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While most American schools include messages of equity and the belief that all students can develop their abilities, too often these sentiments exist only on paper and fall short of schools' growth-minded goals.
Adrian Mims, a former dean at Brookline High School, noticed an alarming trend in African American students who attempted high level math courses as freshmen at the mostly affluent Boston suburban school; the attrition rate for these students was nearly 100 percent by the time AP Calculus was offered in their senior year.
What Mims began unearthing was a fixed mindset about math among the African American students who began to steadily drop out of high level math courses. In other words, the school's mission statement of equality was just that - a statement without policies or procedures in place to support academic excellence for all.
As a high school math teacher, I hear over and over from families that their struggling student has "always" struggled in math and isn't doing well because they themselves didn't do well in math. This information that families share has shown me just how deeply rooted fixed mindsets can be and how people who exhibit a more growth mindset in some areas can hold very fixed mindsets about math. Many families are unknowingly telling teachers that math ability is based purely on genetics and not on the effort and experiences of their students. When working with students with a fixed mindset in math, in particular, I have found some strategies to be helpful in gaining some ground towards a growth mindset.