With This Math Games App, Growth Mindset is Possible

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The way kids talk to themselves is vital. Their mindset could either make or break their success, no matter what their IQ may be. Teaching these skills when they're young may just be the reason that some can tackle tough projects in their future work.

The things kids surround themselves with are also vital. With siblings, friends, and adult role models dictating the way they see the world, sometimes, even a small idea could be the reason they're struggling.

Julia is a single mom of three kids, two of which live at home with her.

Her middle, Victoria, was always looking up to her big sister, who recently moved out to attend art school. Before she'd graduated, she was always struggling in math, justifying that she's "just not a math person." Since then, Victoria's taken on a similar state of mind. The icing on the cake? Her math teacher last year was so mean, that Victoria couldn't even hear the word "math" without feeling sick to her stomach.

It was going to take a while for Julia to get to Victoria, so for now, she had to focus on her youngest, Max.

The youngest of the bunch, 5-year-old Max is known for being overly-optimistic. His friendly and outgoing disposition has gotten him many friends and great experiences in preschool, but Julia fears that Victoria's negative mindset is already getting to him. Since he started kindergarten, Julia's already seen signs that he may be going in the same direction as Victoria. "He's copying his sister in saying he doesn't like numbers," she explains. “He has a good concept of relating numbers to objects, but cannot go further than 15, and hasn’t grasped the meaning of the 10s place value yet.” 

Julia, like many parents, saw that the habits of one of her older ones were already rubbing off on her youngest. She knew that mindset was important, so she set out to find a math games app that would help Max get a jumpstart on his education-- without the tears, like his older sisters had.

Fortunately, Julia's a resourceful mamma. She searched everywhere from Facebook groups to hitting all of the off-duty teachers in the teacher's lounge to see what their pick was. But before we talk about her helping Max with Elephant Learning, we need to understand the problem that her two daughters faced that was domino-ing down the sibling set: a fixed mindset.

For those who aren’t familiar with the fixed versus growth mindset model, Carol Dweck explained her coined phrase in her TED Talk, describing it as "luxuriating in the power of yet." What Victoria suffers from is a fixed mindset. Having a fixed mindset means using limiting self-talk to say that certain abilities or traits are fixed; i.e. saying phrases like, “I’m just not a math person,” or, “I’m not as smart as them,” or “I can’t do that.” 

What Max is striving for is a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset is using flexible-thinking self-talk to state that growth is not only able to happen but that it’s inevitable. It's the difference between those who will go the extra mile to challenge themselves and those who will quit when things get hard.

While Victoria had to work on her mindset before, as Julia’s help didn’t seem to resonate, Julia's sole priority was focusing on Max’s starting point to ensure his self-talk was growth-oriented.

As much as talking in the teacher’s lounge and asking simple questions in Facebook groups helped Julia answer quick questions, the math game apps recommended to them didn’t seem to be getting the long-term solutions that they were looking for. Sure, helping Max understand the importance of positive self-talk was one thing, but showing him how to live in it while struggling with a math problem-- especially if he’s back in school-- is a whole other monster.

Related: How Smart Kids like Abby Can Conquer Their Math Anxiety with Elephant Learning

Finding Elephant Learning

Turns out that asking simple questions on Facebook groups may help lead to the long-term answer. With an overwhelming suggestion of "Elephant Learning," she knew that they had to try it out.

First things first-- Max's initial assessment. Before any student begins with Elephant Learning, they take a small assessment that tells the platform where they are in their math learning journey. This way, it can personalize the learning experience for each student to ensure they're giving them the right problems to solve.

Max, currently 5 years old, aged at a 3.5-year Elephant Age after his assessment. It’s pretty common for students to start with an Elephant Age a bit below their actual age, especially if they’re struggling to understand concepts and applying their newfound knowledge through scaffolding. (We all know that with math if you don’t understand the first concept, it’s going to be much harder to grasp onto more complicated ones!)

So, with iPad-in-hand, Max (and Julia) began their journey with Elephant Learning. Sure, Max was doing all of the game-playing, but Julia had a great hand in it, too. See, every time Max went on the platform and completed his work, Julia studied each email she'd receive showing her Max's stats as well as video lessons showing her how to be the best darn cheerleader she can be!

What Julia loved most about the platform was the time limitation. Though the app doesn't kick you off, the creators of Elephant Learning recommend that kids play on the platform for no longer than 30 minutes per week. For Julia, it took the pressure off to try to pack in more and more learning. Even for a kid as young as Max, students are often given hours of homework per night, so having an app that he can do 10 minutes before dinner allowed her to know he was getting the math help he needed without the additional headache that extra homework brings. 

Related: When Math is More Than Just a Losing Game: How Shannon’s Two Kids Won Their Very Own Gold Medal in Math

Max’s Experience with Elephant Learning

Though Max began the program at an Elephant Age a year and a half below his actual age, he filled that room for improvement quite nicely!

When it comes to improving your kid's Growth Mindset, it's valuable to show improvement as clearly as possible. So every week, Julia would bring Max over to her computer and show him his growth chart, pointing to an upward line and telling him that his improvement at the game was bringing his age up. 

Since his time with Elephant Learning, Max went from a 3.5 to a 4.5 Elephant Age, and growing! Every week, his mom makes sure that he recognizes the growth that he's achieved throughout the week, showing him that with hard work and the right mindset, nearly anything's possible. Max's understanding of his ability to improve is worth more than As on a sheet. Now, he sees that growth is in the numbers, not the letters, and that seeing your results is well-worth it.

Max’s Results

  • Age: 5 years old
  • Starting Elephant Learning Age: 3.5
  • Current Elephant Learning Age: 4.5
  • The difference: 1 year

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