Texas math teachers gathered in Austin in June 2023 for a professional development opportunity designed to foster cultures of learning and improve student outcomes.
Associate Professor of Psychology David Yeager believes in the power of a good teacher. That’s why he and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are helping Texas math teachers — and their students — develop a mindset that transforms math classroom cultures.
The Gates Foundation currently focuses on “middle years math” and specifically Algebra 1, a course proven to have outsized effects on student’s success in high school and beyond. Unfortunately, many students experience a “fixed mindset” math culture that makes them lose their confidence if they struggle. In response to this, David’s research demonstrated that a single, short “growth mindset” intervention could give students confidence in math and raise their grades a whole year later.
“It’s a story of philanthropy supporting what was initially a crazy idea — the Gates Foundation has the vision to recognize and cultivate innovation,” says David.
But could math cultures be further improved if teachers also received growth mindset training? That’s the question David and the Gates Foundation are working on now. After four years of intensive R&D, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
“It’s a story of philanthropy supporting what was initially a crazy idea – the Gates Foundation has the vision to recognize and cultivate innovation.”
— David Yeager
“Some of the largest and most cost-effective benefits we’ve ever seen are coming from our teacher-focused mindset programs,” says David. Crucially, the new teacher mindset programs reduce inequality across demographic groups, while also benefiting all students. “We solved the problem of why middle school math is the worst experience of so many kids’ lives,” says David. “Everyone had just accepted it, but with the support of the Gates Foundation, we showed it doesn’t have to be that way.”
At a recent symposium, Texas public school math teachers got David’s growth mindset training, camaraderie and even top-notch swag. “Math teachers are working hard, but they’re ignored by many policymakers. Our teachers loved that we treated them with respect,” says David. “They said this was the best professional development opportunity they’ve ever had.” With a new Texas law including more middle school students in advanced math than ever — not to mention a teacher shortage — investing in teachers has never been a smarter move.
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