No Series: Don't Give Up! Plan, Persevere, Revise

Don't Give Up! Plan, Persevere, Revise

Lesson Objective: Practice perseverance by tackling a multi-step geometry problem
Grade 5 / Math / Habits
16 MIN


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does Ms. Noonan differentiate to present appropriate challenges to each of her students?
  2. What kinds of feedback does Ms. Noonan give her students while they work?
  3. What is the effect of explicitly focusing on perseverance skills?
  4. See also Mathematical Practice Standard 1 in the CCSS?


  • Private message to Elaine Chartier
Where do you get your ideas for problem of the month? Could you share others that you use?
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Ingrid Sherwood
Is this related to or inspired by the document, "Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance" created by the US Department of Education Office of Educational Technology? Watch out, Fellow Teachers! It's so cool at the beginning, and the next thing you know you'll be assessing all your students' "perseverance" for a data base.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Ingrid Sherwood
Kudos to the teacher and student! That said, the "system" tends to drain perseverance right out of students. Contemplating the topic of someone else's passion for 45 minutes is hardly the definition of "perseverance."
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Andrea Harris
I love the students' answers to your question, "why do we need perseverance?" You are an effective coach.
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  • Private message to Bonnie Castor
What a great way to begin the year and teach the traits of teamwork and perseverance. Thanks!
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  • Transcript of completed edited program:
    Teacher: Madeline Noonan

    I’m Madeline Noonan and today in our math class it’s all about

    Transcript of completed edited program:
    Teacher: Madeline Noonan

    I’m Madeline Noonan and today in our math class it’s all about perseverance and cutting a cube.


    Teacher: So 5th graders, we’re going to just start with something called a problem of the month.

    So I think what’s great about this problem of the month is that it’s just a really perfect vehicle for this practice standard around perseverance. I went into it knowing that my students were going to struggle with it.

    Teacher: Today we are going to be doing a really different type of math than we normally do. So Christopher, you probably noticed that already we’re not in our normal rows, we’re actually in a circle.

    It’s a new type of math. It’s not what they’re used to, they’re not used to seeing so much language and so few numbers.

    Teacher: So as opposed to me showing you how to do a problem and then us practicing together and then you doing peer math problems, in this problem of the month it actually looks really different. It’s not a lot of numbers, but it’s a lot words.

    They’re not used to tasks that require extensive amounts of teamwork.

    Teacher: I’m curious what your strategy is because I see one person drawing, you’re about to cut. So have you talked as a team about what your strategy is …….did you have a discussion about what your strategy should be? No? normally when I’m working with a group and I’m about to solve a problem I think it’s usually a good idea to talk before we all start doing our own thing. So is there someone who can maybe share out some ideas they have about how to solve this.

    Student: The thing we should do, we should _______ cut it into a cube and also Christina should draw that and maybe Juan could read this.

    Teacher: It’s interesting, I heard you say I’m trying to but what about your group, what about your group? Like have you guys discussed what your strategies are.

    Student: She was trying to make __________________ and cut one piece and see if it’s flat or try other angles ___________________________.

    Teacher: I like how you communicated that with your group. What if that doesn’t work, does anyone have a backup idea? Do you want to maybe make up a backup idea, like how else could you use other materials.

    They’re not used to tasks that are a little bit open ended and loose.

    Teacher: There’s different levels, sort of similar to when we have mild and medium and spicy and hot. So signal if you know what I’m talking about right now. So Chris does, Germaine does. And it’s very similar because level A which we’re going to do together is going to feel pretty comfortable, sort of like mild. Level B which you’re going to do in your group is a little bit trickier, more spicy. Levels C, D and E are like super hot, smoke coming out your ears, middle school/high school level math. So the math is going to look different and we’re going to have to persevere to solve these problems.

    Naming the fact that this feels different. I think that is so crucial because it already attunes student’s brains to the fact that it is OK if this feels frustrating, it’s OK if it feels confusing and I can now free up my energy to not feel shame around the fact that I feel thrown off. Common core helps our students and us as educators with these ideas around oh, students do need to make a plan, they do need to persevere by naming it and making it explicit.

    Teacher: So we’re going to pass a cube to every couple of people and you’re going to count are there six spaces. Are there eight vertices, which are our corners. OK?

    A lot of this lesson was about developing that feeling of I was wrong a lot of times and I’m going to keep on going and pushing their boundaries around perseverance.

    And also naming what is perseverance, how does that tie into what we already know about
    Ganas (?), about resiliency, and how is that going to impact our math today.

    Teacher: Luis, when I’ve been saying perseverance today you keep on saying a word; can you share the word that you’ve been saying.

    Student: I’ve been saying ganas.

    Teacher: Yeah, what does that mean?

    Student: Like to not give up and …

    Teacher: Perseverance is when you have a challenge Jackie, and Tony, the first time you try a problem it might not work, and then Briana, the second time you try it it still might not work, and Christina, even the third time it might not work. So you’re going to have to persevere and show ganas and keep on going by not giving up Chris and finding different solutions when your first solution doesn’t work out. Thumbs up if this makes sense to you.

    This one in particular was something that required a lot of visualization, a lot of stopping and starting, and a lot of evaluating strategies and tweaking them.

    Teacher: So now, thank you, the next one about the lions or the ____. Do we have 10, show me on your fingers, do we have 10 or did we have 12; show me on your fingers please. Oh, Tony, why are we in disagreement? Because Tony and I counted 10 for the edges. So we said 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Oh Tony 9, 10, 11, 12. And this is a great example of needing to persevere. So you’ll notice that Tony and I had to go back and check again and that’s OK. So the cube has 12 edges, the cube has 12 edges. Excellent.

