Are you looking for ways to help your students see themselves as mathematicians? Ways to help them form a positive math mindset that embodies the phrase “I am a math person”. I’ve got you! Here are my 2 favorite lessons to help students see themselves as math people.

what is a mathematician

Lesson 1: What does a Mathematician Look Like?

Build a positive math mindset by dispelling misconceptions

The 10 best mathematicians | Culture | The Guardian

Do you know what your students think of when you say mathematician? Do they think of themselves?
The first step to ensuring students see themselves as math people is to be sure they don’t have a misconception that all mathematicians are old dudes that look like…. this dude.

So, the best way to make sure of that and make sure they see themselves as a mathematician is to ASK THEM!

This is my most EPIC lesson to do just that. But… Why is it EPIC?
Because it is:
*Low/no prep
*Engaging & FUN (involved drawing and talking!)

Here it is… Lesson Plan for “What does a mathematician look like?”

Grade Level: Any & All!! Adults – Kindergarten

Objective: Help students develop the understanding that they are EACH a math person & dispel misconceptions about what a mathematician is.

Materials: Graphic Organizer- Grab it here & A picture of each student printed.

Duration: 15-25 minutes (really, however much time you have you can make this work!)

1. Ask students to draw what they think a mathematician looks like. Encourage students to add thought bubbles, speech bubbles and clothes to express the persons whole identity. You can use the prompt, ”What does this person say/do/think?”
2. In small groups have students share about their drawing.
3. Move to a whole group share. I suggest you listen into small group discussions and choose 3-4 students to be prepared to share with the whole group. Select these students based on parts that you want to highlight. Such as, misconceptions about mathematicians- they are boys, they are fast & smart, etc.
While you facilitate this conversation you can ask questions such as “I see you have a speech bubble that says, “I’m as fast as a calculator. Do you guys think you have to be fast to be a mathematician?”
They all might say yes. In that case, you can tell them some of the greatest  mathematicians were slow thinkers. Then, you’ll need to think about ways to SHOW them these misconceptions are wrong- through tasks, biographies of mathematicians, etc. (That’s for a later lesson). Be okay with the students having misconceptions and voicing them. Keep them in your mind and start preparing a plan for addressing them!
4. After the discussion, print and attach a photo of each student.
5. Display on a bulletin board. Share with parents. Make this a big thing! Help your school see that each of us is a mathematician!!

math mindset
What is a mathematician? A resource to help students develop a math mindset.

Lesson #2: What is a Mathematician?

Build a collective definition to lay the foundation for a positive math mindset

Alright, now that you have dispelled any misconceptions on mathematicians now it’s time to think about what a mathematician IS. We need to write a new definition that we all agree on.

This leads so perfectly into forming your classroom math norms, if you haven’t done that already. If you have, great time to revisit them!

Here it is… Lesson Plan for “What is a mathematician ?”

Grade Level: Any & ALL!

Materials: Graphic Organizer to make a web. Grab it here

Objective: Help students develop the understanding definition of what a mathematician is, contextualized for their grade level.

Duration: 15-20 minutes (really, however much time you have you can make this work!)


  1. Ask students to describe using words what a mathematician is on their web. You could contextualize this for your grade level– What is a 3rd grade mathematician? What do they do/say/think?

2. Next, ask students to share in a small group (at their table). Listen into these conversations. Ask probing questions about why they think that or if others agree. Refer back to your conversation about “What Does a Mathematician Look Like” if needed.

3. Bring the students together as a whole group & create an anchor chart where you are working on a class version. Ask students to share something they wrote on their web. Check with the class for consensus or input and then add to the anchor chart.

4. This could be an ongoing formation of a definition- just have them keep it in their math folder. Then, each time something new comes up in math- add it!

5. Celebrate when you notice students embodying these definitions of a mathematician. 6.Use this definition to form your math norms. Don’t have any? It’s all good, now is the time to start! Well, after this lesson. I talk all about my math norms here. Or grab the ones I use here.

Ready to try it? Grab the Graphic Organizers right here for just $2

Still wondering or want to see this in action?

Reach out! I’m here for you. I’m happy to answer any and all questions, any time!

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