5 Ways to Promote Productive Struggle

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Teachers of mathematics are being called to promote productive struggle in their classrooms, or as the Common Core State Standards puts it, students should be able to “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them”. But what if struggle, the thing that is necessary to persevere, is seen as a sign of not belonging to the group of people that DO mathematics…then what? What if the shame produced by such struggle pushes a student so far away that they are willing to proudly proclaim they are unable to do math or “not a math person”? That is a problem.

Ms. Candies Cook (Oxford (MS) School District), Dr. Ann Monroe (University of Mississippi), and I, in our presentation at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Regional Conference in Nashville, TN, share five ways to minimize shame and promote productive struggle in the classroom.

  1. Expand what it means to be a doer of mathematics
  2. Utilize authentic, developmentally appropriate tasks
  3. Adopt cooperative learning structures
  4. Employ knowledge of learning trajectories
  5. Redefine homework, tests, quizzes

We then asked our colleagues in attendance to brainstorm/share with us what each of these things looks like within the context of their own mathematics classrooms. How do we #celebratethestruggle? Below is a link to our electronic handout where we collected what was shared.

Link to electronic handout.
Link to previous iterations of this presentation for more resources/ideas.

Get your own #CelebrateTheStruggle t-shirt

How do you promote productive struggle? Share anything we missed!

Cook, C., Amidon, J., & Monroe, A. (October, 2019). Productive v. Destructive Struggle in Mathematics Classrooms. Session at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Regional Conference. Nashville, TN.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Categories: presentation