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Review of Developing Mathematics Identity

Melissa Robinson-Agles

29 September 2017

MAT 690 National University



This paper reviews the 2016 article Developing Mathematics Identity from Mathematics

Teaching in the Middle School. In it, the authors reference growth mindset to push middle

school teachers to focus on building positive, confident math identities in each of their

students. They provide helpful strategies on how to do this: questioning techniques; group

work examples; goal setting; embracing mistakes; etc.


Review of Developing Mathematics Identity

I read the 2016 article Developing Mathematics Identity from Mathematics

Teaching in the Middle School because this is an important issue for me, for multiple

reasons. One, I struggled with math and was convinced I could not do it throughout all of

elementary school. Finally, my middle-school math teacher pushed and encouraged me to

do more and acknowledge my successes. Two, I teach 7th grade math, and I see all of the

students who are sure that they cannot do math. Three, unfortunately, the teacher that

most of my students have the previous year manages to make most of them hate math or

feel that they dont understand it anymore. Developing positive, confident math identities is

very important to me.

Much of the article referenced growth mindset and its role in math identities. This is

something that Ive been trying to instill in my students. The article states that middle

school is especially key for math identity because this is when students are figuring out

their overall identities. Developmental psychologists often refer to the middle school years

as a period identity formation as young people discern who it is they want to become

(Allen& Schnell, 2016, p. 400).

The most helpful parts of the article center around strategies for teachers to develop

strong positive math identities in students. Some advice focuses on how to have students

work in groups: have roles for students; provide sentence starters; use problems that allow

for multiple approaches; and incorporate activities that promote sharing ideas. I try to do

these things, but I need to make them more explicit in my classes. I find that I expect

students to already know how to work in groups, share ideas, and take initiative. That is

not the case.


Another thing that the authors recommend is providing more think time and small-

group sharing before whole-class sharing. This is something that I am currently working

on. I often use broadcast questioning (Allen & Schnell, 2016, p. 404) just to save time, but

its not helpful for student learning. I need to do more think-pair-share to allow student


The authors also recommend students doing informal self-assessments, like thumb

votes or fist to five, to share their comfort level with the content/skill. I actually do this a

lot, but I worry about the students ability to truly gauge their understanding and also their

truthfulness in front of peers.

Finally, the authors push teachers to embrace mistakes in class and find a way to

celebrate each one. This is part of the growth mindset, and its something that Ive trying to

figure out how to do more regularly in class. I have wanted to do My Favorite No for a

couple years. Its just difficult to find the time to do everything I want in class! However, I

believe that building positive math identities is an important goal for me so much so that

it should be my main goal every year.



Allen, K. & Schnell, K. (2016, March). Developing mathematics identity. Mathematics

Teaching in the Middle School, 21(7), 398-405.

California State Board of Education. (2013). The mathematics framework. Appendix D:

Mathematical modeling. Retrieved from

Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). (2013). California teaching performance

expectations. Retrieved from


Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). (2017). Standards for mathematical

practice. Retrieved from

Costantino, P. M., & De Lorenzo, M. N. (2009). Developing a professional teaching portfolio: A

guide for educators (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.