4 Reasons Why You Should Make Mistakes in Front of Students
Updated: Apr 13
“Mrs. Farkas, you forgot to regroup!” Ah, one of my favorite things that ever happens in class. A student catches a mistake. I turn around and ask, “Why do you think that?”. The student clearly explains that I forgot to regroup the fraction so that my mixed number included a fraction that was greater than one whole. While some teachers would see this as a failure, making a mistake in front of my students is my absolute favorite for many reasons. Here are 4 BENEFITS of making a mistake in front of your students:
1. It shows them that all learners and mathematicians can make mistakes
Often students think that mathematicians or people who are good at math always get the right answer. It is so important that students see themselves as learners and that it is ok to make mistakes! A growth mindset is so incredibly important, and this shows that even their teacher (gasp) can make a mistake, and fix it. This also gives the teacher a wonderful opportunity to model that growth mindset and how to fix a mistake.
2. It gives them an opportunity to explain their thinking.
I love when I have an opportunity to engage students in dialogue about math. Studies show that students will understand the concept better if they are able to teach it to someone else, as well as higher levels of problem solving. Modeling this dialogue is also crucial so that students are able to have this dialogue on their own when discussing mathematical problems.
3. It shows them the value of checking over their work.
I have had so many students who think that faster is better when it comes to math. When a teacher makes a mistake, it shows that everyone needs to take their time and check their work. It also allows students to see HOW they can check their work. Checking your work is a skill that many students need to be taught. When you go step by step to see where the mistake was made and then correcting it, it shows students what they should be doing when they are solving problems themselves.
4. It builds trust and a safe learning environment.
Relationships are key when it comes to learning. Showing my students that they can make mistakes, that in this classroom we help each other through those mistakes, and we don’t judge each other for getting the wrong answer is crucial. Research shows that failure is one main component of math anxiety and avoidance!
Now I won’t lie, sometimes I would laugh and tell students that “I was just making sure they were paying attention”. At the end of the day, my mistakes often bring great rewards to my students.
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