As discussed in our previous post, What is Grit?, grit is an important and cultivatable character trait that is strongly associated with success.
Preparing students for success in math class is not just about skills and information. It is also about preparing students with the character traits they need in order to persevere with the material despite difficulty and frustration.
In this post, you will find five ways to easily begin cultivating grit in your students.
1. Teach students that the brain is a muscle that is built through “exercise.” (Exercise)
The mindset with which we approach problems and challenges is important. Renowned psychologist Carol Dweck found two primary mindsets in her research – fixed mindset and growth mindset. The former assumes meaningful change in areas such as character and intelligence is not achievable since these areas are fixed. The latter not only believes that growth and improvement are possible, but sees failure as opportunity. Many of the ideas in this article help cultivate a growth mindset. Simply sharing an article with students that explains that the brain is a muscle that can be developed is also a great start.
2. Focus on process and not just outcome. (Process)
In math class there are many great ways to shift the focus away from right and wrong answers and to the solving process. Having students talk through the steps they followed to solve the problem is a great way to do this. Though having students “show their work” is important, the process of explaining aloud helps students develop their math vocabulary and identify their own mistakes. Given time pressures, students can explain in small groups. Alternatively, there are many online tools that provide students with a platform to record their explanations.
3. Study individuals and companies that persevered despite failure. (Case Studies)
Some of the most well known individuals in popular cultural pushed through repeated failure before “making it big”. Great examples include Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Bethany Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Jay Z, and J.K . Rowling, as well as countless others out there. Take some time to study these individuals as a class. Discuss what students believe made these individuals successful and highlight what can be learned by studying their experiences.
4. Set goals and measure progress. (Goal Setting)
Many experiences and products today are designed with instant gratification in mind. Not everything can be achieved in an instant and it is important that we maintain our ability to persevere through long-term projects and challenges. Design projects that require students to work towards and achieve long-term goals.
5. Acknowledge and praise grit when you see it. (Praise)
People at all ages thrive on praise. Hearing from others that we have done well or are doing well pushes us to continue. Oftentimes praise is reserved for culminating activities such as the end of a sporting game, the return of a test, or the conclusion of a big presentation. Instead of reserving praise for the end, highlight and acknowledge student persistence and actions along the way.