Head of Mathematics
Intuitively it makes sense that self-belief and interest towards learning can lead to better performance, but researchers have recently identified that having a positive attitude about mathematics is connected to the better function of the hippocampus, an important memory centre in the brain. They concluded that the unique contribution of a positive attitude towards mathematics achievement is as large as the contribution from an IQ. They think the relationship between a positive attitude and mathematics achievement is mutual and bi-directional. A good attitude opens the door to high achievement, which gets you into a good circle of learning. And it can probably go the other way and be a vicious circle too.
This, therefore, could mean that alongside a focus on skill development, improving a child’s beliefs about mathematics and their self-perceived abilities, might provide another inroad to maximising learning.
At Loreto teachers strive to share their own interest and passion for mathematics in their classrooms, instilling the belief in students that they can be good at the subject and helping them build an optimistic approach towards it. We provide various activities to engage the girls in mathematics outside class including the Inquisitive Minds incursion which Year 8 participated in during Term 1, the World of Maths incursion for Year 7 later this year, and workshops for Year 10. We attempt to link the concepts we are teaching to the real world and provide the time and support for girls to think deeply about problems. And we try and have fun!
Parents can help too by communicating positive messages: talking about mathematics as an exciting subject, that it is an open subject that anyone can learn and expressing its vital function for the progress of so many fields.
Here are my top tips for encouraging a positive attitude towards mathematics:
- Communicate the belief that everyone can learn mathematics if they put in the effort.
- Understand that making mistakes is a valuable learning tool – it is fine to struggle with a concept and make errors along the way.
- Encourage questioning – asking and answering questions clarifies thinking and leads to deeper understanding.
- Promote discussions about mathematics – be explicit about the mathematics you use day to day and in your work.
- Support deep thinking over speed.
- Express your beliefs about your own mathematics learning with care – it is not helpful to tell your daughters that you were never good at maths!
- Keep assessment performance in perspective – encourage striving for improvement but be realistic about goals.
The development of science, technology, engineering, business and numerous other professions cannot thrive without practitioners having a solid mathematics foundation. Let’s work together to create a generation of girls who are interested in and excited about mathematics.
Ms Sally Brimfield
Head of Mathematics