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Taking the Severe out of Perseverance: Strategies for Building Mathematical Determination


"Perseverance in mathematics is a multifaceted construct involving students' interests and proclivities, their will and skill. Often it is portrayed as a kind of trait that a student possesses--a kind of generalized intellectual toughness--rather than as a behavior that emerges from a variety of subjective appraisals that students make in particular contexts and situations. We propose a model of the development of perseverance in mathematics that redefines perseverance as not only overcoming obstacles en route to achieving a goal, but as a self-regulatory strategy that consciously redefines the obstacle in terms of both its conceptual and motivational characteristics. Mathematical perseverance, then, is seen less as a trait and more as an interplay between mathematical tasks, mathematics as an intellectual pursuit, and the goals, interests, and resources students bring to the learning environment. Following a section that presents our definition and model of perseverance, we discuss four central aspects of perseverance--interests and identity, setting goals, utilizing resources, and anticipating consequences. In each of these four sections, we offer suggestions for how teachers can use insights from the existing research to improve student perseverance in mathematics."