Getting It Wrong


Some Calculations From The Math Art Activity

At the beginning of this week, my students were finishing off a Math Art Project that reviewed the concepts of area and perimeter: Math ArtProject Expectations. Students could communicate their thinking in any way that they chose, and I saw everything shared from videos to point form notes to paragraphs. As I was uploading the completed videos on Tuesday night, I noticed some problems though. One group had made a multiplication error and another group had used the wrong perimeter formula in a few cases. I then had to make a decision.

I wanted to post all completed work on our Grade 6 Blog, but could I post work that I knew was incorrect? What would be best for the students in this case? While I assumed that both mistakes were careless errors, what if I was wrong? Maybe these students lacked the understanding of a concept that they needed. I had to know.

Yes, I was giving the students a mark on this project. I could have just marked the work wrong, completed the rubric, and moved on, but when students make mistakes, I need to know why. The next day, I met briefly with both groups as soon as the students came in for the day. For the group that made the multiplication error, I showed the group the question, and asked them to explain what they did. Right away, they picked up on the mistake, corrected their work, and then during math time, re-recorded their video. For the second group (made up of a single person this time), I asked the student the formula for finding the perimeter of a rectangle. She immediately replied, Area = (length + width) divided by two. I then asked her to have another look at her work from yesterday. She also picked up on the mistakes, and then figured out a way to correct them.

On Wednesday night, I was uploading videos again, when I noticed that a third group made two small errors: one was in addressing “more” versus “equal,” and one was in multiplication. I spoke to this group the next morning, and they also figured out their mistakes. Instead of re-recording their videos, they decided to make another video addressing their errors, and showing what they did to correct them.

Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been talking in class about making mistakes and learning from them. Students used to get upset when they were wrong, but now, they are willing to re-examine their work, try again, and show their learning in new ways. I love how the students now respond to “getting it wrong.” My biggest concern is not when mistakes are made, but instead, ensuring that students know how to fix them.

What do you do when students make mistakes in their work? How do you ensure that students understand the content that they may have gotten wrong? 


4 thoughts on “Getting It Wrong

  1. Aviva, I enjoyed your blog. Our class motto is that mistakes are welcomed because that is how we learn. During our math meetings I will allow there to be mistakes with one of the group’s presenting, because 9 out of 10 times there are students that will catch the mistake and this leads to debate and discussion.

    • Thanks for your comment, John! I love your approach to Math Meetings. I need to make sure that I do that more. You’re right: this is a great way to get the students to see the mistakes and to help each other learn. Thank you for the idea!


  2. Hi Aviva. Great post. I must agree that students more often pick up on mistakes as they reflect and connect, especially if there is teacher direction. When do we “stop, assess and finalize” marks? I understand that learning is ongoing, but have often found that a single concept, whether it be language or math, can always be pushed a little further.

    • Thanks for the comment, Chris! Deciding when to stop and finalize marks is always so hard. If we want students to be life-long learners, then I think we always need to encourage this constant reflection and new attempts. I’ve found that by adding descriptive feedback to my marked work, more students are making the effort to go back and try again (regardless of it will make a difference to their mark). It’s taken a while to get to this point, but I must admit, I’m thrilled that we’re getting there. 🙂


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