How to Set Up Positive Norms…

How will your students view mathematics this year?  What norms will you set up to help your students share your views of mathematics?

If you haven’t already seen YouCubed list of norms, you will probably want to take a close look:


Take a look at the following resource about how to set up positive norms in your class…Setting up Positive Norms in Math Class (linked is an expansion of each norm).  Which one(s) of these is really important to you?  Which one(s) challenges your thinking?

  1. Everyone Can Learn Math to the Highest Levels. Encourage students to believe in themselves. There is no such thing as a “math” person. Everyone can reach the highest levels they want to, with hard work.
  2. Mistakes are valuable. Mistakes grow your brain! It is good to struggle and make mistakes.
  3. Questions are Really Important.  Always ask questions, always answer questions. Ask yourself: why does that make sense?
  4. Math is about Creativity and Making Sense. Math is a very creative subject that is, at its core, about visualizing patterns and creating solution paths that others can see, discuss and critique.
  5. Math is about Connections and Communicating.  Math is a connected subject, and a form of communication. Represent math in different forms eg words, a picture, a graph, an equation, and link them. Color code!
  6. Depth is much more important than speed. Top mathematicians, such as Laurent Schwartz, think slowly and deeply.
  7. Math Class is about Learning not Performing.  Math is a growth subject, it takes time to learn and it is all about effort.

Thinking about what contradicts our current thinking is where learning can really occur!

While setting up classroom norms is a great thing to do, I think it is far more important to start the year off by enacting these norms rather than just discussing them or posting them.

The first few things you do in your year sets the tone for what you believe is important in mathematics!

My suggestion:

  • Start with something that allows your students to see their strengths
  • Start with something that is open enough to allow for differences in strategies and/or their answers
  • Start with something that focuses on the SMPs
  • Start with something that helps your students look for patterns, notice things, explore…
  • Start with something that allows your students to be creative
  • Start with something where your students can see the beauty in mathematics

If you want to share the norms listed at the beginning of the article, maybe experiencing a rich task/problem first might help students see what you mean and start to get excited about learning this year!


In the next few days I’ll share a possible example of what this could look like.



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