Mistakes are OK!

Thursday, September 6, 2018
Welcome to Week 4 of Learning to Love Math!  This week we are going to talk about destigmatizing mistakes and helping students to realize that mistakes are OK.  Willis notes that many math mistakes are due to procedural errors, where it is clear that students do not have good reasoning skills.  Common errors may include combining like terms, working with decimals, multi-digit numbers, and many skills with fractions.

Amazing brain fact: Students under the age of 8 do not have stress areas of the brain activated by negative feedback.  This means that they are able to handle mistakes better and they are also very curious at this age, meaning it is easier to delve into analyzing errors.

During class, there are strategies that you can employ to encourage all to participate and mitigate the effects of mistakes or incorrect answers.  These include giving students enough time to properly think through a question, calling on other students, and giving reinforcement right away whether the question is right or wrong.

There are also ways to ask questions where there are no wrong answers.  You can ask estimation questions or ask for predictions.  there are many activities with estimation, especially if you like small groups or centers.  Have different activities where students estimate weight, time, size, or compare objects.  Students will have the opportunity to talk which leads to my favorite strategy: finding more than one approach to answer the question.

I really like calling on all my students to see how they solve a question.  It leads to great discussion and often students can and will incorporate their classmates' ideas into their work.  I emphasize that math is not one size fits all and try to show as many strategies as I can and let my students choose for themselves the strategy that is best for them. How do you encourage and handle mistakes in your classroom?  Enter the book giveaway here!


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