Five Minutes Before You Quit!

I was working with a student in after-school tutoring. He was stuck on an Algebra I problem. Just sitting there.

I asked him what he had tried. Silence. Apparently looking at a piece of paper should generate learning but something was wrong.

I see this all the time, and I talk about notes and resources using wonderful sentences and even waving my arms. This time I tried something different: time.

I usually talk to students during these study times for a few minutes about something. So this time I went up in front of the room I said this. . .

“Five minutes before you quit!”


“Here’s how you stop doing an assignment that is difficult and you don’t know what to do. When you hit that moment where you’re just stuck and you say to yourself ‘I can’t do this!’ look at the clock. Give yourself five minutes to focus on this problem to see if you can figure it out . . . and then quit. Make it a focused five minutes where you try to find someone or something or some information that might help. After five minutes, quit and talk to your teacher the next day. You’re done!”

Later in the period I went over to talk to the Algebra I student again. He was working. I asked him how is got unstuck.

“I looked at my notes.”

Go figure.