M&Ms – The Importance of Mathematical Mistakes!

First Presenter's Institution

Clifton Ridge Middle School Jones County School System

Second Presenter's Institution


Third Presenter's Institution


Fourth Presenter's Institution


Fifth Presenter's Institution



Session 5 (Ballroom D)

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills


HEAD”. Academic Achievement & Leadership – The proposal will presents strategies and tools to aid in creating a risk free environment and mindset, as learning is promoted for all children and youth. The fear of mathematics and of making mistakes will be viewed as learning opportunities versus defeat. Mathematical mindsets will be shared whereby student potential in mathematics will be enhanced through inspiring messages and innovative teaching. Mindsets for all stakeholders to include teachers, leadership, students and their parents affect how students approach mathematical challenges, mistakes, and tasks while learning.

“HEART”: Social & Emotional Skills – The proposal presents strategies and tools to aid in learners social and emotional skills while learning. Risk free environments should be fostered during all teaching and learning experiences. The importance of making mistakes that lead to clarification of mistakes will be shared. Mindsets of growth will aid in achievement motivation, academic resilience, and self-esteem to persevere when presented with a mathematical challenge or task.

Participants will be able to participate in activities and gain strategies to help students and other stakeholders embrace risk-free environments that view mathematical mistakes as opportunities for growth and for academic achievement to be positively enhanced in a risk free environment wherein mistakes are welcome

Brief Program Description

Most people love M&M’s! This presentation will highlight the importance of welcoming mathematical mistakes, as opportunities for growth within the classroom. There are various ways to promote growth by way of a risk-free environment that welcomes and uses mistakes to clarify misconceptions, build student confidence, create self-regulated learners, and remove barrier so that all students can be successful.


This presentation will share practical models, programs, methods, strategies and practices that are based upon the research of Jo Boaler. Boaler’s (2015) leading research in mathematical mindsets, outlines practical ways to unleash student potential through creative math, inspiring messages and innovative teaching. Her focus supports previous research of Carol Dweck. Dweck (2010) emphasized that the importance of equity in education for all students extended beyond equal access to facilities and resources. Although facilities and resources are important, it is increasingly becoming more important to capture the beliefs of administrators, teachers, students, and parents that can affect student achievement. This presentation will share Boaler’s (2015) research which supports the two beliefs regarding intelligence: fixed or growth mindsets. However, Boaler goes deeper and specifically outlines needed mathematical mindsets of all stakeholders. Her research and strategies shared challenges teachers, students, and parents to incorporate innovative teaching practices alone with providing inspiring messages, so that students can unleash their potential in mathematics versus having the fear of not being able to successful.

Using the acronym ‘mistakes’, the presenter will discuss the importance of the following to mathematical success:

M – Math Mindsets

I – Instructional strategies

S – Strategies that foster quality teaching and learning

T – Thinking mathematically

A – Assessments

K – Knowledge Transfer

E – Excellence for All

S – Success for ALL students

The presenter will be sharing with participants many activities and valuable information to make assessments of mathematical mindsets of students, parents, and most importantly, mindsets of themselves, as teachers. Furthermore, session participants will receive research-based and teacher-created activities for immediate implementation that aid in students displaying potential to achieve in a risk-free mathematics classroom. Also, students are able to accept challenges and believe that mistakes grow the brain, due to inspiring messages of “I Can”.


Farrington (2013) defined academic mindsets as “the psycho-social attitudes or beliefs one has about oneself in relation to academic work” (p. 3). Students are compelled to engage or not engage in learning according to their attitudes and beliefs. Dweck, Walton, and Cohen (2011) stated, “Students need to think of themselves and school in certain ways in order to want to learn and in order to learn successfully” (p. 3)

Farrington (2013) recommended that educators should not accept the myths that maintain students who struggle do not care about their education or failure. Failure has a negative and sometimes devastating effect on a student’s sense of self. Students who fail often feel incapable and inadequate, rather than prepared and equipped to be successful in the future.

Dweck (2015) revisited her research regarding students’ mindsets and the way they view their abilities. She found that students’ mindsets play a key role, and if a way to change students’ mindsets was found, motivation and achievement would increase. Once students learn that they can “grow their brains” (Dweck 2015, p. 1) and increase their ability intellectually, students perform better. Dweck admitted that, as years have passed, she and other researchers have become wiser regarding implementation of the growth mindset. The growth mindset is about more than effort and should not be equated to effort, which is a common misconception. Effort is important, but strategies and feedback are necessary to maximize student benefits from having a growth mindset (Dweck, 2015).

Jo Boaler (2015) expounds upon the research of Dweck and presents powerful strategies and importance of unleashing potential in the mathematics classroom. As students make mistakes, their brains continue to grow. Thereby, mistakes are important and can inform and transform mathematical thinking and performance.

Rattan et al. (2015) reported that with proper implementation, academic mindsets are powerful. They recommended disbanding curricula and structural interventions that are often expensive and ineffective. Instead, academic mindset interventions are low cost, supported by research, and capable of modification for large-scale utilization (Paunesku et al., 2015) and “highlight the critical role that the psychology of a student plays in determining educational outcomes” (Rattan et al., 2015, p. 721).

However, policymakers and other stakeholders have not taken advantage of its role in achievement. Rattan et al. (2015) acknowledged that mindsets are not the universal cure or remedy, but contended they are indeed entry points with proper implementation. Federal, state, and local policy can help to lift the nation’s educational outcomes by leveraging mindsets. Improvement of educational outcomes is a necessity to “benefit individual students and to increase our national economic growth, social well-being, and global competitiveness” (Rattan et al., 2015, p. 721). Academic mindsets cannot answer all of the challenges facing educators, yet they will benefit students and thereby deserve greater attention from policymakers and other stakeholders.


Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Stephanie Leggett

Clifton Ridge Middle School – Educator over 18 years Jan. 2001 – present)

One of Georgia’s first Master Teachers

Appointed as a Georgia Professional Standards Commissioner (GaPSC) by Governor Sonny Perdue (2009-2013)

18+ years in Education

8 years – 8th grade Math teacher

10+ years – Instructional Coach Title I Family Engagement Coordinator


B.S. – Middle Grades Education (Mathematics and Social Studies)

Mercer University 2000

M.Ed. – Middle School Mathematics (Grades 4-8)

Walden University 2007

PhD – Curriculum & Instruction

Mercer University 2017

“The Role of Academic Mindsets Upon The Mathematics Achievement of Eighth-Grade Female Students”

Previous National Youth at Risk Presenter (2018)

Keyword Descriptors

Mathematical mistakes, mindsets, motivation, attitude, beliefs, academic achievement

Presentation Year

March 2019

Start Date

3-5-2019 10:15 AM

End Date

3-5-2019 11:30 AM

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Mar 5th, 10:15 AM Mar 5th, 11:30 AM

M&Ms – The Importance of Mathematical Mistakes!

Session 5 (Ballroom D)

Most people love M&M’s! This presentation will highlight the importance of welcoming mathematical mistakes, as opportunities for growth within the classroom. There are various ways to promote growth by way of a risk-free environment that welcomes and uses mistakes to clarify misconceptions, build student confidence, create self-regulated learners, and remove barrier so that all students can be successful.