The posters at the beginning of the blog are examples.)

How have you addressed your students’ definition of math? Revisit the posters after you have been in school for a few months. Is there something that should be taken off the poster or added to it?

Modeling a growth mindset for our students is so important, and it is also important that we help our students to have a growth mindset as well. How have you helped your students interact in math with a growth mindset? How have you seen your students think about math differently because of Common Core?

I like that you mentioned the ‘fixed mindset’ and the ‘growth mindset’. I mentioned this in one of my blog posts last year:

http://www.virtual-mathematics.com/2012/08/is-it-a-love-hate-relationship-with-math-mathphobia.html#comments

I just planned this exact activity for my 2nd graders for the first day of school. 🙂 But I do love the sheet for their math notebook. I will have to add this to my plans.

That is wonderful! If you have any pictures of posters or student work, I would love to see it. Changing the mindset that math is more than just calculations is an important step in making it more accessible for children who never saw themselves as good at math. It is such a rich and beautiful subject with layers that so many have not experienced.