Growth Mindsets

We all have experience getting better at things.  If you lift weights, you get noticeably stronger.  If you practice a musical instrument or a new language, you get noticeably more proficient.  But can your brain get stronger and better at math by regular practice?

There’s Room For Growth

Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, has done pioneering work looking at the difference between the two types of mindsets:  fixed and growth.  A fixed mindset assumes our intelligence and abilities are static, leading to the belief that effort is fruitless.  Conversely, a growth mindset involves the belief that intelligence and skills can be developed with training, and practice can lead to greater success.

Many of us believe we are simply good at math, or bad at math, and that’s just the way we were born.  It turns out this belief is largely a result of faulty early psychological theories, and is far from the truth.  Neuroscientists have shown that our brain’s neuroplasticity supports the idea of a growth mindset.  When students engage in the process of learning, especially in challenging subjects like math, their brains form new connections, literally growing in response to effort and persistence.

Studies have shown that mindsets are strongly predictive of math and science achievement.   Those with growth mindsets fare far better than those with fixed mindsets.  By simply believing it is possible to get better at math and science, students can thrive in these subjects!

Raising Confident, Perseverant, and Creative Problem Solvers

As a parent, caregiver, or educator, one of the most important things you can do for children is to encourage them to have a growth mindset.  This is not only important for their math education, but for all walks of life.  Below are eight easy tips for encouraging a growth mindset in your children:

  1. Praise Effort, Not Intelligence:  Instead of saying, “You’re so smart,” focus on effort: “I’m proud of how hard you have been working to complete your Tile Farm Academy daily challenges.”
  2. Encourage Perseverance:  Teach children that it’s okay to struggle.  For example, if they’re frustrated with a puzzle in Tile Farm Academy, say, “It’s tough, but you’ve solved puzzles like this before. I bet you can figure this one out.”
  3. Model a Growth Mindset:  Share your own challenges and learning experiences. For instance, talk about a new skill you’re learning, highlighting the effort and perseverance required.  Alternatively, create your own Tile Farm profile, and show your children that you too struggle, but ultimately succeed, while playing Tile Farm Academy’s more advanced games and puzzles.
  4. Use Growth Mindset Language:  Swap fixed mindset phrases with growth-oriented ones. Instead of “I can’t do this,” encourage “I can’t do this yet, but I’m learning.”
  5. Celebrate Mistakes as Learning Opportunities:  If your child gets a problem wrong, ask, “Do you understand why that was wrong?  What can we learn from this?”  Remember what Thomas Edison said about inventing modern light bulbs:  “I have not failed,  but found 1,000 ways not to make a light bulb.”
  6. Set Learning Goals: Instead of focusing solely on grades, set effort based goals like, “Let’s aim to complete a Super-Week in Tile Farm Academy.”  Tile Farm Dashboard has a tool where you can set specific goals for your children, and give custom rewards for reaching those goals
  7. Reflect on Growth:  Be sure to periodically reflect on your child’s growth.  Remind them how much better they have gotten at things like math or reading over time.  “Remember when you used to have trouble solving any Shadow puzzles in Tile Farm Playground?  Your problem solving skills have improved so much in the last few months!” 
  8. Don’t Forget Your Own Growth Mindset:  Problems with a fixed mindset are by no means restricted to children.  Be sure to embrace a growth mindset for yourself, as you continue to learn and grow during adulthood!  

A growth mindset is more than an educational tool; it’s a life philosophy.  By incorporating these research-backed strategies and practical tips into daily parenting, we can help our children develop resilience, perseverance, and a lifelong love of learning.

Interested in learning more about the Science of Tile Farm? Check out the whole blog series here!

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Alex Romero, Chief Experience Officer

Alex has an MS in biochemistry and molecular biophysics from Caltech, and has extensive experience both as a research scientist and as an elementary school math and science teacher. He is passionate about art and innovation, and making the math learning experience as beautiful as possible.