Celebrate Mistakes. Please.

A bunch of our secondary math teachers are reading Jo Boaler’s (@joboaler) great book Mathematical Mindsets.  As a former math teacher, I really wish I had read it as a working math teacher with students.  Dr. Boaler discusses the research behind the power of mistakes.  For example, ‘When we make mistakes, our brains spark and grow.  Mistakes are not only opportunities for learning….but also times when our brains grow…”

We do a shockingly good job teaching kids the opposite.  The importance of getting THE RIGHT ANSWER.  Zero brain growth occurs when getting the RIGHT ANSWER.  We focus on limited algorithms, and lots of low level problems, to get the RIGHT ANSWER.  No beauty. No creativity.  No mistakes. No brain growth.

One of our teachers, after this week’s session of our book study, grabbed the Four 4’s activity and threw it out to his students.  They jumped all over it. Conversations. Mistakes. Trial. Error.  More conversations.  Argument.  Mistakes.  Learning.  Collaboration. Communication.  Creativity.  Brain growth.  Love of math.  Fun.

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Mistakes are valuable.  Our brains grow.  Celebrate mistakes.  Have ‘The Big Glorious Mistake of the Week’ contests.

It’s ok to make mistakes.  They’re good for you.

Thank you Jo Boaler.  All people who love or value math should read her book.

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