Week One – Talking Points & Math Mindset

Since taking Jo Boaler’s course, “How to Learn Math,” I continually think about how I can effectively gauge my student’s mindset at the beginning of the school year.  Last year, I tried a “Get to know you” form that students completed, asking questions such as: What do you feel you are really good at in math? What do you feel you struggle with in math? Do you think you can get better at those things? etc…  I didn’t feel like I got the type of insight I was looking for…partly because my questions weren’t that great and also because most students saw it as an assignment to complete and didn’t write out extremely involved answers that gave me much insight. I then took it upon myself to have inspiring growth mindset posters hanging up around the room and continually told students how mistakes help our brain grow, mistakes are good, no one is “good” or “bad” at math and all of those great things I learned! Don’t get me wrong, I love those things and will continue to do them, however it just didn’t feel like the thoughts came out organically….I felt I was trying to “teach” them how to have a growth mindset, if that makes any sense?

Now, Year Two after the course, and I have found (borrowed/stole) the BEST activity to get to know student’s mindsets at the beginning of the year, called Talking Points. I blogged about them before in my Week One planning post, but I had no idea at that point how much I would LOVE them. If you haven’t heard of them before check out @cheesemonkeySF on Twitter and her blog! She adapted this activity from Lyn Dawes’ Talking Points activity… Amazing Stuff!

For those who have never heard of them, here are her directions for how they work:



I used the following talking points because I felt it would give me insight into student mindset in regards to math and working in cooperative groups…

tp2As a class, we reviewed the process and practiced Talking Point #1 together as as a class. From there I let them go and circulated the class to hear the conversations! It was the absolute highlight of my first week! Here are some things I heard as I went around…(waiting on a few more parent permissions to post, so had to transcribe for now)

On Doing Math Quickly….

“I disagree because you could write down a random answer but not be right.”

“If it said being good at math means being able to problems quickly AND correctly, then it’d be right”

“I mean, think about it, you can do anything quickly but it might not be right or you may never learn it. So, you have to like go deep into the problem. That’s just my opinion.”

On There Is Always One Best Way To Do Math…

“I disagree because there can be more than one way to do problems.”

“I disagree because you don’t always have to stick to one way and for one person there may be one way and they think that’s the best, but for another person, could have a whole other way to do it.”

“There is not a BEST way, any way is good, but all that matters if you get the answer right.”

“There are many different ways I use to solve problems so not one way is always going to be best.”

“….just because one way is more efficient than another way doesn’t mean its the best.”

On Getting a Problem Wrong Means You Are a Failure….

“…you learn from your mistakes, so if your not make mistakes, you’re not learning anything.”

“If there was like 20 questions and you got one wrong, that doesn’t mean you just get an F, you still get an A and then maybe one day you do that same question again, and your like, “hmmm, I got it wrong last time, let’s try a different strategy and see if you get it correct.””

“One wrong answer’s not an F, unless there’s like 2 questions on the test, because even if you get it wrong you still learn from it and next time if they ask you again, you can be like, “now I know the answer.””

There is a group assessment piece that we did not have time for that day but we did do a classroom debrief so all of the groups could hear the conversations, it gave me goosebumps hearing them talk….awesome. I learned SO much about my students from this activity and it felt so organic coming from them. I didn’t feel like it was trying to “teach” them to have a growth mindset, it was coming from them! Love. Love. Love.

Here are some of their tallies….I think this data is invaluable!  I cannot wait to incorporate this routine into my math class this year!

IMG_6444 IMG_6445 IMG_6446 IMG_6447 IMG_6448 IMG_6449 IMG_6450

Happy First Week Back!




17 thoughts on “Week One – Talking Points & Math Mindset

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  4. Ariana Wall

    Hi there! I am planning on doing this lesson for my first day with the students tomorrow! My question is, what do you do once the students have finished tallying all their talking points questions? Do you take a grand tally? Do you have a discussion whole-group or just move on?

    Thank you!


    1. mathmindsblog Post author

      Hi Ariana! So excited to hear you are using Talking Points! I do a quick raise of hands for who A/D/U for each talking point and then we have a discussion. The whole group discussion goes quickly for the points where everyone agrees or disagrees but the ones where people are split I spend more time talking about it!
      I cannot wait to hear how it goes!! Please come back and let me know!!

      Liked by 1 person

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