3 Ways to Promote Productive Struggle in the Classroom


Eight years of teaching elementary education has taught me a significant truth- what works today might not work tomorrow. As trends evolve, standards come and go. Also, the simple fact that no two children have the same needs means that teachers must juggle fifteen different objects in the air, all while having to use the restroom.


Over the past eight years, my biggest obstacle as a classroom teacher has been in the subject area of math. I have struggled with finding the correct pedagogy to reach my students, while creating a classroom that cultivates problem solving. Through trial and error, I have discovered one absolute truth for teaching math- letting students productively struggle is one way to create a genuine mathematician.

Math Grit

I run my math block on math grit. Math grit is a frame of mind that acknowledges that failure is the foundation of success, a mental state that embraces challenges and expects struggles. All of us are the people we are today because we rose to the occasion in moments of strife. Seldom do we use events where everything went as planned and accomplishments were brisk walks as examples to summarize our true character. By expecting your students to possess math grit, you will also be expecting them to conceptualize math curriculum, a task often overlooked in classrooms.

Looking Ahead at Productive Struggle

Over the next three weeks we will look at three ways to promote productive struggle in your classroom.

Week 1: The Difference Between Procedural and Conceptual Understanding

Week 2: Stepping Back to Promote Productive Struggle
Week 3: Types of Questions to Promote Productive Struggle

Leave a question or comment below on productive struggle.

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