Date of Submission



The aim of this study was to explore the impact of classroom teachers receiving professional learning about students who are mathematically gifted, but who may display self-limiting mindset tendencies. There has been an emerging emphasis on affective impacts in education in general (Duckworth & Gross, 2014; Dweck, 2015), and in mathematics learning specifically (Boaler, 2016; Williams, 2014), on nurturing positive, non-cognitive learner dispositions, or mindsets. However, there seems to be little research, and limited discussion in the literature, about the effect of mathematically gifted students’ mindsets – of how they perceive themselves as learners of mathematics – and the impact this has on their ongoing mathematics learning, and transforming their gifts into talents (Gagné, 2003). The development of positive learner mindsets in students who are mathematically gifted could have profound implications for these students as individuals, as well as for the future of society as a whole, as their gifts continue to be realised, enhanced and transformed into talents. The research design adopted for the study was a case study with a narrative analysis. The case was the phenomenon of mathematically gifted students who display self-limiting mindset tendencies, with three students at three different levels of primary school identified for the study. The case study, a descriptive research design, was used to observe and describe the effect of teacher professional learning on the mathematics learning and mindsets of these three students, over a three to four-month period. Data were collected from parent and teacher questionnaires, pre- and post-professional learning interviews with students and teachers, and observations of mathematics classroom lesson involvement. A narrative analysis process was adopted, with direct interpretation from data being the dominant approach, as the findings were to be a description of happenings rather than a frequency of happenings (Stake, 1995). The narrative analytic procedure used was based around the seven criteria for narrative case study first proposed by Dollard (1935), and revised by Polkinghorne (1995). Analyses and interpretations of data from this study show evidence of the targeted teacher professional learning having a positive impact on the three case study students’ mindsets about successful mathematics learning, and on their approaches to mathematics learning, especially their approaches to challenging tasks. It seems targeted professional learning may be valuable for teachers to develop an understanding of how support for mathematically gifted students is essential, and what it entails. Generalisations from a qualitative case study are limited because, by definition, it is a bounded system specific to a small number of individuals in a particular environment (Stake, 1995). However, if, as the findings of this study show, mindsets of mathematically gifted students can be nurtured (and changed if necessary) the implications could be profound if this does, indeed, enable extraordinary capabilities, or gifts, to be realised, enhanced and transformed into talents (Gagné, 2003). This research may also provide a valuable addition, or a ‘link in the chain' to the current knowledge base of mathematically gifted students, and how educators can best support their successful on-going learning. It hopefully provides further highlights, and uncovers new understandings of classroom support required for mathematically gifted students.


School of Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


376 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education and Arts