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Sep07

Using Frustration and Failure as Educational Tools

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Several scientifically-based studies, by Walter Mischel, Martin Seligman, Angela Duckworth, and others, confirm that cognitive ability (measured, for example, by IQ) is not a reliable indicator of success and achievement. How do we define success and achievement? We look at academic indicators (like grades and test scores) or social factors (a career, stable family life, or avoiding harmful addictions, violent episodes or getting a criminal record, etc.). 

Intelligence and good cognitive ability help, of course, but the reality is that it does not fully explain why some children succeed and others do not. These studies point to a much more reliable indicator for success: good character traits, such as gratitude, curiosity, optimism, self-control, perseverance … and, above all, grit, the sustained commitment in time or dedication to achieving a goal, matter more.

The obvious question is how do people develop grit? It seems the key factor in developing grit is failure, in particular, learning to fail, to tolerate frustration and to try again. To achieve this, children should face challenges that expose them to the real possibility of failure. Paul Tough explains it very well in his book “How children succeed. Grit, curiosity and the hidden power of character.”

There is a growing concern in our society, that parents and institutions are raising children in a protective bubble, without exposing them to the risk of failing. We see this at Smartick every day. Some parents call or write telling us that their children cannot stand making mistakes, crying when the lights turn red because they responded too slowly or not well enough. However, we know that mistakes and properly handling frustration are essential, not only to learning math but to building character. At Smartick, we’re trying to do our bit to help. The immediate feedback kids get in Smartick can help them learn from their mistakes and move on determined to do better.

The Smartick Method offers short practice sessions that are designed to address basic math concepts, no more than 1 or 2 at a time. You can start your child on Smartick right away with our free trial.

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Conchi Ruiz Cabello

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