Motion Math Blog

Say “Wrong answer” while encouraging growth mindsets

One of the great advantages of digital learning tools is the ability to give learners immediate feedback, including negative feedback. Whether a student sees negative feedback as a final judgement on their lack of ability (a fixed mindset) or rather as a useful learning opportunity (a growth mindset) makes a world of difference. In our game designs, we’ve aimed to avoid big red X’s or harsh sounds in response to wrong answers, so as not to be discouraging. In our latest game Motion Math: Cupcake! (teacher version here), we’ve gone a step further, thanks to the advice of our advisor, Professor Jo Boaler. When a player sees a cupcake customer word problem, they get infinite attempts to get the right answer (in contrast to our game Pizza, in which customers eventually leave), and we alternate simple messages like “Try again” with positive mindset messages such as this:

Positive Mindset Messages in Cupcake

Here are other phrases that can encourage a growth mindset; most are taken from Professor Boaler’s excellent primer Setting up Positive Norms in Math Class (hosted at her non-profit YouCubed.org). We encourage other educational developers to sprinkle these into negative feedback:

  1. Mistakes grow your brain.
  2. It is really important to make mistakes.
  3. The best way to improve is to learn from mistakes.
  4. It’s great to challenge yourself.
  5. Easy is a waste of time.
  6. I love to learn from mistakes.
  7. Working hard grows your brain.
  8. You’re pushing yourself, which is excellent, but you’ve made a mistake. Try again.
  9. You’ve made an interesting mistake. What can you learn from it?

Do you have other positive mindset messages you like to use? Please share below in the comments.

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