**Trigger warning:** This post contains references to math. No math knowledge is needed to understand the point of the post and no test will be given at the end.

I helped to lead a professional learning opportunity for some teachers the other day. The focus was on the benefit of productive struggle for students. I had the teachers do one of the activities I do with my kids on the first day of school.

Each group of teachers received a set of cards. Their goal was to create a correct mathematical expression that, when using the order of operations, would equal the number on the gray card.

It was fascinating to watch the adults, who were much more deliberate than the kids (no surprises there). Most interestingly, was how some of the groups became attached to certain parts of their expressions and, even when they could not make the problem work, refused to move those cards around.

Other groups never became attached to any particular combinations and freely tried a large variety of options.

In every session, the groups who held fast to their non-working attachments failed to complete the activity. And in every case, those that kept trying new things and were willing to release what didn’t work solved their problem.

Which often applies in other situations too, doesn’t it?

As is so often the case, I went in expecting to teach one lesson and I ended up learning something completely different myself.