How Does a Creative Person Think?

22 08 2009


                Thinking of many ideas

                The free flow of thought

                The generation of quantity, the most

                A large number of relevant responses


                Thinking of different ways to do or use things.

                Providing for shifts in categories of thought

                Entertaining differing points of view

               Considering alternate plans


                    Thinking of different, unique things.

                   The production of unusual or unanticipated responses

                   Characterized by novelty and uniqueness

                    Clever, remote, unusual, inventive responses


                    Thinking of details and embellishments to an idea.

                    To refine, embellish, or enrich an idea, plan or product

                    To make a simple idea or response elegant by adding detail

                    To provide illuminating, descriptive dimensions


                  Thinking of ways to connect dissimilar things

                  To connect ideas and objects with analogies

                 To call attention to a similarity between two dissimilar things

                To make the strange familiar and the familiar strange


Encouragement for Math Teachers

22 08 2009

Not long ago, I spoke at the Idaho Teachers of Math Conference in Nampa. The theme of the conference was “Finding Success in Mathematics. Before I gave my workshops, the leaders of the conference opened with these comments…….

Success-what is it?  It is mysterious, evasive, and can feel elusive—just out of reach.  We research methods; we seek results; we stalk success.  We live for when students have those “aha” moments-to us that is success.

One dictionary defines success as the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.  Termination?  Not in education.  In our world, success is germination- we plant seeds, but we may not see the flower.

If as Sir Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”, then educators are by their very nature successful. We react to student needs-seeking solutions year after year, rejuvenated each fall with the thought of the lives we will touch.

Finding success in mathematic may seem daunting.  After all, the very word comes from the Greek for “all things worth knowing.”  That’s a lot!  Mathematics arises whenever there are difficult problems that involve quantity, structure, space, or change, logic, set theory, applied mathematics, and more recently to the rigorous study of uncertainty.

When we use Best practices of instruction, use differentiation to meet individual needs, provide interventions when students have areas of weakness, research shows us that students can show results.  They can find success! And we can celebrate those successes!

Creative Thoughts about Creativity #1

22 08 2009

Picture1The mind is not a bucket to be filled but a fire to be ignited and continually kindled.


I invent nothing.  I rediscover.

Auguste Rodin


The principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.

Arthur Koestler

Imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world.

Albert Einstein

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.

Linus Pauling

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Latin Proverb

Invention is the mother of necessity.

Thorstein Veblen

Invention breeds invention.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Invention is a combination of brains and material.  The more brains you use, the less material you need.

Charles F.  Kettering

Ideas do not always have to be useful.  Ideas can be inventions or they can solve problems or they can help people–or they can simply be fun.  The mind is probably the least used source of enjoyment.

Edward de Bono

Originality is simply a fresh pair of eyes.

Woodrow Wilson

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Thomas Alva Edison

Creativity Warm-ups to Try with Your Students

22 08 2009



Make up some explanations for how the saying “Fit as a fiddle” first came into being.

Complete this figure of speech as many times as you can: “It is as tall as ……………………..”

Name five different ways to order chicken in a restaurant where you don’t speak the language.

A new color has been identified. Give it a name and describe it.

A new food product has been introduced. It is a big hit and is called “Belly Snaps.” Describe it.

Look around you right now. Name as many things as you can in the next three minutes that begin with the letter “R.”

Tell yourself you why you are creative. Be very complimentary and list specific examples.

What improvements could be made on highlighter pens?

A new child’s toy has been introduced to the market. It is called a Spicker Kicker. What is it?

List as many words as you can think of in two minutes beginning with “pro.”

Devise three improvements on television sets.

Think of ten things you would automate in your house, so all you have to do is call from a phone and these auto functions would begin.

You work with a very uncreative person. Think of five things you could do to help this person to be more creative.

A dooglehouser is a new household appliance. Describe it and tell its function.

A kaboom is a part of all modern automobiles. What is its function?

You are walking through the woods and see a strange looking animal making the sound, “Snork, snork, snork.” You are later told by a zoologist that a new species has been discovered and that it makes the “snork” sound. This zoologist has never seen this new species. Tell the zoologist what you saw.

You are visiting Tongo Bongo, and the local people offer you one of their most prized delicacies. It is called, “Gliff.” Describe its appearance, its taste and odor, the manner in which it is served and how it is eaten.

You have the opportunity to talk with an extraterrestrial being. What would be the first three questions you would ask?

A computer has been invented so intelligent that it can answer accurately any question put to it. What three questions would you ask it?

Make up a list of as many two syllable words as you can in the next two minutes.

Double Play is a new candy bar on the market. Describe it.

