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Posts Tagged as "mistakes"

What to do when your kid makes a math mistake

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

In my work with my students, it’s really essential to me to also create a relaxed, playful environment. 

And a big part of this is how I handle it when students make mistakes.  I create a growth-oriented environment by asking very specific questions which support their mastery process.

Here are four simple ways that you can also respond to your kid’s mistakes in a positive way that will really support their long-term mastery. 

1.  Don’t be afraid to let your kid know that they did something wrong when you’re working through math together.   When we’re learning, it’s super important to get feedback as to whether or not we’re on the right track or off the rails!

Keep it lighthearted and matter-of-fact.  It’s no big deal.  There is no sense of failure or punishment.  You’re just giving them feedback – it is just information.

A lot of times I will say, “Actually, no” if a student makes a mistake, or just say, “No,” with a smile.

You can also use a question to direct them to re-do a step.  Like if you see them write out “7+7=15,” you can say, “What is 7+7?”  I probably use this one the most of all.

2.  If they don’t know they made a mistake, or you’re not sure if they know there was a mistake, ask them to find the mistake.  Invite them to locate it.

I prefer to use the specific wording, “Where’s the mistake?”  Or, “OK, where’s the mistake?” as opposed to “Can you find the mistake?”  (I wouldn’t be asking them if I didn’t believe they could.)  

3.  If they know they made a mistake, ask them, “What’s the mistake?” to invite them to tell you exactly what it was.   Invite them to analyze it.

Routinely analyzing one’s mistakes helps you raise your awareness and increase your odds of not making the same mistake next time.

A lot of times a kid will exclaim, “Oh, I understand what I did wrong!!” once you’ve started to re-do a problem that they originally did incorrectly, and this question is a great way to invite them to really break down exactly what happened.

4.  Don’t be afraid to talk about your kid’s mistakes on tests and quizzes.

Research has shown that if we don’t talk to kids about their mistakes and failures, kids internalize the message that they have done something so shameful it can’t even be spoken about.  (Even though this usually is just an unintentional byproduct of adults not knowing what to say, or not wanting to “make the kid feel bad.”)

If the student hasn’t already been asked to do this for school, you can invite them to analyze their errors by making a log where they identify the error, analyze why it happened, and correct it.  Just like analyzing it verbally, this really gives the student the opportunity to reflect, increase their awareness, and not make the same mistake next time.

One of my students, who loved doing this, and gave this process the playful name “Mistakes Log Blog.” 

And just be sure to keep it lighthearted – it’s not a chore or a punishment, it’s just an opportunity for further insight and growth.

If talking to your kid about their math mistakes seems overwhelming, just start using one of these steps to begin.  As long as you’re lighthearted and matter-of-fact, you’ll be helping your kid develop their capacity to reflect and analyze and think critically about their own work, with is a major life meta-skill that goes way beyond math!

Are you afraid that your kid’s math mistakes are going to close doors for them down the line and prevent them from living their dreams?  Are you tired of trying to handle this alone?  Are you ready to receive high-level one-on-one support?  Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com and we can totally set up a special, complimentary appointment to talk about what’s going on in your kid’s math situation, and explore whether or not the way I work would make sense for your family! 

Related posts:
Tip of the day: what to do when your kid makes a math mistake
Case Study: a 5th grader emerges as an enthusiastic student and confident mathematician
Tips for a happy math year: normalize error
How to help kids be okay with things being hard

Posts Tagged as "mistakes"

Tips for a Happy Math Year – #3

Monday, October 7th, 2013

It’s time for tip #3 in my special series, Tips for a Happy Math Year!

And here it is…


Normalize error.
Getting an answer wrong is just part of the natural learning process. So is getting an answer right. Neither situation calls for high drama. If a kid makes a mistake, say, “Okay, try again,” and ask them what’s the first thing they have to do. This tip comes from Doug Lemov’s great book, Teach Like a Champion.

If you notice your son or daughter beating themselves up over their mistakes, saying things like, “I’m such a bad kid since I got that answer wrong,” “I’m really not good at this,” or “I guess I’m just not a math person,” explain that everyone makes mistakes while they’re learning.

