Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets and Math vs. English

Lately, I’ve been really contemplating why I had a fixed mindset, currently trying to cultivate a growth mindset in every area.

Like most math teachers, I am really good at math.  Math is easy.  I figured out how to solve complex math problems.  Honestly, I think I can only remember being stumped in high school once.

So here is how I got to the place of wanting to change my mindset.  I first read Mindset, by Carol Dweck, I also went to a presentation by Jo Boaler (at CMC South) and I read Ed Burger’s The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking.  I am currently reading John Maxwell’s The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.  You can say that I saturated myself in this type of thinking.  These are all basically explaining how to continue to grow and not be concerned about failure, because you get to learn from failure (more than you would from success) anyway.

A colleague, who is an English teacher (the kind you wish you had, who by the way has a growth mindset), and I were having a conversation about mindsets.  I had an amazing revelation-type thought.  When you learn math, you try to avoid mistakes or “failures”.  As opposed to when you learn how to write papers, every iteration of a paper is a “failure” until it is revised, which might be another “failure”, and so on.  When you write a paper, you want people to find your mistakes, so you can  improve your paper.  A “failure”, when writing papers, is a momentary location on the road of improvement.  As opposed to in math, mistakes or “failures” are like destinations, in which you now have to start the journey all over.  If we can somehow use these mistakes as temporary locations instead of final defining destinations, we can inherently change students’ mindsets.

I have to say, in my own very humble opinion, the more students (and teachers for that matter) are good at math, the more they are prone to have a fixed mindset.  We try desperately to avoid mistakes, instead of use them to strategically find the solution of the math problem.

What do you think?  Do you have a fixed or growth mindset?  What do you think help you grow that mindset?