Giving Permission To Make Mistakes

Giving Permission To Make Mistakes

As the school year comes to an end, I’m finding lots of opportunities to review what the students have learned in math throughout the year. At the end of May, I tried this fraction pizza problem with my students. I was amazed by what they shared and how eager they were to work through a difficult problem.

This week, I decided to try a similar problem with the class, but with fewer obvious solutions. On Thursday, I gave my students this problem:

I put the Grade 1’s and 2’s in groups to solve the problem. Just like before, I explained that the students could use any tools in the classroom that they wanted to help them solve the problem. I also told the class that this was a difficult problem, and that it was okay to try something, see if it worked, and if needed, try again.

As the students were working, I went around with my flip cam and recorded the discussions. It was interesting to hear what they shared.

I love how the students were willing to make mistakes and try again. It was even interesting to see how some students took an answer that others might consider incorrect, and explained how it could work as well.

Watching the students work together in the classroom shows me that they are always thinking, they are always problem solving, and they are always learning. In the past, I was only concerned with students getting the right answer. As a result, I never gave enough time to listen to students as they worked through problems or encourage students to solve problems in multiple ways, showing them that there isn’t just one approach that works.

I need to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful math facilitator, Kelly McCrory, who helped me change my approach to teaching math. My students have learned more as a result. Now I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned this year as I teach math to my Grade 6 students next year. Regardless of the grade that I’m teaching, I know that I will always give permission for my students to make mistakes and support them as they continue to learn and grow as mathematicians.

For the teachers out there, what changes have you made to your math program this year? What were the results? For the parents out there. how has this different approach to teaching math impacted on your child’s skill development and attitude towards math? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


2 Responses »

  1. Hi! My name is Amy Archer. I am a student at The University of South Alabama. I am a Junior and I am trying to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. I LOVED your blog post! You are very creative, and you are doing a fabulous job at getting your children hooked on discovering the solution themselves.
    I love that you challenge your students to find the right answer and explain it using picture, word, and numbers. This gets them to think outside the box, and they truly discover what they believe to be the correct answer.
    I hope to be as good of a teacher as you some day!

    Amy Archer

  2. Hello,

    My name is Anna Zhuo and I’m a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I am currently a K-6 Teacher Education major!

    I think the students learn more when they are engaged and having fun! Making mistakes can be a good thing. Like your video shows, instead of being upset due to a mistake, they take that as a way of improving themselves. They figure out other possible ways to solve the problem. Because it was a group effort, it promoted teamwork and sharing of ideas. They learn more this way too. I think that behavior should be promoted. When I worked with children when I was still in NYC, particularly Kindergarten and 1st grade, I was told not to let children know their mistakes because it might “discourage them”. I was also told in the NYC education system, teachers do not like to put red X marks on students’ papers due to possible discouragement. I think that’s a little insane.

    I enjoyed your post and your approach in teaching math. It is very helpful and I will consider that approach in teaching in my future classroom! Thank you!

    Anna Zhuo

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