In her book Math Exchanges: Guiding Young Mathematicians in Small Group Meetings, Kassia Omohundro Wedekind talks about creating the right atmosphere in math classrooms.
As you begin your mathematics instruction, ask your students “Who are mathematicians?” and “How do they work?” Ideally, you should reach a consensus with your students that we are all mathematicians, since we all use mathematics as one lens through which to understand and construct meaning in our world. As an exercise, have your students imagine a world without numbers and try to explain, for example, how to get from your home to school without reference to any mathematical system of numbers, measurements, shapes.
Have your students create posters for your room using their ideas that describe how the mathematicians in your classroom community will work.
Here are some examples offered by Omohundro Wedekind:
We are All Mathematicians
Mathematicians are curious. (Einstein famously said, “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.”)
Mathematicians ask themselves questions.
Mathematicians need lots of time to think, think, think.
Mathematicians look for challenging problems in their world to figure out.
Mathematicians make lots of mistakes, but they keep on thinking.
Mathematicians talk to and question other mathematicians in order to help themselves understand.
Mathematicians change their ideas and strategies and come up with new ones.