We want every learner in our care to be able to say

*I can make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.* (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1)

But…What if I think I can’t? What if I’m stuck? What if I feel lost, confused, or discouraged?

How might we offer a pathway for success? What if we provide cues to guide learners and inspire interrogative self-talk?

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Level 4:

I can find a second or third solution and describe how the pathways to these solutions relate.

**Level 3:**

**I can make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.**

Level 2:

I can ask questions to clarify the problem, and I can keep working when things aren’t going well and try again.

Level 1:

I can show at least one attempt to investigate or solve the task.

In Struggle for Smarts? How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning, Dr. Jim Stigler, UCLA, talks about a study giving first grade American and Japanese students an impossible math problem to solve. The American students worked on average for less than 30 seconds; the Japanese students had to be stopped from working on the problem after an hour when the session was over.

How may we bridge the difference in our cultures to build persistence to solve problems in our students?

NCTM’s recent publication, Principles to Action, in the Mathematics Teaching Practices, calls us to **support productive struggle in learning mathematics**. How do we encourage our students to keep struggling when they encounter a challenging task? They are accustomed to giving up when they can’t solve a problem immediately and quickly. How do we change the practice of how our students learn mathematics?

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[Cross posted on Experiments in Learning by Doing]

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Howard Phillips

August 14, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Puzzles, lots of them, and they do not all have to be math puzzles ( or at least not math of the conventional graded type).

More challenging problems earlier.

Anybody complains – tell them it’s the new CCSS approach and give them the link. They wont follow it.

Jeff McCalla

August 14, 2014 at 10:11 pm

There are no easy answers to your question, “How do we encourage our students to keep struggling when they encounter a challenging task?” I really like the levels you put for this CCSS Math Practice. Students can use that to self-assess where they are at. We need to have norms in our class like the ones Jo Boaler recommends here: http://youcubed.org/teachers/2014/back-to-school-messages/ Many students lack confidence in their math even though they are capable of solving a problem. Not an easy task, but worthwhile.

jwilson828

August 17, 2014 at 5:59 pm

The back to school messages from youcubed.org are definitely worth our time. Recognizing that our students don’t know how to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them is fine – but we have to move past that to not just letting them to learn how, but maybe even teaching them how.