Nearly everyone can relate to the experience of giving up. What makes us unique is the manner and frequency in which we push through difficult situations and experiences. Recent research suggests that our ability to persevere is related to grit.
The concept of grit, which refers to perseverance and passion for long-term goals, was coined by teacher-turned-psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth. Duckworth, a recipient of the MacArthur Award in 2013, continues to study this concept with her lab at the University of Pennsylvania.
The researchers in the lab have found a positive correlation between an individual’s grit and their ability to succeed in a variety of different settings. In short, Grit matters because it is an excellent predictor of success. Studies conducted by the lab have found connections between grit and high school graduation, a relationship that we find very compelling.
The good news is that it appears grit can be cultivated. One of the current goals of Duckworth’s lab is actually to determine how to best cultivate grit. You can read more about Duckworth’s research and access great resources. The charter school network KIPP also has great resources on character education.
Though math can often test a student’s perseverance, it can also be a source of it. James Tanton, mathematician and educator, expresses this very experience in a video distributed by the Mathematical Association of America. In it he described that the hardest thing he ever learned studying math was not “one particular theorem or topic” but instead “perseverance and patience.”
This new year as you plan instruction and activities for your students consider including grit-cultivating experiences in the mix. By cultivating grit and other character traits students will not only acquire the skills they need to pass the class, but also the tools they need to be successful in the future.