Productive struggle—expending effort to make sense of something beyond one’s current level of understanding—aids in learning mathematics concepts and procedures. In this study, we surveyed 197 parents with children in the 1st to the 5th grade on their beliefs about productive struggle. Beliefs were assessed via questionnaire and rating of a recorded lesson involving productive struggle. Parents also reported how often they helped with math homework and their child’s ability in math. The results show that parents had diverse beliefs about the efficacy of productive struggle, with fathers favoring it more than mothers. A significant relation was found between parents’ beliefs about productive struggle and reports of their child’s ability in math. The findings of this study suggest that for productive struggle to be effective, parents must intentionally facilitate experiences through student-centered approaches. Programs for parents should emphasize specific evidence-based behaviors rather than broad generalizations about increased involvement with homework. Schools and educators should also provide guidance for parents to explain the potential harmful effects of gender stereotypes and parents’ own math anxiety and to teach methods for limiting homework interaction while students grapple with difficult problems.
Salvador R. Vazquez, Department of Education, University of California, Los Angeles, 1009 Moore Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095; firstname.lastname@example.org