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Growth Mindset: how to look at problems in a positive way

Activity: Growth mindset and real life

Read the following diary entry about how one individual came up against difficulties and how they managed to overcome them:

When I was in primary school, I remember struggling with adding negative numbers. I had a hard time understanding what ‘negative’ even meant when talking about a number - how can you have less than nothing? I ended up going through many practice problems and continuing to get many of them wrong. I was a very shy kid, so I didn’t ask my teacher many questions. My thought was that I had reached ‘the peak’ of my maths talent, and it was all downhill from here. I eventually asked my mum about this topic and she explained to me the basic concept of negative numbers. This helped me understand it a little, but it was still fuzzy to me. I then researched online for some real-life examples to show what these mysterious numbers represented, rather than focusing purely on the theory. Some of them made sense, and others didn’t. I still didn’t entirely get it and I was so frustrated that I wanted to just give up (or continue hoping that negative numbers were not going to appear in maths class ever again). I started to dislike maths simply because I couldn’t understand it anymore. Instead of entirely giving up on my academic career, I eventually mustered up the courage to ask my teacher for help as well. She explained it in a few different ways, and gave me new strategies to try out. After some practice with these new strategies, I started to solidify my understanding of negatives which allowed me to quickly pick up basic algebra afterwards. While it was a lot of work and I wanted to give up at many points during my journey, I eventually was able to ‘rewire’ my brain so that negative numbers actually made sense to me.

Adapted from: Khan academy and PERTS (2018) Growth mindset: lesson plan. Available at: (Accessed: 12 May 2020).

Now think about your own experience. Try to remember​ ​a​ ​time​ ​when​ ​you​ ​too were​ ​struggling​ ​to​ ​overcome​ ​a​ ​challenge​ ​or​ ​when​ ​you​ ​decided​ ​to learn​ ​something​ ​new​ ​that​ ​was​ ​hard​ ​for​ ​you.​ 

Think about the following:

  • Describe​ ​the​ ​challenge​ ​you​ ​were​ ​facing​ ​or​ ​the​ ​new​ ​skill/knowledge​ ​you​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​learn.
  • Why​ ​did​ ​you​ ​want​ ​to​ ​take​ ​on​ ​this​ ​challenge?​ ​What​ ​motivated​ ​you?
  • Did​ ​you​ ​have​ ​any​ ​moments​ ​of​ ​feeling​ ​discouraged?​ ​Did​ ​you​ ​have​ ​a​ ​negative​ ​voice​ ​telling you​ ​to​ ​give​ ​up​ ​at​ ​any​ ​point?​ ​If​ ​so,​ ​what​ ​helped​ ​you​ ​persevere?
  • Did​ ​you​ ​make​ ​any​ ​mistakes​ ​along​ ​the​ ​way?​ ​What​ ​did​ ​you​ ​learn​ ​as​ ​a​ ​result?
  • What​ ​strategies​ ​were​ ​most​ ​helpful?​ ​How​ ​did​ ​you​ ​figure​ ​out​ ​what​ ​strategies​ ​to​ ​use?
  • Were​ ​there​ ​others​ ​who​ ​helped​ ​you​ ​or​ ​cheered​ ​you​ ​on?​ ​What​ ​did​ ​they​ ​do?​ ​How​ ​did​ ​it help?
  • Did​ ​your​ ​success​ ​help​ ​others​ ​in​ ​any​ ​way?​ ​How?

Adapted from: PERTS (n.d.) Writing your growth mindset story. Available at: (Accessed: 12 May 2020).