Abs(Mistake Making)= Deeper Learning

Alright, I got a bit carried away with my math notation! When translated,the above says that the absolute value of mistake making equals deeper learning. I am sure all of us have seen our students reluctant to suggest an answer or respond to a question because they don’t want to “look dumb” in front of their peers. Even as adult learners, we are reluctant to think out loud or contribute to a conversation in front of our colleagues as that same nagging fear returns and haunts us. So, how can we help our students see making a mistake as something that adds incredible value to their learning?

Here are some ideas that can either be shared with your students or implemented quickly in your classrooms:

  1. Remind your students that their brains need exercise, just like their bodies, and mistake making provides this opportunity.  Wrestling with challenging problems is good and important work for your brain!
  2. Share the following quote and model it as you interact with your students:  “By the way, I just want you to know that I love mistakes the most. They are the time that your brain grows, when you really learn, so it’s really great to make mistakes.” …..people immediately relax and breathe a sigh of relief and are much more willing to jump in to problems and persist longer.  (Jo Boaler)
  3. Set aside 10 minutes one day/week to try My Favorite No.  This is an instructional strategy in which you choose your favorite wrong answer from an exit slip, a formative assessment, an entry task, etc. Share it with your students and tell them why it is your favorite mistake, then ask them to help figure out where the mistake was made. 

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