Foster a supportive learning environment

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A negative mathematical identity may have started with a significant bad experience in mathematics, for example, being laughed at for getting something wrong. It may also be the cumulative result of bad experiences or too few positive experiences.

The value that is given to their thinking and their contributions influences the way in which students view their relationship with mathematics.

          Effective Pedagogy in Mathematics/Pāngarau BES, page 56

Mathematical learning needs to take place in a trusting community. Students with a negative mathematical identity are unlikely to contribute to class discussions because they lack confidence in their own ideas or fear making a mistake. As a result, they become passive or disengaged.

In a supportive environment, students develop the confidence to present their ideas, knowing that they will be listened to and valued. The small-group structure of ALiM groups makes them an ideal setting for students to begin actively participating in learning conversations. 


  • Ensure that the learning environment is safe for sharing ideas.
  • Assert that mistakes are an important part of learning.
  • Support students to communicate their ideas. For example, use revoicing.
  • Read the Mathematical Communities of Practice chapter in the Mathematics BES and Draft Case 1. Developing communities of mathematical inquiry (2010) by Alton-Lee et al.

Back to Resource 1: Fostering positive mathematical identities