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Examine the strategies that Marty Clarke, a high school mathematics teacher, uses to encourage his 9th grade Algebra I students to persevere in solving unfamiliar problems, in this media gallery from WGBH.

Marty Clarke challenges students to use prior knowledge of linear equations to match quadratic equations to each of four parabolas. As students discuss different problem solving strategies in their groups, Mr. Clarke checks in to scaffold learning as needed.

Mr. Clarke describes how he likes to present problems to the class. For this problem, his set up included reassuring his students that he knew that they hadn’t seen quadratic equations before, at the same time suggesting to them that what they already knew about linear functions and their graphs.

Mr. Clarke admits that he didn’t know what students would produce during the activity. As he checked progress with each group, he reminded students who were stuck that “all we’re trying to do right now is just try something.” He was excited to see a number of groups recognize what they needed to do.

Mr. Clarke explains why he likes students to feel a little uncertain in problem solving, and students reflect on some of his teaching practices that support perseverance and build confidence.

Mr. Clarke describes how he builds reflection into his lesson to celebrate student progress in doing math. He also explains the importance of students building confidence in their abilities—to know not just when they’re right but also how they know it.

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