Monthly Archives: September 2012

Get it Wrong

Yesterday I was teaching solving two-step equations in algebra, and I gave them a worksheet with 5 problems on it.  We did two problems in my teach/pair/share format.   Then I asked them to trade papers with their partner, and do problem #5 on their partners paper.  The only catch was – they had to do it wrong.  They needed to make a mistake.  Problem #5 looked like this: 2x + 8 = 16.

I told them not to get it obviously wrong, no dividing both sides randomly by 113. But to try to do a common mistake that either they have made in the past, or something that might happen.

It was pretty funny for the class as I walked around and looked at each persons paper and said something like “That’s definitely not right.  Great Job!”.  After 5 minutes I had students trade papers again and correct the mistake their partner made.

Students will not know why you are having them do this, so hit them with something like this–> Important Speech:  The reason we are doing this is because when you are trying to get something wrong, you inevitably have to think about how to get it right, because you have to know what is right in order to avoid it.   So getting a problem wrong is another way to think about how to get a problem right.  The added benefit is that by doing a problem incorrectly, you also get to expose yourself to the most mistakes that are made, so then you won’t make them in the future.  And lastly, you even get to correct someone elses mistake, which even further improves your understanding of a problem.

After I said something similar to above, most the class had an “oh yeah, that makes sense” look in their eyes.

The Advice:

I would be careful to use this technique on the first day I introduce a topic.  I am a bit concerned how effective it would be if half the class has no idea how to do it the right way.  I have only used it during the 2nd or 3rd day (55 minute classes) we look at a topic.