I’ve been reading Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets, in which she explores how to develop students' love and curiosity for mathematical challenges, based on scientific research. She mentions some advice that her colleague, mindset researcher Carol Dweck, shared with her, that really struck a cord with me:
... if children come home saying that they got all their questions right in class or on a test, parents should say: 'Oh, I'm sorry; that means you were not given opportunities to learn anything.'
Boaler notes that it’s a bit radical of a response, but the point is that to learn, students need to be challenged. And an indicator of experiencing challenge is getting some answers wrong.
In math class, students are frequently tested and graded, making it difficult for them to adopt the mindset that challenges are to be sought after, wrong turns should be taken, and that powerful learning will emerge from those mistakes. But what if teachers or parents want to provide children with activities that don’t have grades tacked on, and want to know how to influence students to challenge themselves?
To help answer that, I’ve rounded up a batch of research on the science of learning mindsets when it comes to STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and ways that educators can encourage students to seek and tackle challenges. Although these studies included students of demographics and contexts that likely differ from your unique situation, you can consider how these findings apply in your school or home.
About the Author
Cathy Tran, Ph.D., was a Design Researcher at MIND Research Institute. When she's not learning more about student motivation and cognition, she enjoys planning travel adventures around food.