Embrace Your Errors – Don’t Erase Them!

This is Day 28 of 31 Days of Math Learning Success. Follow all the days here and check out others that are writing for 31 days here.

Erasing your mistakes in math causes you to miss out on great learning. Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.
~Carl Jung

Why do you write with a pencil in math?

So you can erase, right?

Yes you make errors in math. But when you erase, two things happen:

  1. In erasing the error, you also erase great work.
  2. You erase the part you can learn from.

Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

In a simple two digit by two digit addition problem, there are up to four times where you can mess up.

When you do a long problem there are many MANY places where you can mess up.

When you complete a problem and discover the answer isn’t “right” – don’t erase it. Do it again in a different place or on another page. Then compare and contrast the two.

Often you’ll find the error of the first problem when you’re halfway through the do-over.

If you’ve erased the first one, you can’t compare. You can’t make any small adjustments.

You’ve totally trashed all that work.

Instead circle it and label it incorrect. Or put an X through it.

But don’t erase it!

Learn from Your Mistakes

It’s fashionable these days to claim that learning comes from failure.

But if the grownups believe that, why do they require students to erase the failures?

Instead, look at your error. Look at the problem and say, what EXACTLY makes this problem wrong?

Highlight it. Make a note next to it so you can remember.

And when you study, use it. Look at all the mistakes you’ve made. Remember what happens to cause those.

Are you going too fast? Do you struggle remembering your 8-times tables? Do you get confused on which operations to “undo” first?

They say history only repeats itself if we don’t learn from it. So don’t erase your history.

Keep it written.


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