# Asking students to think about mistakes

I’ve been loving the new things I’m doing this year. I should be posting more often, but hey.

I’ve started a pattern of spending the day after a test, before the tests have been graded, introducing a journal writing prompt for the kids to do for homework. After the test my kids took this week, I played two short clips from Jo Boaler’s video lesson about making mistakes in math class. The first clip described why mistakes are important to learning, how they can create two rounds of brain activity that don’t exist when problems are solved without mistakes. In the second clip Jo gave guidelines for teachers about how to get students to overcome their fear of mistakes. The writing prompt I gave students suggested that they

• Describe a time when they had made a mistake in my class
• Talk about how they feel and react after making a mistake in math
• Give suggestions for what the class could do to help them view mistakes differently

On average, the journals I received in response to this assignment were less insightful than I’d hoped. But one or two bright spots showed that my work on embracing mistakes as part of the learning process hadn’t been completely lost on the students.

Here are the two clips.

For some reason I can’t get the videos to start at the right point, so navigate to 0:46 on this one to see the bit I showed my class.

Start this one at 1:22.

# Data Gathering Woes

Last Friday I took advantage of a teacher work day to try to formulate some cool math problems based on the law of sines. I ended up on the soccer field with a partner, a camera, a 100 ft. measuring tape, and a compass.

The value of accurate tools was revealed when I remeasured the angles multiple times with the low-quality compass and got multiple measurements. Lacking any better resources, I resorted to choosing whichever of the measurements led me to the correct calculation.

Now, I’m not fabricating the data, since the numbers I settled on were actual measurements I took. And since I know the law of sines to be reliable, using it to judge the truth of uncertain data is defensible. But… it just feels wrong somehow. Maybe I can assuage my conscience by making the judging of data part of the lesson. Or maybe I should find a compass with sighting guides.

*Interesting but irrelevant note: Despite our best intentions to create a non-right triangle, my data-gathering partner and I ended up with one angle that measured almost exactly 90° (ahem, somewhere between 88° and 95°). Subconscious determination?