How do children react to making mistakes?
When children have a growth mindset making mistakes is viewed as a necessary part of the learning process. These learners do not feel embarrassed about making mistakes instead they accept their errors and use the experience to improve their skills by setting goals to fix mistakes so they can gain a deeper understanding of the math being explored.
When children have a fixed mindset making mistakes is viewed as a personal failure and indicates a lack of ability or intelligence. These learners feel embarrassed about making mistakes which causes a domino effect lowering self-efficacy, motivation and disengagement
from learning. Instead of trying to learn from their mistakes they begin to avoid taking risks, becoming stagnant in developing math skills and conceptual understanding. They are only interested in completing tasks that are safe, meaning they know they will be successful.
Synapsis in the brain
Jo Boaler (2014b) stated, “every time students make a mistake in maths they grow a new synapse. When students make mistakes about an idea in math two sparks happen. First from when they make a mistake and again when they correct the mistake.”
The power of mistakes
"I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying" (Michael Jordan)
Michael Jordan is one of the best basketball players of our time, yet he was cut from his high school basketball team and told that he would never play basketball. But, Michael did not let that stop him. He continued to practice and he got better and better. In this video he reiterates how making mistakes has made him a success, with 9000 shots missed, 300 games lost and 26 time missed the game winning shot.
The Power of Yet
We are creating a generation of students who have become obsessed with the need for gathering the gold stars, an A. They often need validation for their accomplishments. If we praise students about their process, effort, strategies and perseverance when completing work we can help students appreciate how errors can further their learning. Giving the message you are not there YET can support students in understanding that they are on a learning curve to achieving success.
"We are raising a generation of children...who are terrified of blundering. Of failing. Of even sitting with the discomfort of not knowing something for a few minutes." (Tugend, 2011, para. 3)
Students feel great when they solve a problem and get everything right, but easy math does not grow neurons. Problem solving, trying things out, making mistakes, being uncertain about which strategies would work can is harder work and can grow the brain. We need students to crave challenges and see mistakes as their friend. They need to understand the power of not yet and how that can drive learning forward.