When one person yawns, someone else usually follows. Make up a story as to why yawns are “catching.”

Weather forecasters can now predict all changes in weather l00% accurately. List five differences this would make.

Pretend that all students in school are required to take a course that teaches them how to be more creative. What are the main things taught in this course?

What if no one could lie? List 5 significant things that would change in the world if this were true.

Write as many words as you can think of beginning with the letter “n.”

You have the power to reinvent the rainbow. What changes would you make?

What if humans did not use names? What other strategies could we use to address each other?

Make up a list of activities people could do while standing in a line. These must be socially acceptable activities! Choose your best answer from your list.

Organs have foot pedals. What if we used foot pedals for computers? What computer functions would you attach to the pedals?

Describe 5  improvements you would make to the human hand.

Tell a short story of a planet where intelligent creatures have eyeballs on their fingertips. The planet is very cold, so whenever people step outside, they have to cover their hands.

A brand new magazine has just been created. It’s unlike any others that have been on the market thus far. What is the name of this magazine, and what is its focus?

List as many words as you can in two minutes with four exactly syllables.

Imagine you are a person from another planet. You go back home to try to explain why men on earth wear ties.

You are a genetic engineer creating a new species of fish, using the best features of mammals. Describe your fish. Name it.

Plan the best imaginable birthday party for yourself.

A man runs into McDonald’s and buys 40 of the newest toy that McDonald’s is promoting. The man has no children and it is in the middle of a work day. Why is he doing this?

Cars have mirrors placed on the inside of sun visors. List 5 other places where it would be useful to have mirrors where they normally aren’t.

Finish this sentence 20 times: Computers are __________________________.

Motivational Quotes 8-22-09

22 08 2009

Positive Affirmations


Luck is often disguised as hard work.

If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

Success is a journey, not a destination.

Failure is a success if you learn from it.

            Get an education in school and you will have it for life.

If you play victim, you give up your power to change.

You’re as happy as you make up your mind to be.

Your greatest advantage is your ability to learn.

I choose to respond positively, NOT react.

Learning is a big part of my life.

Be bigger than your problems.

Get a life — get a degree!

I succeed by asking questions.

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is the little extra.

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

22 08 2009

Scientific American Mind – November 28, 2007

Hint: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life

By Carol S. Dweck

A brilliant student, Jonathan sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Jonathan puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Jonathan suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Jonathan (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart.

This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.

Praising children’s innate abilities, as Jonathan’s parents did, reinforces this mind-set, which can also prevent young athletes or people in the workforce and even marriages from living up to their potential.

On the other hand, our studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.

The Opportunity of Defeat

I first began to investigate the underpinnings of human motivation—and how people persevere after setbacks—as a psychology graduate student at Yale University in the 1960s. Animal experiments by psychologists Martin Seligman, Steven Maier and Richard Solomon of the University of Pennsylvania had shown that after repeated failures, most animals conclude that a situation is hopeless and beyond their control. After such an experience, the researchers found, an animal often remains passive even when it can affect change—a state they called learned helplessness.

People can learn to be helpless, too, but not everyone reacts to setbacks this way. I wondered: Why do some students give up when they encounter difficulty, whereas others who are no more skilled continue to strive and learn?

One answer, I soon discovered, lay in people’s beliefs about why they had failed. In particular, attributing poor performance to a lack of ability depresses motivation more than does the belief that lack of effort is to blame.

In 1972, when I taught a group of elementary and middle school children who displayed helpless behavior in school that a lack of effort (rather than lack of ability) led to their mistakes on math problems, the kids learned to keep trying when the problems got tough. They also solved many of the problems even in the face of difficulty.

Another group of helpless children who were simply rewarded for their success on easy problems did not improve their ability to solve hard math problems. These experiments were an early indication that a focus on effort can help resolve helplessness and engender success. Subsequent studies revealed that the most persistent students do not ruminate about their own failure much at all but instead think of mistakes as problems to be solved.

At the University of Illinois in the 1970s I, along with my then graduate student Carol Diener, asked 60 fifth graders to think out loud while they solved very difficult pattern-recognition problems. Some students reacted defensively to mistakes, denigrating their skills with comments such as “I never did have a good rememory,” and their problem-solving strategies deteriorated. Others, meanwhile, focused on fixing errors and honing their skills.

One advised himself: “I should slow down and try to figure this out.” Two schoolchildren were particularly inspiring. One, in the wake of difficulty, pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips and said, “I love a challenge!” The other, also confronting the hard problems, looked up at the experimenter and approvingly declared, “I was hoping this would be informative!” Predictably, the students with this attitude outperformed their cohorts in these studies.

