What they think
It ‘s really important what students think about themselves, about us and about each other. Students should think they can. Really. Just like the choo choo train did. The research shows that if they they can, they’ll keep trying until they do. Resnick (1999)wrote a great article about the conceptualization of “smartness” in America (see reference below). If our students really believed they could, with the correct instruction and encouragement, they would.
Furthermore, the recent National Math Report (2008) states that what children believe about what they can do matters. It matters in a big way. It discusses how when children believe in themselves, they try harder, they put more effort into learning math and that effort increases their engagement, which in turn raises performance.
They would be able to do so much more than we can even imagine. Moreover, if they thought that we were really on their side, batting for them, cheering them on, searching every kind of way to help them learn it (whatever “it” might be); if they were truly convinced that we were there to teach them until we reach them, they’d try harder too. Finally, if they became cheerleaders for each other as well, really concerned about the learning of each other– helping each other and encouraging each other…they’d do better. I really believe they’d do much, much much better:)