How do I assist students in becoming confident mathematicians?

“Numerous research studies (Silver, 1994) have shown that when students are given opportunities to pose mathematics problems, to consider a situation and think of a mathematics question to ask of it—which is the essence of real mathematics—they become more deeply engaged and perform at higher levels.” (Boaler, Mathematical Mindsets, 2015, p. 27)


  • develop mathematical habits of mind
  • model and nurture a growth mindset with your students
  • encourage risk-taking in problem-solving
  • value mistakes as learning opportunities
  • notice, name and nurture core and curricular competencies
  • build a community of thinkers
  • provide time and space for student reflection on learning, growth, and next steps


Develop mathematical habits of mind

Assessing Early Numeracy.pdf

Habits of Mind

Extensive research indicates that for students to develop mathematical habits of mind they must encounter and interact in intentional learning settings. Classroom design combined with active participation strategies will enhance student learning, increase achievement, and factor in the development of the well-educated citizen.

Students who have developed mathematics habits of mind exhibit expertise in:

  • persevering and using mathematics to solve problems in everyday life
  • recognizing there are multiple ways to solve a problem
  • demonstrating respect for diversity in approaches to solving problems
  • choosing and using appropriate strategies and tools
  • pursuing accuracy in problem solving

From: BC's New Curriculum Introduction to Mathematics

Model and nurture a growth mindset with your students

Encourage risk-taking in problem-solving and value mistakes as learning opportunities

Tracy Johnston Zager's book, Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had, discusses mathematical habits of mind and how to encourage mathematical thinking in students.

Tracy suggests introducing students to the question about what is math through mathematical scavenger hunts, picture books, and online videos. She also emphasizes the importance of connecting what is happening in our classrooms with what mathematicians do :

"I can't emphasize this point enough: this mini-unit [What do Mathematicians Do?, Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had page 17] has to connect to the rest of math class. It makes no sense to spend a few days developing a definition of doing mathematics that includes powerful words, such as notice, wonder, imagine, ask, investigate, figure, reason, connect, and prove, and then switch back to downloading procedures through "I do, we do, you do" demonstratations, guided practice and drills. Students won't buy it either. They're smart, and they learn more from our actions than our words. If we want students to build this complex, authentic understanding of the discipline of mathematics, they need to engage in these wonderful verbs as they learn new mathematical content throughout the year."

Tracy Johnston Zager, Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had, page 28