Why Errors Are Useful for Learning Mathematics?

Why Errors Are Useful for Learning Mathematics?
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Why Errors Are Useful for Learning Mathematics?

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To err is Human. We all learn by the trial and error method which is the fundamental mode of learning and problem-solving. Errors are a crucial step for a child’s cognitive development. It is on us as parents or teachers how we respond to these errors? What do these errors tell us about the child? Is it a failure to learn or an attempt to understand and internalise? Or is it both? If so, how do we distinguish between these two and decide what it is in a particular situation?

Errors are a natural and unavoidable part of their process of learning.

Children apply their existing understanding, which sometimes may not match with the method and content of formal instruction. These errors are also a reflection of how children think and learn. They are often a window into the child’s world of understanding.

Many a time we have seen a child making common errors of reversal while writing for instance 12 for 21 or while subtracting they subtract a larger number from a smaller number and get the wrong answer (12 - 20 = 8). These examples tell us that the child has not grasped the concept of basic place value and subtraction as yet, and needs a lot of practice with grouping and position in space.

This kind of analysis of a child’s errors can play a highly constructive role in helping us to guide our children to develop mathematical thinking.

 Making errors, and learning from them is part of the process of developing and understanding. In fact, this is more important than producing the right answers. Unfortunately, the traditional teacher still tends to view learning as having occurred only when the correct response is given by the child. The child is not encouraged for the effort of understanding and arriving at the right answer, rather is undermined for a wrong answer.


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