Survey confirms: Students' mindsets about math and learning are trending positively and can be improved

New York, New York– June 29, 2018. Zearn – a nonprofit publisher of curricular materials and professional development – shared results from its survey of 345,000 elementary students, Mindsets Toward Math. The survey found promising results regarding students’ mindsets towards math.

Zearn conducted the survey to develop a baseline understanding of students’ mindsets about math and to explore how they can be improved. Zearn CEO Shalinee Sharma noted, “At Zearn, we believe that all children can love learning math. Today, that doesn’t happen for most kids. At Zearn, our work is focused on supporting students, teachers, and administrators with curricular materials for teacher-led and digital instruction, classroom structures designed for differentiation, and comprehensive professional development to ensure that every child loves learning math.” The survey was designed with the help of experts in developmental psychology at Character Lab and The Mindset Scholars Network. Nearly 345,000 third through fifth grade students across over 2,500 school districts completed the survey.

They survey found that contrary to popular belief, the majority of third through fifth grade students surveyed reported that they like or love math. It also found that there is a downward trend in feelings toward math as students get older. Because students completed the survey as a part of their Zearn Math digital experience, the survey provided a unique lens through which to contextualize students’ mindsets about math and learning with how often they struggled with math learning. Survey responses were tied to students’ learning-behavior data from Zearn Math lessons, and anonymized results were analyzed in aggregate. The results showed that much of the change in mindsets as children get older can be attributed to a subset of students; students who struggle with math self-report a more negative disposition toward math. Further, struggling students not only like math less, they also report a more fixed view of their math ability. These trends were found to be more pronounced as students get older.

There was a bright spot in the findings among struggling students in all grades. When these students had completed three-quarters of their Zearn Math grade-level lessons, they were more likely to report a belief in their ability to improve in math and a love of math. Specifically, when students had completed at least 90 Zearn Math Independent Digital Lessons during the school year, 59% self-reported that they “definitely” think that no matter how good they are at math now, they can always improve. In contrast, only 52% of struggling students who had completed fewer than 30 Digital Lessons, or less than a quarter of their grade-level content on Zearn Math, self-reported that they “definitely” think that they can improve. Sharma noted, “Although the results of this survey cannot claim that completing Zearn's Independent Digital Lessons causes a change in students’ mindsets, it is encouraging to see that students' mindsets about math and learning are trending positively and can be improved. This is fundamentally important given the known association between positive math mindsets and above-average math achievement. We hope that we can effectively apply our learnings from this survey to evolve the Zearn Math curriculum and further our mission that all children love learning math.”

About Zearn
Zearn is a nonprofit curriculum publisher whose mission is to ensure all children love learning math. Zearn developed Zearn Math, a top-rated K–5 curriculum and classroom model built for daily differentiation and engagement for all students. To support districts and schools with implementation, Zearn Math offers year-long Professional Development, School Accounts, and Printed Materials.