    We then went on to Level B. You persevered. Congratulations, you made it past Level A and now I’m going to let you go on and do Level B in your table teams. There you go. All right, let’s get going.

    Level B asks students to think about a cube and determine what was the least number of cuts that they could make in order to unfold the cube out, detaching any part of it.

    Students took a whole range of different approaches. So in some groups individuals were just diving in and tracing or cutting or working with post-its.

    But the general trend was trying to build a cube out of post-its and out of index cards.

    Teacher: How is it going guys?

    Student: It’s going perfect.

    Teacher: It’s going perfect, that’s good. So tell me what’s your plan.

    Student: inaudible

    Teacher: A box

    Student: Well a cube so when we get it we all know what we’re doing.

    Teacher: Tell me, once you have it what are you going to actually do with it?

    Student: We’re going to have to go read the instructions …….so we know what’s supposed to happen.

    Teacher: Tell me what made you think …You guys jumped right into this, like boom. Cube.

    Student: inaudible

    Teacher: I noticed you guys have been really careful about trying to make the sides equal. Tell me more about that.

    Student: inaudible

    Teacher: I actually don’t think you need my help and one thing Chica, I want to bring up is that you said so it won’t be bad, but it has to do with a cube; what did we decide about a cube and the size of the faces and the edges.

    Student: That they’re all equal

    Teacher: So that’s what I’m trying to get at here. It’s important that you’re making them equal so that it’s actually a cube. I like that you’re trying to be creative and I like that you’re planning to go ________, I think that’s a really good idea. You can use how ever you want to use it, go for it, you’re doing great.

    Students were working at different paces.

    Student: So we tried to cut it from this side and then from this side, from this side, from here, then here, then here and this ____, this [inaudible]

    Teacher: Tell me why?

    Student: inaudible

    Teacher: Interesting. So let’s pretend these are all attached and I made one cut along this edge. I’m not going to even be able to get it up yet; do you know why? It’s still attached here, it’s still attached here, and it’s still attached here. Does that make sense to you? It’s a little hard to visualize. Fernando, take it.

    Student: I think …..[inaudible]

    Teacher: Can you cut there though? Is that an edge?

    Student: No

    Teacher: We can only cut on edges, that’s why it’s really important to come back to Level B.

    Student: inaudible

    Teacher: OK so now we’ve got two cuts but I still can’t get it up because ….then through there, but remember it’s going to still be attached here and still be attached here. It’s tough.

    Student: inaudible

    Teacher: Oh you’re saying is this one cut or three cuts? Awesome question. This is one cut here, this is two cuts, this is three cuts; where do you want to cut next?

    Student: inaudible

    Teacher: OK so you said four right here? Write four. Now where’s your fifth? Point to it …so then you said 5, OK. Oh, oh, you’re about to get it.

    So we came to the carpet and I started an anchor chart where I wrote perseverance in the middle and asked students to first think about just how would this feel, and that was an intentionally open-ended frame.

    Student: inaudible …like I didn’t know where to cut and stuff

    Student: For me it felt stressing because you have to keep doing it over when it fell or something.

    Teacher: So it sounds like you had to do lots of tries.

    Student: Yes.

    Teacher: I think you used the word stressing; you can also use the suffix “full”, stressful, full of stress. I think lots of times when people have to give things lots of tries or they have to do things over and over Briana, it kind of feels stressful. Thank you Emanuel, that was a great reflection. Fernando, _________

    Student: For me it felt a little I guess stressful and challenging because when we cut the sticky part of the post-it and we put them in with two papers, it didn’t stick, it fell apart.

    Teacher: I’m hearing that it didn’t always work the first time. Can you give a thumbs up if your group encountered that also, where Chris, the strategy you used _____the first time or didn’t work the first time. Didn’t work the first time. Natalie, I think you were next.

    Student: For me it felt kind of not really hard but a little hard because for us it didn’t really fall and we just kept building it.

    Teacher: What helped you keep going? Do you want to reflect on that?

    Student: What helped us keep going was teamwork

    Teacher: So your teamwork was what maybe made it a little hard ….

    Student: ….what I saw was that another table instead of helping each other they did it on their own.

    Teacher: Yes sir?

    Student: ____ interesting and challenging. I thought what was interesting was that I didn’t ….when we were building the cube we didn’t know how to do it so we kept on starting again and again and what was interesting about it was that we thought that the long index cards were going to help but we to cut through it so it could fit on the ___ because there was no space and it wasn’t big enough.

    Teacher: Interesting, so the strategy that you thought would work the first time wasn’t the one you ultimately solved it with. A lot of participation but I want to come back to this word perseverance. Why do you need perseverance in this task? I’m going to go to Elise first because you have ______

    Student: You need perseverance in this challenge because every time you get something wrong you have to know that not everything in life is easy so you have to keep working hard and not giving up so you can reach the point where you really understand it and you just get it.

    Teacher: I totally agree, thank you. Chica?

    Student: I like to use perseverance because every time it kept falling I figured out that that way wouldn’t work so I tried a different way and different way and then finally it came out because I just had a flash and I knew all the other ways weren’t going to work so I did this one final way to cut special parts, like specific parts, and that got it.

    Teacher: Two claps …

    Teacher: We need perseverance because we have to have lots of tries, it doesn’t always work the first time and sometimes we discover that the strategy that we’ve been working so hard on isn’t actually the one that’s going to solve our problem, and that’s OK.

    Knowing your math alone doesn’t get you to your goals. You have to be able to accept setbacks, learn from it and forge ahead. So I think perseverance is really at the core of what we are trying to do with our students.

    ? end of transcript

School Details

Think College Now School
2825 International Boulevard
Oakland CA 94601
Population: 306

Data Provided By:



Madeline Noonan
English Language Arts Math Social Studies / 5 / Teacher


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