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.


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.

Author: Jnelson

Jeff Nelson Fife School District Assistant Superintendent:Teaching-Learning-Innovation 39 years as an educator. 16 years teacher 3 years assistant principal 12 years principal 8 years Assistant Superintendent BA, Washington State University MAEd, Washington State University Previous member of AWSP Legislative Committee Previous member of UW Tacoma PEAB, Administrative Certification Established and maintained Fife’s first website for 7 years Present work includes establishing the first Teaching/Learning/Innovation department in the Fife School District. Examples of responsibilities include: teacher/administrator professional development, assessment, TPEP, curriculum/materials review, 24 credit requirement, technology levy leadership, teacher/administrator bargaining. Initiatives underway in Fife, as a result of new TLI Department: AVID, OER, Curriculum and Materials reviews, Student Perception Pilot with CSTP, Google Expedition Cofounder of Educational Internet Communications, LLC. Marketed and sold one of the first online grade checking programs in the US. Consulted with Seattle Educational Internet Company for 2 years. jnelson@fifeschools.com twitter.com/jeffnelsonTLI

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