Figuring out the missing “x” integer in the equation isn’t always easy. When it comes to math, some answers aren’t straightforward and some problems simply stump students. But struggling shouldn’t be seen as a sign of failure.
Students need to learn to overcome obstacles, think creatively to solve problems, and enjoy the process along the way. And through productive struggle, students learn to do just that!
Read on to learn about productive struggle, how it can help your students develop stronger problem-solving skills, and how to implement it in your classroom.
What is productive struggle?
Productive struggle refers to effortful learning that empowers students to solve problems and think outside the box. Often referred to as” the sweet spot of learning,” productive struggle is the point at which students are challenged but not overwhelmed.
Through productive struggle, students work through problems they may have never seen before and develop skills like perseverance and grit.
The importance of productive struggle
So why is the productive struggle process so important? There are numerous benefits to productive struggle.
Develop deeper understanding - The productive struggle process requires students to use their own reasoning and background knowledge to come up with solutions. Doing so helps students develop a deeper, conceptual understanding of math.
Support student-centered learning
- In productive struggle, students are the ones taking the lead in their learning. Students are engaged in independent and peer learning activities as the teacher facilitates. Student-centered learning helps develop problem-solving skills, encourages cooperation, and improves engagement.
Create a better understanding of students’ needs
- Because students are at the center of productive struggle, teachers are able to hear and observe students' understanding and misconceptions. As teachers circle the classroom, they can gather data and provide real-time support. This information can later be used to better shape lesson plans to meet all students' needs.
How to promote productive struggle in your classroom
When a student is struggling in math, your initial instinct may be to step in. However, when productive struggle is implemented, students are equipped with the tools to take on any challenge without fear. Support students in productive struggle in your math classroom with these teaching tips.
Give students time - Don’t make the mistake of rushing through math lessons. Allow students to think and work through tasks. Slowing down the learning process helps students retain information.
Scaffold students’ thinking - It may be tempting to show a struggling student what to do. Instead, while students are at work, ask them scaffolding questions to get them thinking.
Provide non-routine problems - Not every math problem can be solved with a formula. Expose students to non-routine problems, which will challenge them to think critically.
Foster a growth mindset - Every student is capable of being a math problem solver. Get students to think positively about themselves and their abilities through growth mindset affirmations.
Showcase problem-solving - In math, students can take many different paths that lead them to the solution, so it’s important to show the various strategies and methods to solve a problem. Encourage students to showcase and share their problem-solving processes with their peers too.
Praise perseverance - Make sure to celebrate students’ perseverance and problem-solving efforts. Doing so will help students understand that math isn’t always about getting the right answer.
Create a collaborative environment - Allow students to work together to solve problems. That way students can learn social-emotional skills like relationship building, all while figuring out a math problem.
Productive struggle resources
Find additional resources to support students in productive struggle with Gizmos.
Gizmos math simulations provide a unique opportunity for students to try different strategies without the fear of getting something wrong. With Gizmos, students get to explore different possibilities as many times as they want! Take the fear out of math and foster problem-solving and perseverance today.
Get 30 days of free access to the entire Gizmos virtual simulations library when you sign up for a free 30-day trial.