Our class motto is “Mistakes help me improve!” Students want to share how they fumbled just as much as they want to share the correct answer with the class. It doesn’t happen overnight, but students need to see that their teacher won’t just dismiss their mistakes while they cringe with embarrassment. Rather, consistently make it a point to have students discuss the reasoning behind their thinking, whether they have the right answer or not. Guide the conversation with questions that ask them to prove their thinking.
Leah Alcala, a middle school math teacher, has a unique way of valuing mistakes by using a technique called “My Favorite No.” Rather than praising the students who reached the correct answer, she takes time to review her favorite wrong answer with the class, highlighting what went well and discussing where the student struggled.
By encouraging students to be vulnerable in sharing their thoughts, you will create organic learning opportunities that lead to a deeper understanding of the problem solving process.