Pathways to Perseverance

Sense-making and perseverance are key skills for students independent of content area. Pressed for time to cover topics, teachers genuinely feel they help students with hints and tricks - when in fact allowing for failure and grit in problem solving produces more enduring learning. How do you cultivate this culture of productive struggle and perseverance?


Classroom Moves

Students may expect “I do, we do, you do”. Demonstrate they will actively discover mathematics. Model a “struggle” with a think-out-loud. Use a variation of “My Favorite No”. Have students find your errors; answer questions with clarifying questions/prompts. Stand in the back of the room!

Classroom Words

What would happen if…?
What do you know that is not stated?
Have you tried working backwards?
What if you started with…?
I used to also think…!
Even if you are not there yet, you are close!
I’m not sure either, give it some more time!

Communicating to all Stakeholders

This instructional shift might be new to all stakeholders, not only your students. Communication is essential - share sample “I can” statements with parents and display messages of perseverance in the classroom. Be transparent that you will use open ended tasks and provide rubrics that value process, revision and creativity.

Full page handout is included with this episode.

Adapted from:


1. Unpack the language in the practices standards with a professional personal learning network and share classroom anecdotes that demonstrate perseverance.
2. Unpack the language and brainstorm “I can” statements with students centered around patience and positive attitudes. Display these in your classroom!
3. Share and use an explicit rubric for example:
GRITTY: stick with a challenging task for more than one attempt.
GRITTIER: try several approaches and only seek help if stuck.
GRITTIEST: try several approaches and reflect, revisit and revise based on outcomes.

Addresses Math Practice Standards 1, 3 and Math Teaching Practices (NCTM)

Make sense of problems and persevere in solving. Construct arguments and critique.