100 Repetitions

Making Math Count in WHPS

Having Grit as a Teacher

In math over the past few years we have talked a lot about developing grit in our students. We want them to persevere in problem solving without ever giving up. I do believe that this is an important trait to develop in our students as problem solvers, but that is not what I am writing about today.


Today I am writing about teacher grit and never giving up. I recently read an article by Jeffery Benson called 100 Repetitions. This article is about teaching the toughest students to teach. In the article the author is teaching students with drug problems and other extreme learning interrupters, but he is reminded by a colleague it sometime takes 100 repetitions for some to learn.


While we may not be teaching students in elementary school that are on drugs, many of our students face other trials that can make it challenging to be available to learn. Benson says we need to be prepared with 100 useful repetitions. This requires us, as educators to develop our own grit. Teaching, like problem solving, takes reflection and perseverance. We must learn from every attempt to teach and we must ask our students to learn something and reflect as they persevere in developing mathematical understanding or solving a problem. Maybe every attempt is not successful, but what is learned from each unsuccessful attempt? How does this mistake move us toward understanding? As a teacher, how can we help them connect their mistakes to develop more understanding?

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100 Useful Repetitions

Benson says the role of the teacher is vital while students slog through their 100 useful repetitions. Here is how we can support our students in their learning journey by behaving as teachers with grit.
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Useful repetitions are grounded in the belief that all students can learn. Shane Safir writes in Educational Leadership about being a "warm demander", a teacher with high expectations and high supports for learning. I think this is closely related to teacher grit. Focusing on the high expectations and supports our students need fosters teacher grit. It gives us, as teachers, beliefs and actions to hold to as we engage in the the hard work of 100 useful repetitions.

100 Useful Repetitions in Math

How can we make our repetitions useful in math?


  • Make the connections - Consistently seek a way to connect models to understanding. Connect to what students do understand and build on it to the next concept.
  • Use models - Modeling builds understanding in mathematics. Even after students understand more efficient strategies, have students prove understanding with models. It will ground their understanding and give you tools for building to the next concept.
  • Encourage social learning - Collaborative conversations require students to verbalize thinking, allow students to hear the understandings of others, and develop flexible thinking about math as students connect models and ideas for one another. Remember, the person doing the talking is doing the learning.
  • Focus on what students can do - When a student is not yet able to understand or successfully do something in math, go back to what they can do and build on that. Again, make connections building on solid understanding to move thinking and learning forward.
  • Choose high-quality, challenging tasks - Don't limit the challenge of the work because a student faces difficulty. Instead continue to offer high-quality tasks with supports for attacking challenging problems. Help students find their way in, but let the student do the thinking.
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