Reasons to Quit

One guiding objective of my work this year is to try to explicitly teach the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice.  I find them to be terrific guides for my thinking as a teacher, and it follows that if students can know and understand them, all the better.  In my classroom, they’re posted as “Mathematical Habits,” and changed slightly to include the learning target wording “I can…” in from of each.  My current plan is to move through them in order and try to get students to think deeply about each, one at a time.  The first one reads, “I can make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.”

Perseverance is not a word that all of my students know.  That’s kind of the point – these offer an opportunity to use powerful words in context, and therefore make the students more literate as well.  In class, I’ve started off by teaching students to play Mastermind.  We’re keeping some statistics on our results, and students will write a paper over the next few days, addressing questions of how and whether people can get better at the game.  I’ve asked them if they’ve “made sense” of the game, and whether they think they’ve persevered in playing it. .

Today, I expected a particular class to be much better at the game, but many of them got frustrated and several wanted to quit.  We ended class by brainstorming a list of “reasons to quit” playing the game.  Our list:

  • Frustrated
  • Bad Judges
  • Bipolarness
  • Cheating
  • Feel Stuck
  • Certain Partners
What was interesting to all of us was the extent to which this list could apply to a much wider array of problems, well beyond just this simple game.
By the way, students also came up with some “Advice on how to win Mastermind”:
  • Two colors at a time –> Process of Elimination
  • Change one thing at a time –> “Extraction”
  • Alternate Colors –> change one color at a time
  • Don’t get made so fast –> Psychologists Agree

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