Chapter 3: Valuing Struggle


In this chapter, Boaler discusses research that indicates that individuals with growth mindsets, who view challenges and mistakes as opportunities for learning, are generally more effective in their lives. A mindset consists of beliefs that influence how we respond to struggles and mistakes. In Japan, for instance, students spend a significant amount of time (44%) grappling with concepts, whereas U.S. students spend less than 1% of their time doing so. Japanese schools do not segregate students by ability, fostering a diverse learning environment that enhances discussion. This approach emphasizes the importance of struggle in learning. Teachers encourage students to tackle difficult tasks to stimulate brain development, promoting a deep understanding through struggle and revision.

Effective teaching practices include giving students challenging, open-ended problems before teaching specific methods, thus engaging their intuition and prior knowledge. Neuroscience supports the idea that struggle leads to growth, as highlighted by Carol Dweck’s work on fixed versus growth mindsets. Celebrating mistakes and using growth-oriented praise help students embrace challenges without fear of failure. Ultimately, learning is seen as a dynamic process where struggle provides significant opportunities for growth.

Key Math-ish Principle(s): 

The importance of mindset on learning.

Key Ideas/Themes:

Reflection Questions:

After reading this chapter reflect on the following questions. Think about: