The March issue of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics for Middle School Teachers magazine has a really nice article on developing math identity. I wasn't sure what math identity is in this context because it was not something they talked about when I was in teachers training.

Apparently math identity is a the frame around knowledge, skills, habits, attitudes, beliefs, and relationships students need to successfully learn math.

It is suggested that their mathematical identity is connected with all their other identities. Consequently, teachers have the ability to shape a student's mathematical identity. One way to do that is to support a flexible mindset.

Have students work in groups so there each member has a particular role, give them group type activities so that no students dominate the interactions. Next, have students keep a math journal which could include warm-ups or bell ringers, classwork, open ended reflections and problems, and possibly homework. In addition, the teacher needs to communicate expectations that every student will learn mathematics and contribute to the mathematical learning of others.

It is important to focus on their abilities rather than their deficits. It is also important to help students learn to believe in themselves as thinkers and problem solvers. This means focusing on their skills and talents rather than learning the algorithm. As part of this, students need to know it is possible to have more than one correct way to do any problem.

There are four major things that they say we as teachers must do.

1. Give all the students a chance to write or talk to a partner before anyone answers a questions publicly. This would be a great time to use silent conversation where two people share one piece of paper and carry on the conversation by writing it out.

2. Set routines so students can develop ideas privately and share to a small group before presenting to everyone else. Think, pair, share would be a great starting point to have this happen. So have them work in pairs, then in groups of four before sharing to the class.

3. Have the students either individually or as a group give a rating to indicate with hands or fingers, where they stand in terms of moving on.

4. Have the students set goals for the class.

Four easy things to help students develop a flexible mindset and a strong mathematical identity. This article has helped me see where I need to go in my teaching. I'm happy I found it.