Elementary teachers’ beliefs on the role of struggle in the mathematics classroom

James Russo, Janette Bobis, Ann Downton, Sally Hughes, Sharyn Livy, Melody McCormick, Peter Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Reform-oriented approaches to mathematics instruction view struggle as critical to learning; however, research suggests many teachers resist providing opportunities for students to struggle. Ninety-three early-years Australian elementary teachers completed a questionnaire about their understanding of the role of struggle in the mathematics classroom. Thematic analysis of data revealed that most teachers (75 %) held positive beliefs about struggle, with four overlapping themes emerging: building resilience, central to learning mathematics, developing problem solving skills and facilitating peer-to-peer learning. Many of the remaining teachers (16 %) held what constituted conditionally positive beliefs about struggle, emphasising that the level of challenge provided needed to be suitable for a given student and adequately scaffolded. The overwhelmingly positive characterisation of student struggle was surprising given prior research but consistent with our contention that an emphasis on growth mindsets in educational contexts over the last decade has seen a shift in teachers’ willingness to embrace struggle.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100774
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Mathematical Behavior
Volume58
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

Keywords

  • Early years
  • Elementary teaching
  • Persistence
  • Student struggle
  • Teacher beliefs

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