Grit and Productive Struggle

NCTM’s call for changes toward a more focused, rigorous curriculum, as well as an integrated approach to teaching and assessment practices, is critical to helping students develop the understanding and ways of thinking necessary to address the challenges of the 21st century. Many students who shy away from a situation with no quick solution soon become frustrated and abandon problems for which they have no clear method of approach. Duckworth, in her National Public Radio interview with Smith (2014), used the word grit in this context and defined it as, “This quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over really disappointingly long periods of time.” Grit is what the mathematics community calls productive struggle, where its focus is on the process of thinking, which is an overarching habit of mind that students need to practice and develop in order to become successful problem solvers.

Common Core State Standards

In their article on the issues of the lack of equality and quality of mathematical content in the U.S. curriculum, Schmidt and Burroughs (2013) write: “The U.S. education system is rife with curricular inequalities, by which we mean inequalities in the opportunity to learn challenging content . . . The mathematical content that students have an opportunity to learn varies wildly across schools, districts, and states” (56). The Common Core Standards were created to address the issue of quality, as well as equity, by incorporating aspects of a rigorous curriculum modeled after TIMSS’s highest- achieving nations.

Guided by the NCTM Standards documents and TIMSS researchers’ call for a more focused and coherent national curriculum to better prepare students for college and careers, many states collaboratively began revising their standards. The Common Core State Standards (2010) for mathematics and English-language arts arose from state-led efforts to better prepare U.S. students for college and career. They define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education no matter where they live in the United States. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governor’s Association Center formed several working groups to ensure that input was received from teachers, parents, administrators, community organizers, and national education experts ( frequently-asked-questions/). These groups aimed to make the standards clear and realistic, while building on the strengths and lessons of current state standards, as well as the standards of topperforming nations. Through the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative, adopting states and territories collaborate to create and share tools for common assessments, curricula, and instructional materials. The role of local education leaders is to decide how the standards are to be implemented.

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