Two Views of Intelligence

Several years later I developed a broader theory of what separates the two general classes of learners—helpless versus mastery-oriented. I realized that these different types of students not only explain their failures differently, but they also hold different “theories” of intelligence.

The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount, and that’s that. I call this a “fixed mind-set.” Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. They avoid challenges because challenges make mistakes more likely and looking smart less so.

Like Jonathan, such children shun effort in the belief that having to work hard means they are dumb. The mastery-oriented children, on the other hand, think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. After all, if you believe that you can expand your intellectual skills, you want to do just that. Because slipups stem from a lack of effort, not ability, they can be remedied by more effort. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating; they offer opportunities to learn. Students with such a growth mind-set, we predicted, were destined for greater academic success and were quite likely to outperform their counterparts.

We validated these expectations in a study published in early 2007. Psychologists Lisa Blackwell of Columbia University and Kali H. Trzesniewski of Stanford University and I monitored 373 students for two years during the transition to junior high school, when the work gets more difficult and the grading more stringent, to determine how their mind-sets might affect their math grades. At the beginning of seventh grade, we assessed the students’ mind-sets by asking them to agree or disagree with statements such as “Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t really change.”

We then assessed their beliefs about other aspects of learning and looked to see what happened to their grades. As we had predicted, the students with a growth mind-set felt that learning was a more important goal in school than getting good grades. In addition, they held hard work in high regard, believing that the more you labored at something, the better you would become at it.

They understood that even geniuses have to work hard for their great accomplishments. Confronted by a setback such as a disappointing test grade, students with a growth mind-set said they would study harder or try a different strategy for mastering the material.

The students who held a fixed mind-set, however, were concerned about looking smart with little regard for learning. They had negative views of effort, believing that having to work hard at something was a sign of low ability. They thought that a person with talent or intelligence did not need to work hard to do well. Attributing a bad grade to their own lack of ability, those with a fixed mind-set said that they would study less in the future, try never to take that subject again and consider cheating on future tests. Such divergent outlooks had a dramatic impact on performance.

At the start of junior high, the math achievement test scores of the students with a growth mind-set were comparable to those of students who displayed a fixed mind-set. But as the work became more difficult, the students with a growth mind-set showed greater persistence. As a result, their math grades overtook those of the other students by the end of the first semester—and the gap between the two groups continued to widen during the two years we followed them.

Along with Columbia psychologist Heidi Grant, I found a similar relation between mind-set and achievement in a 2003 study of 128 Columbia freshman premed students who were enrolled in a challenging general chemistry course. Although all the students cared about grades, the ones who earned the best grades were those who placed a high premium on learning rather than on showing that they were smart in chemistry.

The focus on learning strategies, effort and persistence paid off for these students.

Confronting Deficiencies

A belief in fixed intelligence also makes people less willing to admit to errors or to confront and remedy their deficiencies in school, at work and in their social relationships. In a study published in 1999 of 168 freshmen entering the University of Hong Kong, where all instruction and coursework are in English, three Hong Kong colleagues and I found that students with a growth mind-set who scored poorly on their English proficiency exam were far more inclined to take a remedial English course than were low-scoring students with a fixed mind-set.

The students with a stagnant view of intelligence were presumably unwilling to admit to their deficit and thus passed up the opportunity to correct it. A fixed mind-set can similarly hamper communication and progress in the workplace by leading managers and employees to discourage or ignore constructive criticism and advice. Research by psychologists Peter Heslin and Don VandeWalle of Southern Methodist University and Gary Latham of the University of Toronto shows that managers who have a fixed mind-set are less likely to seek or welcome feedback from their employees than are managers with a growth mind-set.

Presumably, managers with a growth mind-set see themselves as works-in-progress and understand that they need feedback to improve, whereas bosses with a fixed mind-set are more likely to see criticism as reflecting their underlying level of competence. Assuming that other people are not capable of changing either, executives with a fixed mind-set are also less likely to mentor their underlings. But after Heslin, VandeWalle and Latham gave managers a tutorial on the value and principles of the growth mind-set, supervisors became more willing to coach their employees and gave more useful advice.

Mind-set can affect the quality and longevity of personal relationships as well, through people’s willingness—or unwillingness—to deal with difficulties. Those with a fixed mind-set are less likely than those with a growth mind-set to broach problems in their relationships and to try to solve them, according to a 2006 study I conducted with psychologist Lara Kammrath of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. After all, if you think that human personality traits are more or less fixed, relationship repair seems largely futile.

Individuals who believe people can change and grow, however, are more confident that confronting concerns in their relationships will lead to resolutions.

