One thing that separates a great student from an average student, that separates a student from a teacher, is persistence.
What do I mean by persistence? Well… what i mean is the ability and the desire to stay with a math problem until a correct solution is reached. I think that every student can learn how to do math, how to do algorithms and formulas, how to solve for x. However what makes a student truly proficient is not the ability to do these things but the ability to solve more complex problems. The real secret is to teach your students persistence. To teach them to not just give up on a problem because it is hard, their answer wasn’t correct, or perhaps they didn’t even know how to get started. If you teach them to push through those blocks and stick with difficult problems until they figure them out, you have truly done them a service and taught them a skill they can apply to any aspect of their life.
Here are some ideas to help you teach your students persistence.
Create a classroom culture of persistence. I suppose all of the following tips and ideas could be considered part of the classroom culture. However what I am talking about is not necessarily what you do but how you speak to your students. To create this culture it must come from you the teacher, you must tell your students about the importance of persistence. how much you value persistence and then reward them verbally and/or with tangible rewards when any of them demonstrate persistence.
Regularly give your students problems that require some persistence. This seems obvious but seriously some problems just don’t require that much persistence because they are very straight-forward and/or follow your explanation or the book example so closely that students know exactly what to do and how to do it with little thought. Don’t take me the wrong way, these problems are essential for building skill and proficiency but they won’t provide much of platform to practice persistence. You need problems like word problems or a problem that has multiple steps or some twist that they haven’t seen before.
Grade with persistence in mind. When you grade papers or written tests or anything else make sure that you are looking for students work. It’s necessary to look at every single line on every single problem, but look for problems that you can students were persistent with. For example if you see a lot of erasure marks on a particular problem or you see a lot of work even though the answer itself isn’t correct and you can tell the students was really thinking, give them at least partial credit or perhaps even a bonus point with a “p” on the problem so they know they got credit for persistence. It’s an easy way to tell students “hey I’m looking for persistence and when I see it you will be rewarded”.
Consider extra credit rewards. I know a lot of you don’t like extra credit so perhaps you will have to be a bit more creative. I don’t like giving out candy or stickers or stuff like that. I can never remember to buy them at the store, and to be honest America doesn’t need another obese High-Schooler. A simple way to reward students is to make an extra credit point form. I like a 1/4 sheet of paper with a funny picture, a blank for the students name, a blank for how many points, and a signature line for my signature. Very simple, but when you see a student being persistent with a problem in class just fill out the form and hand it to them. Done. Real Easy. You could also consider a second for that is essentially the same thing but instead of an extra credit form make a homework pass. Students will love these, I use these as bigger rewards and give them less generously
There are a probably a million ways to reward persistence. But, the point is that you do it. If you do you will be teaching your students an invaluable habit for all aspects of their life.