Struggle is a good thing.
That cannot be true…can it? I don’t want to see my children struggle. I don’t want to see my students struggle. When someone struggling, I want to run over and help them. I want to remove the struggle.
But I know that struggle is good. I know that I have accomplished things in my life and the stuff I am most proud of involved some sort of struggle. I was able to persevere and get it done. Even though I understand the benefit of struggle I know that as a parent and as a teacher I want to make sure that struggle is for a purpose.
In the teaching and learning of mathematics there are documents that call for students to “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them” and for teachers to “support productive struggle in the learning of mathematics”. The big question is how do we promote productive struggle in the math classroom? The danger is that struggle which is not productive can lead to shame and disassociation from mathematics. This is a tough line for teachers to approach, but it is necessary, if conceptual understanding of mathematics is desired.
Promoting Productive Struggle in the Math Classroom
My colleagues and I attempted to answer this question through our presentation at the Mathematics Specialists Conference hosted by the Center for Mathematics and Science Education. Below is a link to the slides we prepared for the presentation. In addition, there is a link to a handout we collaboratively developed with our presentation attendees, regarding how to promote productive struggle in the classroom.
How do you promote productive struggle in the mathematics classroom?