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Cultivating Perseverance in Students Who Struggle in the Elementary Classroom
Research has shown that for students living in poverty or who have struggled with mathematics, instruction commonly focuses on "rote skills and procedures, with scant attention to meaningful mathematics learning" (NCTM, 2014). The Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMP) define guidelines for developing “mathematical character” in our students. To expect struggling students to meet SMP 1: “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them,” educators must first teach them to name and normalize productive struggle. When that is not enough to maintain perseverance, teachers must ask questions that encourage agency. Participants will learn how to support teachers and para-educators in creating learning cultures that embrace “tinkering”; shift “helping” to “conferring,”; and provide mathematical models to scaffold grade-level learning. All of which establish a culture for learning and encourage confidence in at-risk students who typically struggle in math.
This talk was presented at:
National Title I Conference
February 2017 in Long Beach, CA
For more information:
Cristina Charney

I came into teaching because of my fascination with the learning process. I have striven to develop my own practice through reading, experimenting, collaborating, attending courses and reflecting for the last 26 years. My expertise on this topic is derived from the tens of thousands of hours I have spent in classrooms, continually working to influence learning and, for the last eight years, focusing mostly on learning the K-5 mathematics progressions and the standards that represent them. For the first time in my career, we have math standards at the elementary level that make sense and reflect best practice as I have come to know it. This is especially true of the Standards for Mathematical Practice. I have spent the last two years studying these eight practices, coaching teachers on how to intentionally cultivate them in their classrooms, and encouraging them in the students I work with. Over the last year, I facilitated a five-part professional development series that brought together all the elementary teacher math leaders to learn about the practices together using a book study. For each session, I created a 90-minute workshop for them to take to their buildings and share with their teachers regarding the mathematical practices. We have focused on practices 1-4 this year and will focus on 5-8 next year. Perseverance or “grit” has emerged as one of the most influential characteristics of successful learners. I have developed many versions of professional development for many types of audiences to cultivate this essential ingredient to student success and have received only positive and appreciative feedback from participants in my district and at regional and national conferences. In classrooms where I have worked closely with teachers to develop these practices, success has reflected positively in the data.