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Girl Contemplates the World

Do Board Games Have a Place in Education?

February 27, 2019 – 3:45 pm | One Comment | 711 views

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion around gamifying the classroom, from classroom management apps like Classroom Dojo, to gamifying curriculum milestones. But what about good ol’ board games? You know, the ones that …

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Growth Mindset: Our Mistake about Mistakes in Math

March 27, 2019 – 3:19 pm | 4 Comments | 563 views

Does the expression “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” ring true for some of your students’ mindsets? Or “that’s just how I am,” or even the classic “I’m just no good at (fill in the blank),” ?

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

All of these statements are based on the assumption that knowledge is fixed and finite from birth, that one’s ability is pre-determined. From a perceived lack of creativity, mathematical aptitude, or basketball court prowess, a fixed mindset reinforces the idea that we are who we are, and no amount of effort is going to change that. A fixed mindset tosses aside any potential learning from life’s experiences and it creates a self-imposed world of walls within your brain.

This 20th Century ideology has seeped into the 21st Century even with clear neuropsychological evidence concluding that the brain is in fact malleable, as a recent study states: our “amazing ability of our neural connections to strengthen and grow as we interact with the world around us,” (Key Findings and Implications of the Science of Learning and Development). Jo Boaler supports this idea and pushes it one step further, saying in her book, Mathematical Mindsets, “every time a student makes a mistake in math, they grow a synapse” (Boaler, 11). That is, their brain learns something new. Quite contrary to traditional math teaching, where mistakes are to be avoided at all costs, often propelling a student’s belief that, “I’m just no good at math, and there is nothing I can do about it.” Good news folks, mistakes help you learn more…

“What separates the more successful people from the less successful people is not the number of their successes but the number of mistakes they make, with the more successful people making more mistakes.” – Jo Boaler

Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash

Boaler further explains that one of the most valuable things parents and teachers could do for any child is “change the messaging” around making mistakes. Sounds easy right? Well, it really is… If a student is continually reinforced that mistakes are a crucial part of the learning process, then we can dampen self-perceived limitations and anxiety about getting the wrong answer, and instead, foster their growth and a love for learning. 

In doing so, math becomes real! Traditionally, math teaching tends to be very cerebral, abstract, and based on a textbook, with hundreds of methods and procedures to memorize, containing material that most will never use. Quebec’s situational problem competency in mathematics adds this “real-life” layer to the learning of math. Whereby it is not how quickly one can calculate that matters anymore – as we have 21st Century tools that can easily do such binary actions – but students “who make connections, think logically, and use space, data, and numbers creatively.” (Boaler, 31) Below are some suggestions on how to make math learning more meaningful for students, and how to get that brain elasticity stretching.

  • Open up the task – There is more than one way to find an answer.
  • Let inquiry flourish.
  • Start with a real life problem to be solved – Start big and break it down into its’ pieces!
  • Add a visual component…
  • Get students manipulating real-world materials (Boaler, 90)

It is possible to reverse years of a fixed mindset in math teaching. However, it doesn’t happen overnight – the strategies below will at least get teachers and students moving towards a better way of understanding how we really learn. I think one of the greatest actions any teacher or parent can take is modelling to our children that mistakes are super important because we learn from them.

We as parents, teachers, and leaders have to set our children free from the crippling idea that mistakes are to be avoided in math (and in life), that there is only one way to solve a problem, or only one way to see a solution, and that some students are just better at math than others. In doing so, we have limited their growth and bound them to a falsehood that never should exist in the first place. Old dogs can learn new tricks if you simply give them the time, space, and encouragement to learn from their mistakes in their own authentic way.

Boaler, J. (2016). Mathematical mindsets: Unleashing students potential through creative math, inspiring messages, and innovative teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass & Pfeiffer Imprints.

“Key Findings: Science of Learning and Development”. Competency Works. (2018, May 21). Retrieved March 12, 2019, from

Do Board Games Have a Place in Education?

February 27, 2019 – 3:45 pm | One Comment | 711 views
Girl Contemplates the World

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion around gamifying the classroom, from classroom management apps like Classroom Dojo, to gamifying curriculum milestones. But what about good ol’ board games? You know, the ones that …

Inside Birding: How community partnerships can ignite student curiosity

February 18, 2019 – 4:08 pm | One Comment | 940 views

“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”
-David Attenborough, The Life of Birds

This is the …

Teacher Appreciation – There’s More to Teaching Than What Happens in the Classroom!

February 13, 2019 – 10:28 am | Comments Off on Teacher Appreciation – There’s More to Teaching Than What Happens in the Classroom!809 views

When we picture educators, perhaps we most often usually imagine them in a classroom full of students, in front of a whiteboard, or working at a desk. Many of the teachers highlighted this week, are …

Teacher Appreciation – Merci! Thank you!

February 4, 2019 – 5:00 pm | Comments Off on Teacher Appreciation – Merci! Thank you!677 views

This year’s Teacher Appreciation Week, as highlighted by le Ministère de l’Éducation et Enseignement Supérieur, has as its very simple theme: Thanks! Merci!
Expressing and recognizing gratitude has been shown to make one feel happier. It is …

Daily Physical Activity in Schools. Let’s Get a Move On!

January 30, 2019 – 12:45 pm | Comments Off on Daily Physical Activity in Schools. Let’s Get a Move On!2,023 views

“Schools have an important role to play in helping students to understand issues related to health and well-being and to adopt a healthy lifestyle. They must provide students with an environment that is safe and …

La ludopédagogie

December 10, 2018 – 12:12 pm | Comments Off on La ludopédagogie7,030 views

Nous ne cessons pas de jouer parce que nous sommes vieux; nous devenons vieux parce que nous cessons de jouer. George Bernard Shaw
Après avoir assisté à un atelier donné par Geneviève Ducharme et Emilie Laquerre …

Drawing a Lesson: Familiarity Breeds Creativity

November 27, 2018 – 4:11 pm | One Comment | 2,676 views

Putting herself in an unfamiliar learning setting, Christiane Dufour experienced first-hand what happens in the “making” process when one is unfamiliar with the materials and the techniques associated with them. It brought home what three …

Artful Tinkering in Kindergarten: The creativity table

November 14, 2018 – 11:51 am | 4 Comments | 2,482 views

Be sure to scroll down in this post to see the many photos of children’s work, and their descriptions of what it made them think of.
These days, many educators are preoccupied with helping their students …

Fostering a Growth Mindset in the Arts Classroom

October 30, 2018 – 11:38 am | 3 Comments | 2,919 views

Guest post by Louise Campbell, Artist in Schools
What strategies can be used in the arts classroom to shift focus from ‘getting it right’ to exploring potential? Educators often refer to this as ‘fostering a growth …

Shoreline Project connects the local and global

October 10, 2018 – 3:06 pm | One Comment | 2,044 views

I grew up in Alberta and part of my story of becoming Québécois includes the year I spent on the Îles de la Madeleine working as a Language Monitor at the Polyvalente des Îles. In …