Website review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2020

Mindsets Learning

Site's reimagined word problems attempt to make math relatable

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Grades
6–8
Subjects & Skills
Math, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Challenges connect age-appropriate, student-friendly concerns like cafeteria menus and sneaker prices to standards-aligned concepts.

Cons: The bare-bones features and interactivity won't absorb students; it's up to teachers to make these lessons shine.

Bottom Line: A promising but limited starting point for moving middle school math and related subjects toward problem- or project-based learning.

Teachers can create a free account and try out content for 90 days. This should give a feel for the program. Browse the challenges to see where they might plug in to your existing curriculum. For help, check out the downloadable curriculum guide that lists the challenges by subject and by standard. Check those and see what scenarios or subjects might resonate best with your students. Each challenge is built to fill one 45-minute class period, but there are also instructions about how to stretch or space out these challenges to fit a week, a month, or a whole school year. Keep in mind, though, that Mindsets Learning's challenges can have pretty tenuous connections to standards. Look closely to ensure that the activities require students to dive sufficiently deeply into the content in your scope and sequence.

Also, check out the polling and short-answer question features. If you're interested in having your students create a poll around a real-life issue in your school or your community, consider using this tool to scaffold that scenario. At the very least, use this polling feature as a starting point for discussions with your students about how surveys can be useful. Why is it important for product designers to talk to their potential users? What kinds of questions might be helpful to your design process? How might you ask good questions to help you get the information you need to be more successful? 

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Mindsets Learning is a series of real-world challenges for middle school classrooms. While challenges are primarily grounded in math, they connect with other topics like science, design, and entrepreneurship. Teachers and students can choose a challenge and then move through several steps to answer short-answer questions and use Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards-aligned skills to analyze information. While students work, teachers can view their live progress in a dashboard, surveying the whole class or individual students or focusing on specific questions. Students can sign in with a class code or by creating an account.

Teachers can try out Mindsets for 90 days, but then it's billed monthly, quarterly, or annually. There's a FAQ section and videos to help you get started, and then there are detailed PDFs that describe potential ideas for using these challenges in class (over one or many class periods) and aligning work with various standards, including Common Core math and Next Generation Science Standards.

Mindsets Learning's mission was to create ready-to-use templates that teachers can use to facilitate a 45-minute class period. In that regard, these challenges succeed. There are some neat ideas here, and a dash of creative elaboration by teachers, in a well-managed classroom, could make these activities go a long way. The polling feature is especially slick and interesting, since it gets students to build their polls and survey their peers. The feature for creating your own challenge is appealing, too. This might be a nice fit for teachers who are looking for a tool to structure a series of related tasks for their students.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of functionality baked directly into the site. The challenges aren't especially demanding or interactive, and there's more guidance needed for how students should best use some of the features (such as polling their classmates in a school without 1-to-1 devices or researching realistic sneaker prices online). Additionally, Mindsets Learning was previously a site geared toward creating new business ideas, and some of the language from the site's previous incarnation ("create an idea") is inconsistent with the prompts in the challenges ("List 5 popular shoes"). Still, some of the steps are ultimately asking students to create online polls and then answer short-answer questions, both of which could be done using another survey tool such as Google Forms. Overall, Mindsets Learning is worth a look for some interesting real-world, problem-solving tasks for the middle school math classroom, but it will require creative extensions by teachers to get students absorbed.

Overall Rating

Engagement

The scenarios are kid-friendly and kid-relevant, but the site's interactions aren't especially engaging.

Pedagogy

The subject matter is geared toward students' interests, but the challenges feel a lot like typical word problems in web-based forms. 

Support

The challenges are dry but easy to use. It'd be helpful if previous answers were pre-populated and there was immediate feedback. Updated accessibility features are great. Teachers have extensive support.


Common Sense reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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