Proper Praise

How do we transmit a growth mind-set to our children? One way is by telling stories about achievements that result from hard work. For instance, talking about math geniuses who were more or less born that way puts students in a fixed mind-set, but descriptions of great mathematicians who fell in love with math and developed amazing skills engenders a growth mind-set, our studies have shown. People also communicate mind-sets through praise. Although many, if not most, parents believe that they should build up a child by telling him or her how brilliant and talented he or she is, our research suggests that this is misguided.

In studies involving several hundred fifth graders published in 1998, for example, Columbia psychologist Claudia M. Mueller and I gave children questions from a nonverbal IQ test. After the first 10 problems, on which most children did fairly well, we praised them. We praised some of them for their intelligence: “Wow … that’s a really good score. You must be smart at this.” We commended others for their effort: “Wow … that’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.” We found that intelligence praise encouraged a fixed mind-set more often than did pats on the back for effort.

Those congratulated for their intelligence, for example, shied away from a challenging assignment—they wanted an easy one instead—far more often than the kids applauded for their effort. (Most of those lauded for their hard work wanted the difficult problem set from which they would learn.) When we gave everyone hard problems anyway, those praised for being smart became discouraged, doubting their ability. And their scores, even on an easier problem set we gave them afterward, declined as compared with their previous results on equivalent problems.

In contrast, students praised for their effort did not lose confidence when faced with the harder questions, and their performance improved markedly on the easier problems that followed.

Making Up Your Mind-set

In addition to encouraging a growth mind-set through praise for effort, parents and teachers can help children by providing explicit instruction regarding the mind as a learning machine. Blackwell, Trzesniewski and I recently designed an eight-session workshop for 91 students whose math grades were declining in their first year of junior high. Forty-eight of the students received instruction in study skills only, whereas the others attended a combination of study skills sessions and classes in which they learned about the growth mind-set and how to apply it to schoolwork.

In the growth mind-set classes, students read and discussed an article entitled “You Can Grow Your Brain.” They were taught that the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with use and that learning prompts neurons in the brain to grow new connections.

From such instruction, many students began to see themselves as agents of their own brain development. Students who had been disruptive or bored sat still and took note. One particularly unruly boy looked up during the discussion and said, “You mean I don’t have to be dumb?”

As the semester progressed, the math grades of the kids who learned only study skills continued to decline, whereas those of the students given the growth-mind-set training stopped falling and began to bounce back to their former levels. Despite being unaware that there were two types of instruction, teachers reported noticing significant motivational changes in 27 percent of the children in the growth mind-set workshop as compared with only 9 percent of students in the control group.

One teacher wrote: “Your workshop has already had an effect. L [our unruly male student], who never puts in any extra effort and often doesn’t turn in homework on time, actually stayed up late to finish an assignment early so I could review it and give him a chance to revise it. He earned a B+. (He had been getting Cs and lower.)” Other researchers have replicated our results. Psychologists Catherine Good, then at Columbia, and Joshua Aronson and Michael Inzlicht of New York University reported in 2003 that a growth mind-set workshop raised the math and English achievement test scores of seventh graders. In a 2002 study Aronson, Good (then a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin) and their colleagues found that college students began to enjoy their schoolwork more, value it more highly and get better grades as a result of training that fostered a growth mind-set.

We have now encapsulated such instruction in an interactive computer program called “Brainology,” which should be more widely available by mid-2008. Its six modules teach students about the brain—what it does and how to make it work better. In a virtual brain lab, users can click on brain regions to determine their functions or on nerve endings to see how connections form when people learn. Users can also advise virtual students with problems as a way of practicing how to handle schoolwork difficulties; additionally, users keep an online journal of their study practices. New York City seventh graders who tested a pilot version of Brainology told us that the program had changed their view of learning and how to promote it.

One wrote: “My favorite thing from Brainology is the neurons part where when u [sic] learn something there are connections and they keep growing. I always picture them when I’m in school.” A teacher said of the students who used the program: “They offer to practice, study, take notes, or pay attention to ensure that connections will be made.” Teaching children such information is not just a ploy to get them to study. People do differ in intelligence, talent and ability.

And yet research is converging on the conclusion that great accomplishment, and even what we call genius, is typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that flows naturally from a gift. Mozart, Edison, Curie, Darwin and Cézanne were not simply born with talent; they cultivated it through tremendous and sustained effort. Similarly, hard work and discipline contribute much more to school achievement than IQ does. Such lessons apply to almost every human endeavor. For instance, many young athletes value talent more than hard work and have consequently become unteachable. Similarly, many people accomplish little in their jobs without constant praise and encouragement to maintain their motivation.

If we foster a growth mind-set in our homes and schools, however, we will give our children the tools to succeed in their pursuits and to become responsible employees and citizens.