Normalizing error is a powerful way to support your daughter or son in developing a “growth mindset” and being resilient in the face of a challenge – whether that challenge is in math, or in life!

Would you like your kid’s math experience to be less like crying themselves to sleep over their math homework, and more like twirling a sparkly parasol of confident self-expression?

Less feeling like they’re stuck in a mire from which they fear they cannot extricate themselves, and more like Indiana Jones on a great math adventure?

Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com or call me at 617-888-0160, and we can set up a special time for us to have a complimentary conversation.

We’ll get clear on what’s going on in your kid’s math situation and explore whether or not it would be a good fit for us to work together!

Related posts:
The rhyme and reason of making mistakes
Failure is not the enemy
I think I see a mathematician!
Algebra tears

Posts Tagged as "mistakes"

It’s eraser time! (And other math mantras)

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Apparently, there are certain things I tell my students over and over. One of them, with a twinkle in my eye and glee in my voice, is, “It’s eraser time!” (Whenever I say, “It’s eraser time!”, I think, “It’s Hammer Time!”, even though that was a hit long before most of my students were born.)

Then my student will jubilantly erase their mistake and then correct their work.

I didn’t realize how much I would say “It’s eraser time!” until my students started saying it *back* to me. Which made me ask myself–how did this become a permanent fixture of my teaching vocabulary? Why does “eraser time” work so well?

Three reasons:

1. Most importantly, “eraser time” normalizes error. It shows students that when they mess up, it doesn’t mean that THEY are messed up. Instead, making mistakes is just a normal part of the learning process.

2. “Eraser time” is fun, even at a moment when students have made a mistake. So it’s energizing, but doesn’t distract from the task at hand. It’s fun and silly but still leads them to what they need to do next — erase.

3. By being part of a special “math tutoring language” that we share, “eraser time” helps students feel like they belong. They are “in the know” because they get our special “insider lingo.” It helps create a culture of trust and camaraderie.

As usual, my students have taken eraser time and made it their own. Variations include an Eraser Race, where we both erase on the whiteboard as fast as we can. There’s also “Strategic Erasing” (careful erasing to remove what you don’t want but leave some previous work up for reference).

Another big mantra that my students started saying back to me is, “When in doubt, write it out.” I love this because instead of me nagging the student to write out the work instead of guessing, the student will happily say, “When in doubt, write it out!” and then go ahead and write out their work.

“When in doubt, write it out” works for the same reasons — it normalizes *effort* (it shows that it’s okay and normal to have to write it out and do the work); it directs them to the next step, but in a way that is fun and helps them “own” the process; and it creates a culture of fun and belonging.

Related Posts:
How to make it safe for kids to fail
The Rhyme and Reason of Making Mistakes
On optimal challenge
Self-made Heroes: the Dancers of Planet B-Boy
Five tips for a happy math year

Posts Tagged as "mistakes"

On seriously owning your mistakes

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

From The Week:

[Jim] Joyce, a veteran major league baseball umpire, last week mistakenly called a runner safe on a close play at first base on what should have been the final out, therefore costing Detroit Tigers hurler Armando Galarraga a perfect game.

Over 135 season and tens of thousands of major league games, only 20 times has a pitcher retired 27 straight batters without a walk, a hit, or an error. Joyce’s blown call denying Galarraga that 27th out, therefore, caused a national uproar.

To his credit, Joyce freely admitted after viewing the videotape that he should have called the runner out, and sought out the 28-year-old Galarraga to apologize. Clearly shaken, Joyce told reporters, “I just cost the kid a perfect game. It was the most important call of my life.” Galarraga hugged Joyce and told him to forget it. “Everybody’s human,” he said.

I was so moved by this that I cried. Mistakes are essential to learning, and we need to make it safe for kids to make mistakes so that they can learn. But we live in a world where it is so rare for anyone to publicly admit they made a mistake. Most public figures, instead of owning their failures, minimize or deny them. To see two public figures handle this huge mistake with such dignity and compassion really inspired me.

Related Posts:
Failure is not the enemy
Power of Praise (1)