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Beyond "You Can Do It!" - Developing Mathematical Perseverance in Elementary School


""Perseverance," an important psychological construct, matters for mathematics learning because solving challenging mathematics problems and reasoning about mathematical ideas often requires a kind of uncomfortable persistence. However, school experience often signals speed to be a marker of mathematical skill, and learners are rarely guided explicitly to see that perseverance is needed or how to stick productively with a tough problem. In this paper, we argue that perseverance is a domain-specific bundle of capacities and that it is not a trait, but can be deliberately taught and learned. We argue further that perseverance can be developed as a collective as well as an individual practice, and that collective work can help develop individual perseverance. We use a case of the teaching and learning of a challenging mathematics problem in an upper elementary mathematics class to illustrate and unpack these elements of the paper's argument. Our analysis focuses on three aspects of the instruction: the nature of the mathematical task on which the class was working, the sequencing of students' work on the problem, and how perseverancefor this problem and beyondwas supported. The paper concludes with several questions that our analysis suggests as important for next steps in trying to understand mathematical perseverance and what it takes to support and develop it."