Welcome back! Last week, I offered a more definitive illustration of productive struggle and how it occurrs in the classroom. (Read Part 2 here.) Today, I want to offer a list of expectations for both students and teachers during productive struggle (NCTM, 2014) and provide an opportunity to see productive struggle in action via a Teaching Channel video.
In order to create an environment where productive struggle can occur naturally, pre-planning on the part of the teacher is required. The list below includes actions that teachers can take to plan for and support students’ struggle during instruction:
- Choose tasks that require students to use their critical thinking and reasoning skills in order to be successful.
- Encourage students to continue working through a challenging task, even when it feels insurmountable.
- Provide support without removing the challenge and opportunity for student growth from the task.
- Convey the message that the journey is just as important as the destination and encourage students to explain and justify their solutions.
- Give students the opportunity to evaluate and validate a variety of strategies and solutions.
- Provide access to tools that may support students throughout the process, such as manipulatives like number lines, counters, measuring tools, calculators, etc.
- Ask questions that are reflective of the students’ thinking rather than that of the teacher.
Because increased student growth and understanding is the goal of productive struggle, there are expectations for the students as well. The list below includes expectations for students during productive struggle:
- Persevere through challenging tasks even when they are frustrated and want to quit.
- Communicate thinking coherently with the use of appropriate mathematical vocabulary and terms.
- Ask questions to help clarify the explanations of others or when an explanation is not fully understood.
- Use drawings and math tools to make sense of the tasks.
- Communicate verbally with others while working through a task to help move the solution strategy forward.
The teaching Channel video linked below depicts a class of second graders who are exploring subtraction strategies through the use of number talks. (If you do not see the video embedded below, please click here.)
Questions to consider while watching:
1. How do the teachers’ actions promote productive struggle?
2. How do the students persevere through the task?
3. What tools do the students use to help them understand and respond to the task?
4. How do the students interact with each other?
5. How does the teacher support the students during the lesson?
Sound Off! What does productive struggle look and sound like in the classroom?
Read Part 4 here.
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2014). Principles to actions: Ensuring mathematical success for all. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.