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The Best Way to Learn Math is to Learn to Fail Productively

Manu Kapur’s research finds that students are more successful when teachers allow them to have a period of (teacher-planned) productive struggle with material before the teacher provides direct instruction on the math strategies. “Students have to figure out three critical things: what they know, the limits of what they know, and exactly what they do not know. Floundering first elevates the learning from knowing a formula to understanding it, and applying it in unfamiliar contexts.” This article addresses Kapur’s research and his suggested instructional approach – which seems to increase students’ conceptual understanding.