10 Teaching Habits That Block Productive Struggle In Math Students

productive struggle in math

Productive struggle is a diligent assessment technique and a systematic process that grits and creates problem-solving skills among students. Teachers do not want the students to give up whenever they encounter math problems they do not know how to address. Teachers want their students to think critically, link new ideas to what they already know, and investigate various paths to draw solutions to mathematical problems. 

Learners may use it to solve new, unfamiliar problems that are getting more difficult as they participate in the productive effort, a state of engagement. In this way, teaching kids in class might benefit their intellectual development. However, sometimes teachers themselves develop some habits that block students’ productive struggle. In this article, we have brought for you ten teaching habits that hinder productive struggle in math.

1. Creating Bulletin Boards To Display Achievements 

Bulletin Boards To Display Achievements 

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Making bulletin boards to highlight the exceptional accomplishments of a few students in the classroom. 

Students are more involved and achieve better math study objectives when they see examples of persistence in studying instead of great outstanding students. Instead of employing excellent grades as an example, try using creative problem-solving or progress toward a learning goal.

Teachers might check out recommendations from other educators for establishing unique class goals that encourage greater understanding and intrinsic motivation.

2. Focusing On Teaching Procedures And Formulas

Teaching Procedures And Formulas

Memory drills do not foster thoughtfulness or in-depth thinking but obstruct students’ productive struggles. Try presenting students with non-routine challenges to accomplish this goal to encourage their productive struggle.

Give them the autonomy to choose what math to use and how to approach the subject themselves—increasing their interest and encouraging inventive problem-solving by letting students picture the issue and devise non-formal solutions.

Examine some illustrations of visual math exercises: 

The digital co-teacher made with ❤️ by teachers

ByteLearn saves you time and ensures every student gets the support they need

  • Math crossword with images (adjustable for multiple grade levels)
  • Visual mathematics activity with such a number spiral (flexible for various grade levels)
  • Visual math task using mathematics (middle school)

3. Applauding Student Achievements

Applauding Student Achievements

Praising the students’ intellect may affect their motivation to succeed. When good professors applaud students for their efforts instead of obtaining the correct responses, they are more likely to confront complex activities. However, it does not imply that education is only a matter of effort.

Try honoring students’ inventiveness in resolving a problem by playing with ideas, thinking outside the box, or persistently facing adversity.

Adults attribute children’s success to a fixed personality they possess whenever they praise what they are, such as calling children “clever.” Adults complement something a child accomplishes, such as focusing on the task at hand and ascribing its success to the efforts within their control.

4. Recognising and Rewarding Students

Rewarding Students

Regardless of how tempting to employ Hermione Grangers in the classroom, doing so hinders teachers from teaching kids how to deal with complex problems. Consider the possibility that Ron Weasley’s incorrect answer might be the modeling one wants to provide to the class time. 

Once the students have an opportunity to ask questions, teachers can assist students in resolving the problem. All students benefit when teachers use an “I don’t know” situation to spark questions instead of a sense of failure and disappointment. It shows how much students value learning through trial and error.

5. Evaluating Student Answers

Evaluating Student

“Right or wrong” feedback can dramatically decrease learning outcomes for students and hinder their productive struggle. For students to correct their trajectory and progress toward a solution, they need instructional feedback. Beyond providing the proper and reasonable answer, helpful feedback encourages students to keep asking questions and struggling with math problems until they find an approach to solve them.

Assessment at the halfway point and the end of every semester is the traditional method for evaluating a student’s knowledge. Some instructors may think that assigning homework and other extracurriculars will increase their students’ topic knowledge.

To explicitly define the student’s progress in the specific program so far, the student should be able to see what she has accomplished and what remains. Describe any particular areas of concern or shortcomings in depth.

6. Giving Fairly Easy Assignments 

Evaluating Student

This indicates that certain students are unable to deal with challenging work. Instead, seek out teaching programs that let students of all abilities access the material and then progress to their limits. Teachers can check out various samples available over the internet.

Teachers employ various techniques to meet the requirements of all students, such as those who struggle. One strategy would be to adjust the work speed for each child in a classroom, whether slowly or quickly. Another approach is using graphs, charts, and pictures to explain to students what they should learn. 

7. Maintaining A Fixed Timetable For Reviewing New Material 

Fixed Timetable

It takes time to let students struggle as we learn new material. Learning occurs even if students do not develop the correct solution within the specified time. Students usually come up with concerns and ideas again for the issue if they are encouraged to participate in the process of productive struggle. To comprehend a topic at higher levels, one must undergo this process. 

Planning helps teachers plan the upcoming day, week, or monthly objectives and keeps them on track to accomplish them. 

Like any other talent, reading is the one you can get good at over time. Take some notes, establish a study schedule, and adopt a positive mindset to prepare yourself for success. Limit distractions when you are learning, avoid multitasking and take pauses to remain focused.

8. Encouraging Pupils To Realize That They Are Not “Math Geniuses.”

Everyone can think logically; adopting a positive mindset can significantly enhance learning. On the other hand, appeasing pupils’ math annoyance in this way might lead to despair and prevent productive struggle. Remember that this kind of attitude toward arithmetic or self-perceptions affects student learning, regardless of whether there is math fear or a preconceived idea that some individuals are innately good or bad in math. 

By enjoying mathematics, teachers can assist in dispelling the notion that it’s dull. Let kids explore with designs or produce artwork with math. Use engaging mathematics worksheets or teach students math through games. One can also use the Bumper Book of Fun Math Activities and Games to spice up math class and get children to stop saying, “I hate math.” 

9. Putting More Stress On Acquisition Than Mastery

Stress kid

When implementing constructive struggle, one of the problematic changes that many teachers can undertake is simpler than you think. What is this, then?

Planning time for fruitful effort. Modern public school testing requirements have resulted in a curriculum emphasizing a rigid instruction schedule. It’s common for struggling learners to feel pressured and in danger of falling ahead when employing this time-sensitive reinforcement learning.

When this kind of thing occurs, students may give up on topics or skills they have still not acquired to keep up with the school’s pace. 

They are slowing down to give students sufficient time to find it challenging to constructively get through the math lessons and acquire new skills by becoming experts in notions and processes. Assets help boost students’ confidence and fortify neural pathways that endorse good memory of information and talent. 

10. Hand-Holding

Stress kid

It can be tempting as a professor to keep a close eye on struggling students so you can help students as soon as they have an issue. 

However, pushing to help students too soon might impede the development of literary agency and conviction and shorten opportunities for productive math difficulties.

Rather than yielding to the desire to become a Helicopter Teacher, concentrate on developing educational methods that:

  • Develop your problem-solving abilities.
  • Bolster sharp critical thinking
  • Teach children that feeling irritation and confusion is a natural part of learning and development.
  • Of course, to avoid progress stagnating too long, teachers ought to be prepared to guide struggling students onto the right path when necessary.

The Importance Of Mathematics In Productive Struggle

The process of the productive struggle has encouraged applications to math education in particular. Even though research shows that everyone is competent in mathematical thinking, approximately 33 percent of US 8th received “proficient” or “excellent” grades in math on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Making some students feel as though they were not “math folks.”

How Does Productive Struggle Promote Rigor In Math?

Students’ achievements that meet math standards are generated due to the diligent studying necessary during this constructive difficulty. These positive learning are essential habits to lead to increased educational persistence.

Math rigor is created through productive struggle, encouraging and rewarding unorthodox problem-solving and mathematics approaches.

Working through complex math problems helps kids learn more thoroughly while also preparing them to handle more complex mathematical concepts in the future.

Embracing Productive Struggle In Math Classrooms Is Crucial 

  • Improves conceptual understanding – Students who work on complex, real-world activities are pushed to utilize their judgment and prior knowledge instead of duplicating a teacher’s directions. That clumsy sense-making process produces an understanding of the concepts, a critical element of arithmetic learning rigor.
  • Establishes a learning environment – A learning environment that is also focused just on the needs of the learners. Productive struggle flips the traditional format, wherein professors model the subject first learners develop it by themselves or alongside a partner. Starting with a student-led portion of a lesson ensures that it will not be cut if classroom time runs out and maybe more engaging.
  • Enhancing teacher feedback – As kids work on a particular math issue, teachers can roam, gather information on popular misconceptions and wrong steps that students might make, and provide just-in-time help. Teachers can then focus their lessons on understanding students’ assessments more accurately whenever the class finally comes together as a group.

Also read: 10 Real-World Math Strategies You Must Check Out


The main obstacles for math educators were closely linked to classmates: inadequate prior knowledge made with a short drive, effort, or interest. Addressing misconceptions, including parental involvement, has also been a significant concern. A math learning impairment known as dyscalculia makes it challenging for an individual to absorb number-related concepts, conduct precise math calculations, reason effectively to solve problems, and perform many essential mathematical aptitudes.

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