Original Published Date: 
Thursday, July 16, 2020

Full article issued by Monash University.

ARC-supported research led by Dr James Russo from Monash University’s Faculty of Education shows a shift in teachers’ willingness to embrace struggle in mathematics, believing this sense of challenge builds resilience, develops problem-solving skills and facilitates collaborative learning.

As part of an ARC Linkage Project, the researchers interviewed 93 early-years Australian teachers about the role of struggle in the mathematics classroom and how this corresponds with student learning capacity. 

Dr Russo said close to half of the teachers surveyed believed providing students with opportunities to struggle was effective in building their resilience. In addition, almost one-third of teachers (30 per cent) indicated that the process of struggling was central to learning mathematics.

“Students must learn that mistakes are central to the learning experience,” Dr Russo said. “In struggling with a task, students come to understand that it is not about the answer, but the thinking used in arriving at those conclusions."

Dr Russo says that students need to experience struggle in order to think mathematically, and that without experiencing the thought process of searching for the answer, they don't learn anything new.

The research was supported by a framework that proposes how teachers’ classroom actions are informed by their knowledge, dispositions, and the opportunities and constraints they anticipate experiencing.

While the research found teachers’ attitudes towards struggle have shifted in Australian schools over the past decade, future studies will look at the difference between teacher perceptions of struggle and the practices they adopt in the classroom.

Photo credit: 

Image credit: ND Strupler (CC BY 2.0).